//Sea algae promises prosperity for Kerala villagers

Sea algae promises prosperity for Kerala villagers

By Sanu George, IANS, [RxPG] Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 4 – A red sea algae is poised to change lives in the coastal village of Vizhinjam in Kerala.

For the 10 families in the village situated near Kovalam, cultivating the red algae, or Kappaphycus alvarezii, in the sea will mean economic prosperity.

The red seaweed, commonly called 'guzo' or 'tambalang', is the raw material for 'kappa carrageenan', used as an additive in jellies, ice cream, sauce, ham, sausage, chocolate drinks and also items of personal care like cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

The villagers are thankful to the efforts of young scientist M.S. Bindu and her team, which made them foray into this new form of livelihood. The venture was launched Saturday.

A pilot study conducted by Bindu in November 2005 on behalf of the department of environmental sciences in University of Kerala showed that the culture of the algae could be done successfully in the sea at Vizhinjam.

The cultivation of the red sea algae is gaining momentum across the world.

Speaking to IANS, Bindu said their main aim in promoting this cultivation was social uplift of the costal population.

'All that one requires is a raft made of bamboo and a nylon net, which would cost Rs.300. Around 10 kg of this algae is planted on one raft and left in the sea, but the sea should not be rough. After 45 days the algae is ready for harvesting. Our studies revealed that the yield is more than 10 times what is planted,' said Bindu.

The demand for the algae is huge. The product fresh fetches Rs.5 per kg, the dried variety Rs.12 per kg.

Asuntha Mohan, president of the Vizhinjam village council, said it was a training programme for 10 selected families.

'We selected the families from among the Muslim and Christian community. After seeing the success of the venture, we plan to induct more interested people,' said Mohan.

The Vizhinjam experiment is being done on 20 rafts. Bindu and her team are trying to replicate the venture in the rough sea as well.

'Banks have already shown interest in financing the cultivators by providing loans. A few companies have come forward with PVC material required for cultivation in the rough sea,' said Bindu.

With the Kerala coastline extending to nearly 590 km and more than 150 species of indigenous algae being identified, this new occupation could certainly bring cheer to the coastal populace.