Seaweed cultivation in Orissa was started for the first time in coastal villages of Ganjam by fisherwomen, mainly members of self help groups (SHG).

Known as “Green Micro Finance Project”, jointly implemented by Nabard and Orissa Rural Reconstruction Association (ORRA), a NGO was launched at Langaleswar in Khallikote block last week for seaweed cultivation, particularly the red algae on commercial basis.

“As the red algae is in much demand in pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries, we hope the lower income group (LIG) of the coastal villages, particularly the fishermen, will get an extra income with the cultivation of this seaweed,” Smita Sucharita Nayak, executive director of ORRA, said.

The seaweed demand is increasing world wide as its extracts are widely used in tooth-paste, ice-cream, textile printing, teeth filling, cosmetics, tissue culture, plywood, packaging and several other industries. Bio fuel can also be made from it, said Ms. Nayak.

“Investment in the cultivation is less, but profit is high,” she said adding it also helps combat global warming, she added.

Cultivation of red algae would be easy as it was available wildly in Parikuda area inside the Chilika lake, she said.

“We started cultivation of seaweed on commercial basis taking a small quantity from there by involving around 150 womenfolk of 16 SHGs in three villages,” she said.

Harvest will be made 45 days after cultivation. ORRA has made an agreement with MS Swaminathan Foundation to buy all the dry red algae harvested by womenfolk in the area. “It will provide an alternative livelihood for fishermen families when the fish landing in Chilika is dwindling,” MLA of Khallikote P C Sethi said.

Cultivation of the red algae was started on a pilot basis about two years ago as a part of the research project.

Ms. Nayak said they would also explore the possibilities of starting seaweed cultivation in Bhitarakania in Kendrapara district.