While hitchhiking a boat to Australia, the last populated island we stopped by in West Papua before leaving to Darwin was a pretty special place. It was a tiny island that was made of only two villages. One Muslim and one Christian village. They were both covered in seaweed. The boats, the paths, the walls, the roofs, the houses… seaweed was EVERYWHERE.
Seaweed is considered algae, not a plant because it doesn't have a root. It's important food source for marine animals and humans. Most of the locals call it "sea vegetable."
Seaweed is used as a base for cosmetics, lotions, toothpaste, medicine and food.
Seaweed farming is a good alternative for former fishing communities.
It is relatively easy to cultivate as it takes only 45 days to fully grow.
Local islanders proudly explained they export their "gift from the ocean" to China, Japan and Brazil.
Seaweed is bringing hope to remote villages in West Papua who were under decades of conflict.
Despite a long tradition of fishing in these coastal communities, seaweed farming was only introduced few years ago as part of a project funded by the Indonesian government and the UN.
While sailing from Malaysia to Australia, we bought some school equipment and toys for the kids on the remote islands. We gave away some of it to a school teacher on Kei Island. Kids were excited about the gifts and struck a cheeky pose for the camera.
By the end of the year, Indonesia is hoping to become the world's biggest seaweed producer, overtaking the Philippines.
There are more than 10,000 varieties of seaweed in the world.
A gift from the ocean!
Local fishing boats are mainly used for collecting the seaweed these days...
This is what seaweed farming looks like. Empty plastic bottles are used to float the lines that seaweed grows on. It was pretty challenging to drive our dinghy from the boat to the island and not get tangled with the lines and bottles.