Mama Fatuma and the seaweed farming development in the south coast of Kenya

Published: 29 April 2021
Last edited: 29 April 2021
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Mama Fatuma, the hard working middle aged woman living in Kibuyuni Village of Kwale County embodies the success of seaweed farming on the Kenyan coast. In a village where the predominant economic activity of fishing is a preserve of the men, Mama Fatuma encouraged fellow women to embark on seaweed farming as an alternative economic activity to wean them off over-reliance on their men folk and to enable them contribute to the family income. Following research trials and support from various sectors, seaweed farming is now earning Kibuyuni Village over USD 11,000 from the initial USD 2,000 in 2012 and beginning to thrive in various places along the south coast of Kenya and improving livelihoods through provision of additional income for families to pay school fees, meet medical costs and diversify the economy. It has also generated interest in mariculture and marine science generally among the youth in coastal Kenya.


East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Coastal forest
Coral reef
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Access and benefit sharing
Ecosystem services
Fisheries and aquaculture
Food security
Gender mainstreaming
Local actors
Outreach & communications
Science and research
Sustainable financing
Sustainable livelihoods
Traditional knowledge
Lack of access to long-term funding
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Lack of infrastructure
Lack of food security
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 2 – Zero hunger
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 9 – Industry, innovation and infrastructure
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
SDG 14 – Life below water
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Aichi targets
Target 3: Incentives reformed
Target 4: Sustainable production and consumption
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge
Target 20: Mobilizing resources from all sources
Business engagement approach
Direct engagement with associations


Kwale, Kenya


  • Scientific data about best practices for seaweed farming unavailable. This was addressed through community collaboration with KMFRI and visit to Zanzibar;
  • Lack of drying racks and open space. Modern drying racks were built through technical and financial support;
  • Limited storage after harvesting and drying. This was addressed through construction of a large storage facility, with extra space for cottage industry to manufacture products such as bar soap, shampoo;
  • Poor marketing of seaweed and reliance on one buyer who only came to buy occasionally, and at the price determined by him. Farmers began to process some of the seaweeds to improve its value through manufacture of various products  such as soap, shampoo, baking ingredients etc. This reduced the dependancy on the sole buyer.


  • Women seaweed groups
  • Individual residents
  • Other community-based organisations
  • Students from schools and universities who learn about seaweed production

How do the building blocks interact?

The infrastructure support coming from the Government and World Bank encouraged Mama Fatuma and her new team to farm more seaweed and protect the environment, because they rely on it. Therefore, seaweed farming is a sustainable way to use natural resources.

The infrastructure for storage enables the farmers to have control on the production and selling of the seaweed. Previously, they had to sell the seaweed to the buyer whenever he chose to come. Currently, they also have a say on the price, because they have a place to store seaweed for longer time.

The seaweed production has also triggered new local businesses, such as shops, restaurants to accommodate the many visitors etc resulting into a diverse seaweed production supply chain.

The nature of seaweed itself is easy to handle, process, store, transport, and generates high income.

Mama Fatuma has become a famous figure in Shimoni Village and beyond. She has been interviewed widely in the media and now also gives lessons to people who visit the village to learn more about seaweed farming. She was among the invited guests to the President’s State House during the National Agricultural Summit in 2016.


  • The harvest doubled from 5,204 kg in 2012 bringing income of KES 46,840.5 (USD 426) to 10,554 kg in 2018 at the cost of up to KES 263,850 (USD 2,398). The unit price has fluctuated widely from KES 9 per kg in 2012, to KES 30 per kg in 2015 for a total KES 1,277,490 (USD 11,608.36) earned by the community ;
  • The sale of products from seaweed was substantially improved when the community was given space to sell their products to a wider market during cultural events in Kwale and at trade fairs such as the Kwale Cultural Show, International Fairs in Mombasa and Nairobi etc.
  • Seaweed farms became learning sites for students from schools and universities, as well as tourist attractions for local and foreign visitors;

  • Upscale of seaweed farms from Kibuyuni to 11 other villages along the south coast of Kenya;

  • Women and youth empowerment through engaging in a successful business model


Kibuyuni Seaweed Self-Help Group (SHG) in Shimoni, Kwale County was established by the community in 2010. This was after 2 years of trials of seaweed farming conducted by the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI). The original membership of the group was 113, with the majority (75%) being women. Initially they started by selling a kg of seaweeds at the price of KES 9 (100 KES = 1 USD), thereafter the price increased to KES 15 and it has currently almost tripled to KES 25.

In recognition of the community efforts led by Mama Fatuma and the Kibuyuni SHG, the County Government of Kwale and the Fisheries Ministry in the National Government have funded the construction of a storage facility for preserving large quantities of seaweed for a long time.

KMFRI has posted a field scientist in Kibuyuni to work closely with Mama Fatuma and the other community members. Additionally, KMFRI is in the process of establishing a research station with laboratories and offices, which will serve the entire south coast region of Kenya.


Following the inception of Blue Economy in Kenya in 2018, 4 more institutions joined KMFRI in supporting the activities of the group. These included Kenya Industrial Research Development Institute (KIRDI), Kenya Industrial Patent Institute (KIPI), Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and Brand Kenya – which articulates Kenya’s Vision 2030 aspiration. KEBS was involved to ensure that one of the main locally manufactured products, Seaweed soap maintains its high quality and reaches both the local and national markets.


Various other communities in the south coast of Kenya are emulating Shimoni SHG. This is witnessed through extension of seaweed farming to other places such as Mkwiro, Gazi, Funzi, Nyumba Sita, Tumbe, Mtimbwani, Mwambao, Fikirini, Jimbo and Munche. KMFRI is carrying out experiments in these new sites to determine viability, and also providing regular technical support and building the capacity of youths in these areas through training on seaweed farming, drying, storage and extraction processes.

Contributed by

babaalmasi_39099's picture

Melckzedeck Osore Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI)