By Student Delegate Andrea Salazar
Seaweed has become increasingly more problematic than promising in some parts of the world. Dense ½ meter mounds of seaweed have washed up on the beaches of Caribbean and Atlantic States. If this trend makes its way to the Seychelles, women already have a solution planned in the form of composting. SeyCCAT partnered with an organization that delivers services to people suffering from gender-based violence and violence at home or at work, called the Women in Action and Solidarity Organization (WASO), to pilot a project to compost Seaweed from Seychellois shores. The project contributes to SDGs 5 (Gender Equality), 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), and 14 (Life Below Water).
This project holds great promise because humans can heal in natural environments while converting seaweed into compost that is valuable and effective. Various cultures and scientists have documented the healing effects of interacting with nature (seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling, or taste). For example, in Japan, the State with the most people 100+ years of age, the act of “forest bathing” is commonplace. Recently, more scientists have drawn ties between positive health effects and experiencing nature. The reported positive health effects include increased: happiness, improved manageability of life tasks, decreases in mental distress, positive social interactions, memory, attention, and cognitive function, impulse inhibition, and creativity. There are associations between nature experiences and reducing burdens of acute and chronic stress, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and ADD.
As women harness the power of nature to heal themselves, they will also be harnessing the power of nature to provide compost in dry environments. Compost from seaweed contains micro-nutrients like Manganese, Zinc, Iodine, Phosphorus, Potassium, Calcium, and Manganese, and seven times more amino acids – each making for better soil nutrients than a regular compost mix. In a study from Patagonia, Argentina, the seaweed compost added to tomato plants helped growth and kept the plant alive when it was not given water. Notably, the potential applications of seaweed compost include growing plants in a changing climate facing water shortages and increased dry conditions.
The experience of listening to the ocean and working with soil should have a positive effect on the participants in Seaweed Composting program. The project makes it more possible to increase economic stability because even without the compost component, the job of cleaning shores will now be rewarded justly. For example, Mexico has had to remove seaweed from its shores since 2011 and has spent 17 million USD to prevent the seaweed’s major impacts on tourism and fishing. This project also can become a robust resource that contributes to healing of survivors. The women of the Seaweed program embody empowerment: for themselves, their coastal communities, their nation, all in a changing climate and uncertain future.