From Muungoni with love: WB leader excited to meet seaweed farmers

Wading in waist-deep waters of the Indian Ocean, seaweed women farmers at Muungoni Village in Unguja South Region, comb through tangled nests of the sea crop as they demonstrate how it is farmed and how the harvests are collected.

Among those who observed the process keenly is the World Bank President, Ajay Banga, who went to the field to see the reality on the ground of how the International Development Association (IDA) is making a difference to seaweed farmers in Zanzibar.

Mr Banga had flown in straight from the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference, more commonly COP28, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates to Zanzibar for the mid-term review of the 20th financing round of IDA, the World Bank’s concessional financing arm for the developing countries.

He visited Muungoni Seaweed Farms to speak to women beneficiaries of an IDA-supported programme that is boosting Zanzibar’s seaweed production, reducing costs, and improving livelihoods by creating increased market access.

This impactful project is empowering women, and building livelihoods and resilience to climate impacts through seaweed farming.

The seaweed farmers at Muungoni Village received support from the South-West Indian Ocean Fisheries Governance and Shared Growth Project (SWIOFish), which has benefited over 15,000 seaweed farmers in the country, with 74 per cent of them being women.

The project provided resources for seaweed farming, transportation, and training, resulting in reduced costs, increased production, and improved access to markets.

That in turn, has led to higher incomes and enhanced community resilience against climate challenges.

“We are happy, we are overjoyed,” remarked a joyous member of the group, Mariam Hassan Ally as she briefed Mr Banga and his team about the group and how the World Bank support has helped them.

She said they were thankful for the support they received that included seaweed farming equipment that helped to boost production as they were working on deep waters using bare hands and hence became prone to injuries.

The group was also thankful for receiving a barge for ferrying the harvests with ease from the sea waters and for the drying facilities as they used to dry their harvests on the sand.

“We didn’t have the equipment to properly farm seaweed back then. So we had to do it with bare hands, which resulted in injuries,” said Ms Ally.

“We are appreciative of the World Bank’s assistance as they provided us with necessary supplies like ropes, tarpaulins, and barges, in addition to assistance with seaweed drying facilities.

We have successfully overcome the challenge of having to dry the produce on the ground.

The drying facilities were constructed exactly as we wanted, and we are happy, we are overjoyed,” she said.

The treasurer of the group, Ms Hidaya Suleiman Ahmed said seaweed farming had allowed them to earn an income for themselves and their families.

The earnings enabled them to improve their standards of living by helping them pay school fees, buy uniforms and books for their children, improve the houses in which they live, and purchase clothes and food to meet their daily needs.

She said with increased production of seaweed, they have realized they can earn more if they would be processing the crop for value addition before they are exported.

“We now need a processing machine and a warehouse for storage of our seaweed,” says Ms Hidaya noting the warehouse would also give them some privacy when they want to change their wet clothes.

Mr Banga said he was excited to see positive results of IDA support to the seaweed farmers and in particular how it had helped to change their lives for the better.

“I’m so excited to see these positive results of our support here especially how it has transformed people’s lives. This is the most important thing in our financing. I am so happy to meet the beneficiaries, hear and speak to them,” said Mr Banga.

World Bank President, Ajay Banga (with a turban) listens to a group member of seaweed farmers at Muungoni Village in Unguja South Region, Mariam Hassan Ally who explains, via a translator, about how IDA support has helped to transform their lives (Photo by Henry Lyimo)

He said he was so happy to hear from the seaweed farmers how IDA support has helped to boost production, reduce operation costs, and improve livelihoods by creating increased market access.

Speaking earlier during the opening of the mid-term review of the IDA 20th replenishment totaling 93 billion US dollars, Mr Banga called on member countries to make the next replenishment of the lender’s fund for the world’s poorest countries the largest ever.

He said the International Development Association (IDA) was being pushed to its limits by increasing demands.

He said donor countries and philanthropies needed to dig deeper to help IDA deliver better development outcomes to low-income countries.

“The truth is we are pushing the limits of this important concessional resource and no amount of creative financial engineering will compensate for the fact that we need more funding,” said Mr Banga.

“This must drive each of us to make the next replenishment of IDA the largest of all time.”

In the current, 20th IDA funding round due to be completed on June 30, 2025, the IDA-financed portfolio in Tanzania amounts to 8.3 billion US dollars as of November 2023.

The portfolio is comprised of 23 national projects totaling 7.26 billion US dollars in commitments and six regional projects totaling 1.05 billion US dollars in commitments.

Key sectors in the national portfolio include transport, education, water, urban resilience, energy, and social protection.

Other projects cover governance, digital development, human development, and poverty.

Tanzania’s regional projects are focused on agriculture, energy, education, and poverty and equity.

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