On an early August morning in the village of Paje on the eastern shore of Zanzibar, an island 15 miles off the coast of Tanzania, women gathered on the beach, carrying sticks, plastic bags, and black leather purses. As tourists did sun salutations on the soft sand, the women waded into the ocean, their skirts floating like lilies on the water. In front of them, rows of red and green bundles dotted the ocean, evoking winning lines in a game of Connect Four. The seaweed seedlings stretched as far as the eye could see. These women were there to harvest them.

Mwanaisha Makame, a seaweed farmer, stood knee-deep in the water, tending to her crop. The seaweed grows on thin raffia strings (tie-tie, in the local Kiswahili), attached to nylon ropes suspended between stakes, which are pegged to the ocean floor....

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