Aquatic weeds such as the water hyacinth, which MitiMeth uses, 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 – ‘they almost weave themselves!’ says Achenyo – 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.
Achenyo hit upon the idea through research she undertook, which showed that communities in southeast Asia afflicted by the water hyacinth had harvested the weed and transformed it through weaving into marketable products. ‘I thought to myself, this can be done here in Nigeria.’ Visiting a community in the city of Ibadan, she befriended 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!