There is something truly beautiful and visually satisfying about highly vegetated natural areas, luring us in with lush greens and colourful blossoms, especially in environments that are otherwise dry and barren. When said greeneries take over water bodies however, it can cause severe issues for local communities.
This is the case in Nigeria, where water hyacinths are blocking many of the countries’ waterways, making it extremely difficult for surrounding communities to access the waters for transportation and everyday use. On top of that, water hyacinths drain its surroundings from nutritional resources, thus contributing to the decrease of the local fish population and affecting communities whose livelihoods depend on fishing.
Achenyo Idachaba, founder of MitiMeth, decided to turn this frustrating environmental issue into a business opportunity by turning these pests into handcrafted products such as baskets, vases, ottomans and lampshades. Inspired by communities in southeast Asia who are fighting this water weed invasion weaving one basket at a time, Idachaba decided to explore similar possibilities in her native Nigeria. Moving to Ibadan in 2011, she drummed up a group of artisans and, together, they began working on their first products.
The products are made by harvesting water hyacinths from local water channels and drying them. The turn-around time for this process is highly dependent on the climate; when temperatures are high, the weeds can be dried in a matter of four days. During the rainy season, patience is required seeing as it can take up to two weeks for the weeds to dry. When the weeds are dried, they are made into ropes which are then used to weave an array of products.
While MitiMeth initially focused on home décor and kitchen supplies such as woven coasters, napkin rings and area rugs that will quickly become a talking-point in your home, they have expanded their collection to include personal accessories as well. MitiMeth’s upcycled water hyacinth and leather hobo bags have established themselves as real statement pieces that will make any outfit pop. Combined with a pair of handmade flip flops, you will bring African vibes to the party, all the while knowing that you have contributed to the improvement of Nigerian water channels – if ever there was a fashion statement to make, this is it.
MitiMeth regularly hosts five-day workshops for women and youngsters eager to learn the craft and improve their income by setting up their own businesses. To date, people in seven different communities have undergone training with MitiMeth, and, within the next few years, Idachaba hopes to train eighty more communities in the southeast and northeast of Nigeria. This project truly is a win-win situation for Nigeria, one that combats one of the country’s biggest environmental issues and boosts the local economy at the same time.
Be a part of the change: it’s time to discard your plastic flip flops and introduce your feet to woven water hyacinths instead!