On the beaches of Ghana there’s an abundance of seaweed.
fishing communities along the republic’s coastline are struggling with water pollution and deteriorating fishing conditions, due in part to the aquatic plant’s rampant growth. Blue Harvest saw a business opportunity in collecting and processing this natural resource, and uses inexpensive techniques to do so. Harvesting seaweed will have a positive impact on impoverished coastal communities by providing a direct source of work and income. Collecting the invasive plant from the sea and beaches will lead to cleaner water, cleaner beaches, more fish and a host of new business activities.
How did this concept start?
Elvira de Rooij, entrepreneur: ‘As a social entrepreneur I was already active in Ghana when I heard about the problem of seaweed in the sea and on the shores. I was already in touch with Dutch contacts from Wageningen Marine Research and Huiberts Flower Bulbs. They help with knowledge regarding the processing and uses of seaweed and a simple, ecological method for drying seaweed in Ghana. The project got an extra impulse when I heard about MAW and the possibility of getting help from a coach, and finding business partners in Ghana directly.’
How did MAW help in developing the concept further?
EdR: ‘Emmy Voltman, my coach from PUM Netherlands Senior Experts, was very helpful with her knowledge of business development in Africa. Also, MAW made a very good match by introducing us to our local partner, Venital Company Ltd. Our next step will be to do additional research on the seaweed. Our proposal is based on research done by others, but we want to check its validity. Then, once we are fairly certain about our business case, we would like to apply for financing at the Dutch Good Growth Fund. Being awarded a prize at MAW is also helpful in convincing other potential investors and donors of the strength of our proposition. It is simple and straightforward, it helps poor people directly and it’s sustainable and eco-friendly.’
What is your vision for the future?
EdR: ‘Basically, in Ghana this is a social enterprise. However, when it comes to the Dutch side, selling and processing the seaweed, the project is not only commercially viable but also green, eco-friendly. Our primary target for 2020 is to buy, sell and process 75 tons—75,000 kilos—of seaweed. Once this really hits off, it might serve as a model for other countries where excessive seaweed is a problem, and an opportunity!’