I was immediately intrigued about this place as soon as we boarded the charter plane to the Island of Zanzibar, off the East coast of Tanzania. They had a small ad featured in the local "What's on" magazine inside the plane. "We need to change our itinerary!" I told my sister, who had come to visit us for a few weeks. It took me a while to get her on board but we decided to take a detour and go straight from the airport.
The Seaweed Center officially opened in June 2011. It is located on the East coast of Zanzibar in Paje Village, and they offer a variety of learning experiences such as taking a tour with the "Mamas" inside the ocean and through the Seaweed farms surrounding the centre. You can watch them closely while they plant and harvest the plants. They also have a small soap workshop facility, where they make several spa and beauty products such as scrubs, massage oils and soaps made from Seaweed, Coconut Oil, Aloe Vera and other natural and locally sourced ingredients.
As it turns out, Zanzibar has historically been the third largest exporter of seaweed in the world, after the Philippines and Indonesia. It is the 2nd largest industry in after tourism. Around 15’000 women work in seaweed farming. Seaweed is exported to Europe, America and Asia.
Seaweed is mostly valued on the quality of the Carrageenan. Food, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and textile industries, among others, use seaweed extracts as gelling substances, stabilizers and emulsifiers in industrial products like perfumes, shampoos, toothpaste, medicines, ice cream, milk shakes, and yoghurt.
Zanzibar began exporting seaweed as early as the 1930s when red seaweed, under the genus Eucheuma, was harvested from naturally occurring wild stocks and exported to Europe. Currently, two species – Eucheuma denticulatum, known commercially as Spinosum, and Kappaphycus Alvarezii, known as Cottonii – are farmed.