A unique expedition

In August 2012, our international team of six women sea-kayakers and social scientists will traverse the 320km length of the volcanic islands that reach from the northern tip of Sulawesi, Indonesia, to Sangihe in the Celebes Sea (From: 1° 24′ 48″ N, 124° 42′ 32″ E, to: 3° 0′ 0″ N, 125° 30′ 0″ E). In addition to undertaking this unique kayaking challenge in a dynamic and changing environment, we will observe, document and engage with life in the archipelago’s ‘liminal zones’: the rapidly changing, sensitive marine coasts in which, on which and from which people – especially women – eke a living, increasingly through seaweed farming. To the best of our knowledge, this journey has never been completed by sea-kayak, either individually or as a team, certainly not by a team of British, Australian, European and Indonesian women. It will be a 4 to 5 week physical challenge and cultural exchange.

The aims of Hugging the Coast are significant because the islands along our route lie within the Coral Triangle – the ‘Amazon of the Seas’ and global epicentre of marine biodiversity. In October 2011, the six national governments of the region created formed an international multilateral partnership called the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF) ; the Australian government financially supports the initiative. The CTI-CFF recognizes that it is impossible to protect the coral and the aquatic life of the region without addressing the impact of humans whose livelihoods also rely upon the sea. This is not least because, when climatic events such as the El Niño southern oscillation causes agriculture to fail in areas likeSulawesi, ‘the sea must provide’. The UN considers seaweed farming as an exemplar of ‘climate smart’ agriculture: for carbon sequestration, food, alternative livelihoods and reducing fisheries pressures.

Given that the main consumer of products derived from farmed seaweed is the global processed food and health industries, an expedition by European, Australian and Indonesian women will render visible the relationships between globalized commodities, national and international sustainable development agendas, the lives and livelihoods of Indonesian seaweed farmers, and international efforts to protect the Coral Triangle.

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