#PROFILE| MEET ACHENYO IDACHABA, THE ENTREPRENEUR CREATING BEAUTIFUL THINGS OUT OF WATER HYACINTH

#PROFILE| MEET ACHENYO IDACHABA, THE ENTREPRENEUR CREATING BEAUTIFUL THINGS OUT OF WATER HYACINTH

Achenyo Idachaba is an entrepreneur, computer scientist, and business analyst born in United State. She moved down to Ibadan, Nigeria, in 2009 to set up an environmental consultancy, and discovered a specie of weeds called ‘Water Hyacinth’ (Eichornia crassipes). This aquatic weeds pose a major challenge to local communities and have been a target of government initiatives to stem the damage they cause for some years. Their extensive, knotted root systems tangle together and and clog waterways, which are a key transportation network to inland populations. They also deplete nutritional resources in their surroundings, leading to a drop in the fish population, which impacts food supplies and livelihoods for riparian communities, who are reliant on fishing.

Having read a book about how communities in southeast Asia afflicted by the water hyacinth had harvested the weed and transformed it through weaving into marketable products, she determined to make this method work in Nigeria also. She visited a community in the city of Ibadan and moved close to a couple of artisans who had experience in weaving doum palm and rattan. She worked with them to develop the company’s first products – a table tidy and a wastebasket: two fitting products to make from a tangled weed! She collaborated with local craftspeople to set up a range of products that were woven from the dried plants. The company was called Mitimeth. She developed products such as a waste basket and a table tidy which were made from plants that are usually only known for being invasive. In 2013, she won a grant from the government and employed seven staff. The weeds are harvested, dried and then made into rope which can then be made into products.

In 2014, her creative initiative was recognised when she was given the Cartier award. This was the women’s initiative award for sub-Saharan Africa. She has been featured on CNN and her TED talk in 2015 achieved over a million hits.

Water Hyacinth

According to Wikipedia, ‘She has taken an environmental problem and turned it into a win-win solution for her business, local communities and the country’. Each hand-crafted piece is created from the weeds which are harvested from the local waterways and dried out in the sun before they can be used for weaving into highly intricate and beautiful finished products such as baskets, tableware and even jewellery

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