FARMERS OF THE SEA Putu Sayoga


For most people in the island of Nusa Penida, seaweed planting is an option that can not be circumvented. Lands of the island are mostly difficult for growing crops due to its karst type of soil. Prior to previously found seaweed cultivation, many residents are forced to leave the island looking for a more fertile island like to Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sulawesi. 

It started in 1984 when a businessman from Surabaya thrived in developing seaweed cultivation in Jungut Batu, a neighboring island of Nusa Penida. Seeing the success, many Nusa Penida people followed the steps to jump in the sea to cultivate seaweeds. The seaweeds they grow are of spinosum (eucheuma spinosum) and of katoni (eucheuma cottoni). A key ingredient in medicines, cosmetics and foods, among many other products, seaweed has become the financial backbone of this island community just off southeastern Bali, where buoyed plots bob along a 30-kilometer stretch of the island’s shallow waters. 

Popular in Asia, where the vast majority of the world’s seaweed is grown, seaweed farming has proven, in parts, to be a more lucrative and reliable source of income than fishing. However, on Nusa Penida, brokers dominate the market, keeping prices low. Despite global demand far outweighing natural supplies, one kilogram of seaweed on the Nusa Penida island still only fetches $1 for the farmers whose work schedule is dictated by the ebb and fow of the tide. Depending on the sea levels, farmers can find themselves wading into the waters during the early hours of the morning, the blazing heat of midday and the afternoon, or the cold of the night. If the weather is good, seaweed can be harvested after 30- 45 days, then dried for one to four days in the sun before being bought by brokers, who ship the supply to Surabaya to be further processed before being exported to China and Japan.




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