r. Gloria Naa Dzama Addico and Kweku Amoako Atta deGraft-Johnson write in Graphic Online about the plight of the fisher folks in Ghana – in the throes of depleting fish stocks, unfair competition and higher costs of doing business. Many of the displaced workers are now turning to seaweed farming as a replacement for their ailing or disappearing fishing businesses and jobs.
In Africa, seaweed production is found mainly in southern and eastern Africa with some harvesting in Senegal in West Africa. In Ghana, brown seaweeds are used to produce high quality alginates, which form strong gels and give thick aqueous solutions. Carrageenans (iota, kappa, and lambda) are obtained from red sea weeds – their main applications are in the food industry, especially for dairy products including ice creams, cheese, and milk chocolates.
There is also a long history of coastal people using seaweeds, especially large brown seaweeds, to fertilize nearby lands. In the horticultural industry, when applied to fruit, vegetable and flower crops, improvements have included higher yields, increased uptake of soil nutrients, increased resistance to pests such as red spider mites and aphids, improved seed germination and more resistance to frost.
The Danish Government has recently launched The SeaBioGh Project — a five-year project in partnership with the Technical University of Denmark, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Water Research Institute and the Chemical Engineering Department of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).
The objectives of the project include:
- making seaweed cultivation a business in the fishing communities, especially in the Central and Western regions of Ghana
- establishing relevant technology and local know-how for seaweed farming and seaweed processing
- developing selective enzymatic technologies to extract valuable hydrocolloids like carrageenan, alginate and fucoidan from seaweed.
The Project also aims to advance the processing of seaweed for the production of biofuels (biodiesel and ethanol), including bioelectricity.
And, finally, it intends to establish demonstration farms for capacity building for seaweed farming and technology transfer, and produce guidelines/manual for sustainable seaweed cultivation and processing in Ghana and the West African sub-region.
The market is big and inexhaustible, the returns very rewarding. That is why the seaweed cultivation initiative introduced by the SeaBioGh Project has the potential to change the economies and living standards of coastal communities by providing them with alternative credible sources of living and wealth creation. The success of this project will hopefully reduce, in the long term, the pressure on the coastal fisheries sector and thus the fish catch and ultimate recovery.
The writers are with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Water Research Institute, and CSIR-Head Office.