By Johnny R. Lee
The economic gains and social benefits of the seaweed industry in Tawi-Tawi has brought a tremendous impact especially to the thousands of coastal dwellers whose former livelihood depends on the dwindling fishing and agricultural farming.
My personal research/dissertation in the year 2015 indicates that there were significant changes and improvements to families who engaged in seaweed in seaweed farming based on the following human development indicators: 1). Increased family income; 2. Properties acquired; 3. Savings; 4. Type of houses built; 5. Lifestyles; 6. Number of children attending formal schools; and Basic needs like water, food and shelter.
A family or household,normally consisting of 3-5, can earn a minimum of P15,000.00 per harvest season (45 days) in a farm lot area of 200 square meters. Since they are living in coastal areas, bounties from the seas like fresh fishes and other seafood are readily available. They only need rice and most often grated cassava as their main diet. Kitchen supplies such as oil, sugar, salt and condiments are also seen in their homes.
What is most interesting are the physical improvements and social status they acquired and attained as seaweed farming practitioners. Their homes or houses has been transformed from mere light materials made of nipa huts into semi-concrete housing units with galvanized iron roofings. Found inside their houses are gas stoves, sala sets and sometimes television sets and refrigerators. TV’s and refrigerators are either run by personal portable gen-gets or connected to local electric cooperatives operating in the nearby villages.
Seaweed farmers were also able to acquire engines for their small boats or bancas as utilities to transport their products to nearby seaweed buyers. Some farmers even own motorcycles.
Based on the interviews and data gathered from seaweed farmers themselves, a family could now afford to send their children to formal schools and earn a degree. Their lifestyle has also improved like celebrating birthdays and attending social events like birthdays, weddings and festivals.
Source of potable water may be scarce in most villages but seaweed farmers can now afford to buy bottled water for their drinking consumption. A domestic usage of water can be had in a dug-up artesian well or bought from ambulant water sellers sourced from far-off villages.
Indeed, the seaweed industry has brought good tidings and blessings for the poor people of the province. (JRL)