Photographing Nusa Lembongan Seaweed Farming
There are times when you see a scene and you know it would make an amazing photo story and knew this right away with Nusa Lembongan Seaweed Farming. Last fall when I was visiting Lembongan Island, Bali, Indonesia for the first time I came across seaweed farms. As a westerner, from a so-called developed country, I never really gave much thought to seaweed. It was one of those things that I knew had at least marginal value as Nori (wrappers for sushi) and at the periphery of my awareness I knew that it used as additive to food and cosmetics. But, like so many things, I took it for granted and never gave any thought. Amazing there are a whole group of real people working their asses off, for pennies a day, to provide me with a stable foam on my beer.
Farming seaweed is hard work. The crop can only be tended at low tide so instead of synchronizing your life with calendar and clock, you synchronize your life to the rhythms of nature and the tides. If the tides are out during the day you get to do back-breaking work in the heat of the sun. If the tides are out at night you get to struggle under lamplight until the tide rises or your work is done. Different types of seaweed grow at different rates so you have to decide whether to grow the fast-growing, but less valuable, brown seaweed or grow the other more valuable variants that take longer to grow. Small-scale commercial seaweed farming is also pretty complicated.
Climate Change Is Starting To Impact Seaweed Farming
As if that wasn’t enough to worry about climate change is starting to have an impact on yields and, even in remote Indonesia, globalization and fickle market forces reach uninvited into your life and determine whether or not you make even a meager profit from your 10-meter by 10-meter plots of marshland. Sadly on occasion when yields and prices are low, seaweed farmers are forced to eat their crop for sustenance. When times are great they can make enough to eke out a lesser level of poverty. Collectively the seaweed farmers on the three Balinese islands of Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida, and Nusa Ceningan used to produce of 40 tons of seaweed a month, but changing weather patterns have dropped the yield to around 25 tons. The seaweed has not been growing normally and much of it dies and begins rotting in the sea before it becomes ready to harvest.
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Seaweed Farmers Made Me Feel Welcome
As a photographer, I was lucky because “golden hour” coincided with low tide. I just took my equipment out and started