Flower Ezekiel Msuya (PhD), a Tanzanian scientist who has, for more than 20 years, struggled to promote seaweed farming and its allied products.
Written by: Emmanuel Rubagumya / All Africa.com
She is a marine biologist working as a researcher at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM). Over the years, she has struggled to make sure that seaweed farming thrives in Tanzania so that the country can claim its place in the world market when it comes to quality seaweed products.
She holds a PhD on seaweeds in integrated aquaculture from Tel Aviv University, Israel, a Master degree in Fisheries and Aquaculture from the University of Kuopio in Finland, and a Bachelor degree in Botany and Statistics from the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
In recent years, she has been engaging herself in research and training in seaweed farming technologies and value addition and integrating seaweed with culture animals such as sea-cucumbers to fight effects of climate change.
She has done a number of consultancies in seaweed farming/aquaculture with FAO (Tanzania and Kenya), WIEGO, UNIDO, WWF and starting seaweed farming in Mauritius, Rodrigues and Mayotte.
Dr Msuya is the founder and chairperson of the Zanzibar Seaweed Cluster Initiative (ZaSCI), working with seaweed farmers in innovative farming and value addition, linking them with universities/research institutions, government departments and markets.
Her work has especially helped marginalised women in Tanzania increase their income through production of seaweed value-added products.
She has trained government officials, researchers, entrepreneurs, and seaweed farmers on innovative farming (developing technologies to farm higher valued but environmentally affected seaweed) and making seaweed products in many areas in Tanzania.
Her interests include impact of climate change (on seaweed farming/aquaculture), resilience linking communities with coastal resource management, and community based research to solve challenges faced by seaweed/aquaculture farmers. She has published more than 40 papers on seaweed.
Today the initiative under ZaSCI has 15 villages where both farmers and non-farmers of seaweed make seaweed products and actually eat seaweed at home. There are also a number of individuals all over Tanzania who use seaweed in their homes.
“It inspires me to know that I have changed people’s mind-set and culture the positive way,” she says. When she started to promote the Seaweed Cluster Initiative, not many people in the government wanted to listen to her or help in starting it. Today, she sees lots of interest in the government to promote seaweed value addition.
The government of Zanzibar, for example, is in the process of developing small processing plants aimed at coming up with a big plant in the future.
“I am very proud for making this happen in my country,” she notes.
She vividly remembers how she was laughed at when she first told seaweed farmers (in one cooperative that she started with) that they can make seaweed soap and also eat seaweed.
“I remember a man in one village who looked at me and asked “lady, why should I eat seaweed, don’t I have food?” I wish I could meet him today, for, I am sure he is eating seaweed now,” she recalls.
Since 2005 she has been researching innovative technologies that can be used to produce higher valued seaweed and add value to the lower valued seaweed.
She is a member of several professional associations, such as Tropical Agriculture Association (TAA), Royal Society of Biology (RSB), World Aquaculture Society (WAS), International Seaweed Association (ISA), Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA) and Pan African Competitiveness Forum (PACF).
She is also one of the five International Trainers in Innovation and Clustering, where she has trained over 100 small-scale and large-scale entrepreneurs in Tanzania and a similar number in West Africa.
Further info about the Zasci project: