Plan to spread seaweed culture

NAGERCOIL, MARCH 24. The Aquaculture Foundation of India, in coordination with Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, District Rural Development Agency and Pepsico, has decided to undertake `seaweed culture' for the benefit of tsunami-affected fisherwomen in Kanyakumari district.

Fisherfolk, especially women, are presently engaged in activities such as fish vending, drying fish, preparing value-added fish products and fish net knitting. However as the fish catch is getting reduced day-by-day owing to various reasons, these women are seeking better alternatives.

In order to generate more economic opportunities for them, the DRDA has been exploring other avenues, in cooperation with Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Aqua Culture Foundation of India, Coastal Peace and Development and Fisheries College in Tuticorin.

One such project is `seaweed culture,' which is yet to be tapped and has a good scope for gainful employment for members of self-help groups. The DRDA has sent 70 women from tsunami-affected villages in the district to CMFRI at Mandapam in Ramanathapuram district to attend a seminar on seaweed farming, said the Collector, Sunil Paliwal.

It has been decided to implement a model project in Leepuram near Kanyakumari in the first phase at an estimated cost of Rs.20 lakhs.

While Aquaculture Foundation will play the role of identifying the SHG women beneficiaries and coordinating the entire project, MS University would arrange training programmes through Pepsico.

The DRDA would arrange for financial support, including subsidies and loans through bank. National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) would assist in training the SHG members. The beneficiaries would be trained on cultivation of Eucheuma, commercially known as `Kappaphycus seaweed' for five months. During the training period, allowance would be given to beneficiaries. On completion each member would earn a minimum of Rs.1,500 per month. The State Bank of India, Nagercoil, has come forward to assist the selected six self-help groups for providing infrastructure and purchase of raw materials. As the Pepsico has assured a marketing tie-up, there will not be any problem for marketing the seaweed, said the Project Officer of DRDA, P. Selvarajan.

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