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Workshop facilitator Dr Charles Vairappan explaining the different seaweed to the farmers at Benyamin Island. Benyamin is one of the islands seaweed farmers have settled in because of its proximity to their farms.
Workshop facilitator Dr Charles Vairappan explaining the different seaweed to the farmers at Benyamin Island. Benyamin is one of the islands seaweed farmers have settled in because of its proximity to their farms.

Seaweed farmers from Wagina last week had the opportunity to learn about seaweed disease and pest during a workshop conducted by Malaysian Professor Dr Charles Vairappan.

About 50 people attended the workshop which included theory and field trips. The first three days was basically classroom stuff and the last two days was spent visiting the farms.

Dr Charles described the training as a good one for the farmers because they learnt new things.

The farmers learnt about how to identify disease and pest aside from learning how to improve cultivation of the current strain.

It was obvious from the sessions that since the introduction of seaweed about 10 years ago, farmers only know about how to cultivate and sell raw seaweed products.

Now that they’ve gone through training, they can now identify pests and diseases if found in their farms.

Dr Charles had used the opportunity to impart useful knowledge of seaweed and pests, and how to improve yields.

“This particular workshop has given the farmers better perspective of how the seaweed have been used by the industry or what they can do to improve yield,” he said.

Apparently, most farmers at Wagina cultivated their seaweed by growing it off bottom. With this technique seaweeds are exposed to low temperatures and also oxygen.

Dr Charles told the seaweed farmers that in order for them to improve their yield, they must use longline method which allows the seaweed to grow in a zone where there is high oxygen and nutrients.

The seaweed farmers were also told to develop nurseries at their farms so that when the new strain arrives they can alternate the planting materials to improve their yield.

“Currently you have only one strain here but it would be good to have at least another eight strains. That decision rests with your Ministry of Fisheries,” Dr Charles told the workshop participants.

Following classroom sessions, the participants had the opportunity to visit the two locations on Wagina Island which has the seaweed farms.

The visit to the farms also gave Dr Charles the opportunity to check the strain for disease. His finding however, showed that Solomon Islands is still free from pest and diseases.

Besides learning about the diseases and pests, farmers were also taught how to utilise the seaweed to make fresh salad and also extract salt from dried seaweed.

The workshop was organised by the Secretariat of Pacific Community in partnership with the Aquaculture division in the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and Pacific Islands Regional Oceanscape Program (PROP).