Updated: Jul 16, 2021
Hi, It's Sarah from the business team! A couple of weeks ago I spent my weekend in Nusa Lembongan with my friends from Jakarta. We were planning to snorkel through the bays at the most famous snorkeling and dive sites in Bali. It was really exciting to swim with a group of graceful Manta Rays, they were swimming in mesmerizing circles. Another thing that shifted my attention during my trip to Nusa Lembongan is seaweed farming, it was my first time exploring seaweed farms. We can find the fascinating large seaweed farm that is basically a set of square patches of the seabed which are marked out by lines of bamboo pegs driven into the sand. The seaweed farms turned into a sightseeing tour, during the day you will barely see the patches at high tide, but nearly sunset while low tide the patches will be visible (from uphill the seaweed farms look like rice fields).
We could see the patches along the water's edge and smell seaweed drying on the side of every road. The scenic seaweed farms got me really interested to know more about the aquaculture in Nusa Ceningan, so I had a nice talk with some of the seaweed farmers.
In the early 1980s, seaweed farming was the main industry on the Penida Archipelago, three sun-kissed islands off Bali's southeast coast. Seaweed has been supporting the economy and providing benefits to communities on the coast of Nusa Ceningan, Nusa Lembongan, and Nusa Penida in addition to agricultural activities. The end of seaweed farming was a symptom of Indonesia's tourism boom, one of the farmers said that in the last couple of years the price of seaweed in the world market dropped as the number of tourists increased. He said that local seaweed farmers especially the youth shifted their livelihoods to the tourism sector and abandoned their seaweed farms. Around 2016, the only farmers that remained were in the channel dividing Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan. By 2019, there were none left at all.
However, as Nusa Lembongan's tourism-based economy took a hit this year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Local communities in Nusa Lembongan decided to return back to seaweed farming as their main livelihood. The senior farmer told me that the older generation has been key to helping re-establish it as a sustainable industry, educating and passing their knowledge to younger family members who have only known tourism as an income stream. The locals understanding that tourism will not recover quickly, they are also starting to believe that seaweed once again will be the icon of Lembongan again and will survive any economic downturn in the tourism industry.
Penida archipelago has suitable areas to applied seaweed farming, it's very important that the ocean space chosen is accessible during high and low tide, the change of tide and water flow is very important to the growth and productivity of the seaweed. The farmer mentioned the type of seaweed that they plant, called Eucheuma cottonii, a fast growing type of seaweed that once harvested and dried are turned into carrageenan and used as food and cosmetic additives. Most interesting, it is also can be used as potential raw material for bio-based packaging or as alternative to plastic-based products. Once I knew about this potential utility from that type of seaweed, I found out the other benefits of seaweed farming; seaweed farming requires no pesticides or fertilizer. Seaweed cultivation also provides environmental benefits including:
Absorbing carbon dioxide ( green house gas) – one hectare of sea can be used to produce annually 40 tonnes of dry seaweed which will absorb 20+ tonnes of green house gas during cultivation
Wastes can be used as fertilizers for land based agriculture
Seaweed can only be grown in a healthy environment, so seaweed farmers will actively participate in maintaining beach and foreshore cleanliness*
It was nice to see locals in Nusa Lembongan re-entering the seaweed farming industry, when the impact of the Covid-19 hit and putting all tourism activity on hold, seaweed is back as a hope for the locals to be able and generate income to fulfill their needs.
So, that's my side story during my weekend away trip to Nusa Lembongan. Had a nice conversation with local seaweed farmers turned out to be more interesting than snorkeling as my main plan in Nusa Lembongan 😆 anyway, I found a question from The Guardian that may relate to my blog, "The pandemic has devastated global tourism, and many will say ‘good riddance’ to overcrowded cities and rubbish-strewn natural wonders. Is there any way to reinvent an industry that does so much damage?" Would be happy to see your opinion on my comment section. Thank you for reading and sharing, see you!