TNC’s 2023 DEIJ Annual Report

Belize Centers Women in Sustainable Mariculture

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Turneffe Atoll Gorgonian corals glisten underwater with a blue sky above in Belize. © Ethan Daniels
Belize A member of the Belize Women’s Seaweed Farmers Association tends the Hatchet Caye Farm Site off the coast of La Placencia. © Dick Shell

TNC has long partnered with local fishers, governments, nonprofits, and private sector entities in Belize to enrich seaweed habitats that drive much of the region’s socioeconomic opportunity.

In 2017, the partnership expanded to create more inclusive opportunities for local women through training provided by the Placencia Producers Cooperative Society Limited (PPCSL). Over the next two years, trainees leveraged TNC support to organize and form what is now the locally registered Belize Women’s Seaweed Farmers Association (BWSFA). In 2020, BWSFA secured the Hatchet Caye Farm Site off the coast of La Placencia with two primary objectives:

  1. Nurture a healthy habitat where small vegetative propagules of Eucheuma cottoni and other species of seaweed can thrive.
  2. Leverage this natural resource to expand sustainable economic opportunities for women.

The project was immensely successful and has contributed to the launch of women-owned enterprises that include IKOOMA, a seaweed-based haircare line developed by local resident Jolie Pollard.

Seleem Chan Headshot

Mariculture Specialist and Safety Officer, TNC Belize

Seleem Chan

Seleem Chan conducts marine research and conservation off the coast of Belize, supporting TNC’s work with local partners to align science, technology, policy, finance, and livelihoods into a comprehensive fisheries management and aquaculture program. Prior to joining the Conservancy, Saleem earned an associate degree in natural resource management and policy from the University of Belize and the Bachelor of Science in natural sciences from Columbia Southern University. 

  • I have been working in conversation for the past 20 years in Belize and throughout this time I have seen firsthand how important our natural environment and resources are beneficial to our survival. To achieve our conversation goals, we must understand the important role people play. A colleague once told me, ‘We do not manage the environment; we manage people.’

    It’s important to note, women are the cornerstone within the family structure. We cannot continue to engage only male stakeholders and believe we will be successful. For us to be successful we must engage both males and females. Time and time again, women are showing they too can conduct seaweed farming.

  • Our approach to developing a seaweed mariculture industry in Belize is an inclusive one. Our goal is to create an industry that is not gender biased. This is an activity that both male and female stakeholders can work together to achieve. Families can work together in developing, maintaining, harvesting, and developing seaweed value-added products—all to achieve a supplemental or an alternative source of income for their family.

    An example of this is a haircare product called IKOOMA that was developed by Ms. Jolie Pollard for men and women. Its base ingredient, the Eucheuma cottonii seaweed, is sustainably cultivated within the crystal-clear waters near the Belizean Barrier Reef. IKOOMA is just one of many products that can and will be created by local producers here in Belize.

  • What excites me is the passion that drives us. We are all people connected to nature, and that connection fuels our passion to utilize our resources in a sustainable way. With the right combination of passion, people, and financial resources, we will accomplish our 2030 goal to create a sustainable seaweed mariculture industry in Belize, one that will financially benefit 400 Belizeans directly or indirectly.