Invasive Species Turned Economic Opportunity in Kenya

Water hyacinth on Lake Victoria

Water hyacinth is an extremely devastating invasive species in Kenya, choking the largest body of fresh water in Africa, Lake Victoria, but some proactive, inventive folks in the region have found ways to turn this destructive water weed into a useful resource. Via Danielle Nierenberg of our sister site EatDrinkBetter:

“Water hyacinth is actually a really great raw material for so many things,” says Shana. “We are helping communities in Kenya harvest it and use it to create tools to use in the home and to sell. We are using it to make fuel briquettes for cook fires and turning it into a very effective fertilizer.” Village Volunteers is also helping local entrepreneurs produce chairs, baskets, and other pieces of furniture that can be made by weaving together the tough stems and leaves of the hyacinths, as well as biodegradable sanitary napkins.

“The hyacinth invasion is an overwhelming problem,” says Shana, “but it is becoming a business. And by using only locally available materials and labor—oxen help to harvest the hyacinth, for example—the end result is largely self-sustaining.” And while the villages on the shore of the lake can’t eliminate the hyacinth all together, they are clearing it away from the immediate shores, helping to improve the quality of their immediate water supply, as well as habitats for the fish populations they depend on.

Read more on this story here: Turning an Invasive Species into a Livelihood

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Photo Credit: sarah_mccans via flickr (CC license)

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