Achenyo Idachaba, C.E.O, Mitimeth, is working with rural communities in using water hyacinth (seaweed) to create everyday household products. Achenyo very recently (Jan, 2016) spoke at a TED Women gathering about the process and the incredible environmental and social implications of this meaningful work.
Water hyacinth is a free floating, or mud rooted plant, usually about 100mm to 200mm high, although it can reach a height of 1m when growing in dense mats.
Large concentrations of hyacinth are found in the coastal regions of Kwazulu Natal and along the Vaal River as well as in the Crocodile River in Mpumalanga. The widespread distribution of hyacinth is mainly due to the activities of gardeners, aquarium owners, and boating enthusiasts as water hyacinth spreads readily as entire plants or even as plant fragments.
A native of the American tropics, water hyacinth is now distributed over all the warmer regions of the world and has become one of the world’s major aquatic weeds.
Large floating masses of hyacinth have several significant impacts. It prevents the use of water bodies for boating and angling and other water sports. The plant blocks irrigation canals and sluices and disrupts hydro-electric installations. Rotting material from the hyacinth may also build up at the bottom of canals and dams which can lead to low oxygen levels and poor water quality. The amount of water lost through evapotranspiration of large mats of hyacinth may be three to seven times higher than through evaporation from an open body of water. The plant also creates conditions that are suitable for the breeding of mosquitoes and bilharzias-carrying snails.
Water hyacinth is a proclaimed noxious weed throughout South Africa.
Reference: Botanical Research Institute, Pretoria
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