Sea & Soil is farming, processing and manufacturing products from seaweed to create economic, environmental and social development in rural coastal women and urban workers in Fiji Islands.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade provides catalytic funding, gender expertise to strengthen social and commercial impacts, connection to an extensive network, support to capture report social impact, safeguards standards and practices, national and global recognition.
Scaling seaweed production in Fiji to provide coastal communities with income and create a viable market for environmentally sustainable seaweed products.
Border closures have heavily impacted employment in Fiji’s largest industry, tourism. With limited alternate job opportunities, rural communities have been left without jobs and incomes. Women have been particularly impacted as they often rely on informal work (farm labourers or market vendors) for income. Meanwhile, seaweed is an abundant resource and is currently underutilised. Seaweed fertilisers can improve soil fertility and productivity of crops. Currently, animal feed and inorganic fertilisers are widely used by Fijian farmers at a volume of US 20 million (2019) in imports.
About the initiative
This initiative aims to develop and scale seaweed production in rural villages in Fiji. Seaweed can be used in sustainable fertilisers and other agricultural inputs to replace costly, chemical-based imported products. Sea and Soil is exploring other seaweed-based products and launched a locally made hand sanitiser in response to Fiji’s recent COVID-19 outbreak. The initiative hinges on an out-grower model with benefits to farmer groups and cooperatives and the potential to increase incomes in coastal communities. The farmer groups will be supported through an innovative digital learning platform for learning and skill development. Through the partnership, Sea and Soil will develop a new processing facility for organic seaweed products. The seaweed products will be marketed to domestic markets with potential to scale and reach export markets. The focus on farmers and farmer skill development coupled with the local processing facility positions the business as a viable and sustainable operation with significant potential for social impact. The Fijian Government is providing valuable support to the private sector to help develop the local seaweed industry. The Government is helping provide the facilities and resources to test the seaweed products to meet regulations around export standards and has a training program for farmers to increase production.
Raising the profile of women in seaweed farming and production
A central aim of the initiative is for women in agriculture to more visible through organised producer groups and by recognising women’s work with increased income. Producer groups are a way to bring women together so they can raise their voice in both commercial and community forums. Producer groups will receive training through a digital platform. The producer groups can also build women’s self-confidence and offer an informal network for building women’s role in business and their standing in the community. An annual award will also recognise women in the industry.
A climate friendly product benefiting the sea and soil of Fiji
Seaweed farming is a carbon sink product, meaning it absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The seaweed that is planted creates marine habitats and the final product – the organic fertilizer will reduce the use of chemicals in agriculture. The organic fertiliser reduces animal methane emissions and improves yield in agriculture.
Hear from our partner, Sea & Soil
“The Australian Government is an incredibly important cog in this partnership that essentially seeks to create a vibrant seaweed industry that will directly contribute and improve rural livelihoods in a very sustainable and measurable way.
Sea & Soil is delighted that it can be a part in this exciting journey where Fijian village communities involving hundreds of households can turn to earning to an alternative source of income through organic seaweed farming. With Australia’s vital assistance we are bringing seaweed based products to market like organic fertilisers, soil conditioners , sanitisers and more.”