Villagers turn out in force as PAIR researchers present seaweed findings
As reported previously, the researchers had spent many months in these and other villages gathering insights into how to make the industry more sustainable and productive while also forging connections with the local community.
Two workshops or ‘dissemination events’ were held in the villages last month by junior researchers Imran Lapong, Risya Arsyi Armis and Radhiyah Ruhon, with the many locals in attendance being the same farmers who helped with PAIR projects.
“The sessions were an important part of the PAIR programs and had been implemented because they allow for the transfer of information and knowledge sharing,” Radhiyah said.
“I believe it is the intellectual responsibility of researchers to convey the findings of the research they have carried out at the research location.”
More than 60 people attended the workshop in Laikang and more than 50 at Pitu Sunggu.
Radhiyah said the presentations began with a history of seaweed industry evolution in South Sulawesi dating back to the 17th Century CE, followed by a discussion about drying strategies.
They spoke about the seaweed value chain, in which about 70 to 80 percent of South Sulawesi seaweed products, raw and processed, are exported to China.
“Furthermore, from the discussion section, we learned that seed supply and lack of capital are common problems in these two locations, apart from fluctuating prices of dried seaweed and pest-disease problems,” Radhiyah said.
After listening to the presentations the farmers provided feedback, engaging in an activity where they wrote down two to three keywords related to challenges they faced.
Several other insights were gleaned:
- The farmers need supportive data and information presented in a simple, easily understandable format, or infographics, detailing the appropriate cultivation timing for each type of seaweed.
- Additional information and straightforward scientific explanations concerning the causes of seaweed death or decay, as well as ways to minimise losses based on each cause.
- Farmers are advised to be cautious in following trends in fertiliser use for seaweed cultivation to avoid long-term ecological damage and reduced production.
- Some workers who tie seaweed bundles experience itchiness and are looking for a solution to this problem.
Radhiyah said while there had been research in the past, no similar events had been conducted “so the farmers [previously] did not know what information had been gathered from their village and what were the findings of the research”.
Researcher Imran said he felt touched by the warm welcome given by the local community upon his return.
“It underscored the importance of conducting social issue research with care, rather than rushing through it,” he said.
“Building public trust is crucial for greater openness and willingness to participate in our research endeavours.”
Researcher Risya was reassured to know her presence was valued by the villagers, “even though my questions might have been a bother in the past”.
“My heart was filled with happiness as I was greeted with bright smiles and warm embraces,” Risya said.
The Australia-Indonesia Centre has facilitated a number of key research projects into the Indonesian seaweed industry, including Sustainable upgrading of the South Sulawesi seaweed industry, Developing a rapid assessment of seaweed qualities and a Review of vocational education and training programs in informing the future seaweed industry in South Sulawesi.
Feature image by PAIR.