The unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted to a worldwide economic crisis making the vulnerable sectors lose their capacity to earn a living. The World Bank urges countries to have collected action to control the COVID-19 and provide economic support as they warn that as many as 150 million people will experience extreme poverty by the end of 2021.
This economic crisis created by the pandemic push people in all parts of the world to look for means of livelihood to help augment the needs of the family. Seaweed farming is one approach in many tropical developing countries like the Philippines and Indonesia. In the 80’s, seaweed farming used to be an alternative livelihood but is now considered an important and major livelihood in the coastal areas, specifically in the Southern Philippines. Seaweed farming, which has been newly introduced in Mahanay and Banacon Islands in Central Visayas, is a great help for farmers who says that seaweed farming is now their main source of income for the family and their community.
In the case of Bali, Indonesia, people are returning to seaweed farming which they left behind during the tourism boom. Bali is a known tourist destination and it attracts millions of tourists a year. Plans to reopen to foreign tourists have been postponed indefinitely due to the climbing cases of COVID-19 in Indonesia. Because of this, “Farmers are starting to plant seaweed again,” said Boedi Sarkana Julianto of Indonesia’s Natural Resources Network (JASUDA), a seaweed farming non-governmental organization.
According to the seaweed farmers, dried seaweed for processing to be exported provide an income up to $400 a month, a big source of income for the families. One local teacher and seaweed farmer, Wayan Ujiana, said “People are taking the pandemic as a lesson not to depend too much on tourism but rather diversify income, so when uncertain times happen they do not collapse”.
Aside from livelihood, scientists around the world are working doubly hard to find a solution against COVID-19. It is worth noting that aquatic plants like seaweed have many of the medicinal components and deep research in such area. Carrageenan, a sulphated polysaccharide from red seaweed has already been tried as a therapeutic agent for respiratory illness like the common cold and influenza virus H1N1. With such available scientific knowledge, it is proposed that sulphated polysaccharide from seaweed can be a potent molecule to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the publication by India’s ICAR-ICFT highlighting seaweed as an effective immunotherapy to fight COVID-19.
WHO also recognizes the research article entitled ‘Can sulphated polysaccharides from seaweed provide a prophylactic or therapeutic solution to COVID-19 pandemic?’ which highlighted the potential of seaweed as an effective immunotherapy against coronavirus. This was authored by Asish K Jha, Suseela Mathew and Ravishankar C N, scientists at the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT). WHO shared this article on their website section ‘COVID-19 Global Literature on Coronavirus Disease’ as information to help the world fight the pandemic.