Finding alternative uses for invasive species: the water hyacinth in Benin

Patrice Sagbo, Actions pour le Développement Durable, Benin

Native to South America, the water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) has caused problems for local lake communities and the environment across East Africa. In Benin, it makes travel by canoe difficult, and affects the livelihoods of local fishing communities.

In recent years, local communities—especially women—have managed this invasive species by harvesting it for use as compost and crafts material. Longer leaves are washed and dried, before being woven into bags, rugs, hats and other objects which are then sold. The remainder of the plant is then combined with manure and sand and left to develop into a rich compost, which is eventually used to support agriculture, or sold.

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