Preserving the Seaweed Farming of Nusa Lembongan
Exclusive Interview with Mr. Wayan Suarbawa during our visit of upskill Tropical coastal Ecology and Community Based Management post graduate semester program initiation.
Upskill’s Post Grad Program of Tropical Coastal Ecology and Community Based Management, brought our team to visit Nusa Lembongan island during our initiation process of the program to learn and gain in depth knowledge about the Seaweed Farm in Nusa Lembongan. Our team was sent to speak to Wayan Suarbawa, the Chair of the Seaweed Cultivation Group in Nusa Lembongan, to gain in-depth insight into how he turned the island’s ‘dying heritage’ back into a prolific commodity. This is his wonderful story.
Nestled off the coast of Bali, Nusa Lembongan Island boasts a rich cultural heritage and a unique seaweed farming tradition. The island's dry land, unsuitable for conventional farming, led many locals to embrace seaweed cultivation as a means of sustenance. However, the rapid growth of tourism in the late 2000s diverted attention and resources away from seaweed farming, causing its decline. Determined to revive this age-old practice, Wayan Suarbawa, a passionate advocate for ocean conservation and one of the few remaining dedicated seaweed farmers embarked on a mission to bring the spotlight back to Nusa Lembongan's Seaweed Farm. Mr. Suarbawa, who had been involved in assessing seaweed cultivation in 1984, witnessed the island's inhabitants transition to becoming seaweed farmers. But in 2010, lured by the burgeoning tourism industry, many abandoned seaweed farming to establish tourist accommodations. This trend reached its peak in 2014, compounded by factors such as fish pests and a significant drop in seaweed prices.
Motivated by a profound sense of loss, Suarbawa and a group of like-minded individuals collaborated to revitalize the seaweed farming industry in Nusa Lembongan. Initiatives were launched to increase seed sowing and explore creative applications of seaweed, such as crafting seaweed-based products. While these efforts yielded positive results, they failed to ignite widespread interest, particularly among the island's youth, to pursue a career in seaweed farming. Suarbawa's determination eventually paid off, with an unexpected boost from the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought tourism to a standstill. The number of seaweed farmers skyrocketed from approximately 10-15 before the pandemic to a staggering 850 today. This surge presents an opportunity to make seaweed the defining narrative of Nusa Lembongan, where visitors can immerse themselves in the island's natural beauty and learn about the cultural significance of seaweed farming.
"I envision Nusa Lembongan as the premier seaweed destination in Indonesia," Suarbawa declared. His aspiration involves not only enticing tourists to the island but also enabling them to discover the intricate world of seaweed cultivation. By blending leisure with education, Lembongan can offer a unique holiday experience that fosters an appreciation for seaweed farming. Suarbawa's commitment to preserving Nusa Lembongan's seaweed farming goes hand in hand with his desire to rejuvenate the lives of the island's elderly population. Many older individuals, who once thrived as seaweed farmers, have been left without a purpose. Despite being in their productive years, they find themselves confined to their homes, passing time with their grandchildren. Reviving the seaweed farming business can reignite their sense of purpose and productivity.
As Suarbawa seeks to safeguard the future of seaweed farming in Nusa Lembongan, he extends a warm invitation to global tourists. "Come, enjoy a wonderful vacation, learn about seaweed, and share your knowledge to help preserve this invaluable commodity," Suarbawa enthusiastically beckons. By joining forces with organizations like Upskill and the government, Suarbawa hopes to ensure the longevity of Nusa Lembongan's precious seaweed farming industry. Together, they can prevent history from repeating itself and cultivate a sustainable future for the island's economy and cultural heritage. In conclusion, Nusa Lembongan's Seaweed Farm represents more than just an ancient tradition. It symbolizes the resilience and resourcefulness of the island's inhabitants. With unwavering dedication and newfound interest, Nusa Lembongan's seaweed farming can reclaim its rightful place as a sustainable and culturally significant practice.
Are you interested to come and learn about this fascinating aspect of Nusa Lembongan? Participate in our Tropical Coastal Ecology post graduate, feel free to send any questions or inquiries immediately!
By Billy Bagus