Seaweed ‘Agar Agar’ Farming

SAM_1964The locals here spend every waking hour wading the lagoon, when the tide is low enough. Often you can hear their chirpie voices drift by our place and fade into the distance on the beach. It`s 4:30am, lagoon peak hour has begun. This means they will get another low tide in the afternoon so there’ll be double the opportunity to collect seaweed!

‘Agar agar’ is the local name for the gelatinous-like seaweed that is farmed along the entire coast line down this end of the island. Almost everyone is big on seaweed farming. This is their bread and butter. A reliable income the locals can count on, albeit barely enough to sustain a family (in our opinion it`s not enough).

SAM_2215Wooden stakes are cut from the trees up in the hinterland, then driven into the lagoon bed which is protected from the pounding waves by a stretch of outer reef. Between these stakes, rope is stretched out into lines of which small clippings of seaweed are attached. Tied too lose and the surging current will dislodge the baby crop. Though the farms are no match for the solid swells that form deep in the Indian Ocean and hit the west coast.

Nenek, pictured here in her groovy hat, wasted no time: off she went, straight to the supplier and picked up some new rope and more seaweedlings. No time to ponder the damage, the show must go on… Upon our return to the village after our visa run to Singapore, we found a community saddened by the latest lashing the Indian ocean had dealt up. Most of the pegged out plots were effected by the combination of these freight trains and the very high tides, resulting from the full moon. There wasn`t much left.

We discovered that Nenek had gone into debt to get her small farm back into the swing of things. Apparently this was common throughout the village. To think that 2 full bags of seaweed ‘agar agar’ dries out to less than 1kg and the going rate for a kilo of this sea-jelly is around 8000 rupiah or 85cents Aussie – is crazy! How do they ever pay this back?

SAM_2221The locals were impressed with Nat’s effort of dragging a big bag of seaweed from far out on the reef. Not bad for her first time, especially being a Bule. “Missus Natalie very strong!!”

Remember Ashlea, Talia and Jaime? These three little girls fell in love with Rote on their first visit in June. Consequentley they left their birthday money  from “nann-annet” their grandmother with us when they left. They wanted it to be used to help the community here. We tossed around the idea of much needed mosquito nets, maybe medicines, maybe school books?

After the devastation of the seaweed farms, the timing was perfect for a whole heap of new rope, timber stakes and seedlings to repair the under water farms. Nat phoned the three girls already back in Oz and they concurred.

SAM_2122Ibu Mamafiana obviously agreed as well, she was so over the moon with the gesture of kindness that she brought back a thank you letter with the names of 22 appreciative families written within. These families, it went on to say, are now the happy owners of brand new plots to carry on their seaweed production which in turn keeps the kids fed, the animals fed, and the house lamps lit.

Thank you Ashlea, Talia and Jaime!!

Colours of east Indonesia