For many people the presence of water hyacinths in rivers and lakes is a source of concern.
Not only do the hyacinths prevent sunlight from reaching other aquatic species, they also decrease water flow.
Fishermen view this invasive plant as a threat to their livelihood because they choke waters populated by fish.
While critics of this aquatic weed see it as a menace, Nigerian entrepreneur, Achenyo Idachaba sees a booming business opportunity.
She harvests these water hyacinths to make eco-friendly handcrafted products.
‘‘Essentially how this journey of transformation began was a trip I had taken to Lagos Nigeria where I am based. I saw this dense mat of foliage which was water hyacinth and it had obstructed all these fishing boats. So when I saw that image of course it arrested my attention. and the reason why it arrested my attention was under normal circumstances the fishing boats should be out on the waters with the fishermen plying their trade. so that essentially got me thinking about you know is there potentially any beneficial use to this obstructive weed’‘, she said.
According to the founder of mitimeth, attitudes toward water hyacinths have changed in Lagos after realising its potentials.
‘’ By the time we go through the process and you know 5-10 days in training the people have already making items with the water hyacinths. So you see a radical shift from the initial scepticism to oh my goodness I can actually derive some kind of livelihood from the production of items from water hyacinths’‘, Idachaba added.
Idachaba also mentioned compost and biogas as some of the other benefits derived from water hyacinths.
Since 2011, her firm has grown to employ more than 300 women who engage in weaving various products including blended cotton fabrics, open shoes, bags, and many other ornamental products.
Apart from helping Nigerian women make the intricately handcrafted products, the 46 year old entrepreneur has partnered with fashion designers to use hyacinth made fabrics for different kinds of clothing.