Fishermen affected by insecurity and the ongoing dredging activities at the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (Lapsset) Corridor project have been advised to embrace seaweed farming as an alternative way of earning a livelihood.
Majority of fishing channels were closed off due to the dredging at the Lamu port site in Kililana in Lamu West with more than 5,000 fishermen being affected.
The fishing sector in Lamu has also been adversely affected by an active night fishing ban forbidding fishermen, particularly those in major fishing destinations including Kiunga and Ishakani on the border of Lamu and Somalia, from carrying out the trade at night due to security concerns caused by Al-Shabaab attacks in the region.
Addressing the public in Lamu, Kenya Red Cross Society Secretary-General Abbas Gullet said for development of any sort to be achieved, there is need for locals to arm themselves with alternative survival skills, which include learning new ways to make livelihoods instead of wallowing in poverty.
Mr Gullet said fishermen and locals in the region have a chance to improve their lives through seaweed farming which can be easily and comfortably done in the Lamu beaches and shores with handsome returns.
He cited Kwale County where he said locals are raking in millions of shillings through a similar venture and asked Lamu residents to do the same.
"As we all know, the state of fishing as well as the tourism sectors in Lamu is not doing as well as before. We have fishermen displaced as a result of the Lapsset [project] and [the night fishing ban] for security reasons. It's the high time that fishermen tried out seaweed farming. People of Shimoni in Kwale can tell you just how fruitful that venture is. Look at Zanzibar, the country makes millions annually just through seaweed farming. The people of Lamu can therefore consider this as an alternative livelihood," said Mr Gullet.
Lamu East MP Athman Shariff asked the national government to ensure all fishermen affected by the Lapsset project receive all the necessary assistance to smoothly transition into other ventures and continue earning a living.
The MP asked fishermen in the region to be flexible and be open to changes and thereafter adapt alternative ventures like seaweed farming.
"The fishermen here have been affected by insecurity and also by the upcoming new port (Lapsset). The government must understand the situation and step in to enable these people to move on with their lives even if it means transitioning into new ventures. You as fishermen should also change tactics by employing modern fishing techniques that can enable you to explore deep sea fishing," said Mr Sharif.
Fishermen interviewed by the Nation called on the Kenya Marine Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) to initiate a programme to provide them with specialised training that will enable them venture into seaweed farming.
"We have seen the KMFRI offering training on matters of seaweed [farming] to residents in Kibuyuni village in Shimoni in Kwale County. They can as well think of doing the same to the Lamu people so that we are also equipped with knowledge on how to grow and produce seaweed. It's a nice venture," said Mr Adam Swabir, a fisherman.
Extracts of dried seaweed are used as food thickeners and in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries.
Seaweed has also been used as an additive to soils.