THE Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has provided over half a million pesos grant to improve the drying processing of an association of seaweed farmers in the province of Zamboanga Sibugay.

The recipient of the P563,360 financial grant is the Mangga Fishing Seaweeds Association (Mafisa) in Buluan, Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay.

DOST Regional Director Martin Wee said the financial grant is for the installation of Land-based Enclosed Solar Powered Seaweed Dryer and Science and Technology Seaweed Nursery.

Wee said the dryer can operate day and night with proper ventilation because it is supported with solar energy and is also capable of holding two tons per batch with a drying time of two to three days.

Mafisa is one of the University of the Philippines-Mindanao Landcare-Life (Pull) Program's identified fisherfolk groups in Sitio Mangga, Buluan, Ipil, according to Wee.

He said the main sources of income of the association are seaweed farming and fishing. There were 23 people who initially signed up in the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) registration.

He said from 2019 to present, the association has been a Pull community partner.

Pull is a funded project of the DOST-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development that is implemented in the identified conflict vulnerable communities in partnership with the Landcare Foundation of the Philippines, Inc. (LFPI), DOST-Zamboanga Peninsula Provincial Office in Zamboanga Sibugay and other national agencies.

The team assisted the identified beneficiaries to improve seaweed farming, post-harvest and marketing practices.

Wee said the association is now producing Kappaphycus alvarezii and Cottonii varieties of seaweeds with a monthly estimated volume of 30 to 50 tons per month.

Wee said the association currently does not have access to a drying facility so they dry their produce on the ground, resulting in low quality and reduced selling price. They mostly prefer to sell fresh seaweeds.

With DOST-funded Technology on Seaweed dryer developed by Engineer Ronel Pangan of UP-Los Baños, the farmers will be provided with a better drying facility and disease-free seaweed nursery. (SunStar Zamboanga)