Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Family gets support from BFAR XI, thrives on seaweed business

The family of Vilma Albarico, a fisherfolk from Punta Biao in Davao del Sur, received seaweed propaguls from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) XI in 2004 allowing them to expand our seaweed farm.

Albarico the only livelihood she and her family knew was related to the bounties of the sea. Having been raised by a family who did not only lived near the sea but who also relied on fishing for their livelihood, she has learned to embrace the waters and passed this on to her children.

"While my family fished these waters, we started seaweed farming a long time ago as an alternate livelihood to add to the family income," Albarico said in an interview. At that time, she had little capital which she used to buy seaweed propagules to start with seaweed farming.

Albarico and the other seaweed farmers in the area, consider the sea is a blessing because it allows them to engage in fishing and seaweed farming for free, for as long as they took care of the waters by keeping it clean and debris-free.

Seaweed farming for these folks means making use of a thick twine rope that can withstand the wear and tear of the water and changing weather conditions, which is then tied in the middle of the sea using a makeshift stand that can float at a depth of 15 fathoms. The seaweed propagules are then cut into a standard length depending on their target harvest period and then secured on the rope.

"Very early in the morning the whole family (including her four children) is a work day for us because once the seaweeds are set on the rope then we also need to check on them after planting," she said.

Albarico said seaweed propagules cut in the regular size of at least three inches could be harvested within 20-25 days. If there is an order we have to meet at a set date then we just cut the seaweeds longer and they will be ready for harvest in two weeks, she added.

"One line of rope could yield two to three sacks of seaweeds with up to 60 kilos per sack," she said. The seaweeds, which is commonly known in the market as "guso" sells at P7 per kilo.

She said seaweeds can thrive once planted but they are wary of thieves in the community who steal the seaweeds especially when prices in the market are high.  They also have to contend with seaweed diseases such as "ice ice" which is a condition caused by changes in the water's salinity and temperature. This disease produces a moist substances that induces whitening of the seaweeds and attracts bacteria in the water. When taken for granted, she said, this will lead to the detachment of the seaweed from the rope which means losses for the farmers.

"When our seaweed farms are attacked by the ice ice disease then this is when we need the support of government especially in terms of the seaweed propagules," she said.

Albarico is a member of the Punta Biao Fisherfolk Association consisting of 45 groups with at least five members per group. While most of them are into seaweed farming, she said there is a plan under the Department of Trade and Industry's Bottom Up Budgeting to invest P700,000 for a seaweed processing plant in the area.

"Demand for guso is always high in the market not only for food but also for industries that process the seaweeds into candies and even chips," she said. Nothing goes to waste, she added, since she dries the damaged guso which she sells at P50 per kilo.

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