Clusters of vivid purple flowers called water hyacinths bloom in large quantities along the Niger Delta. The flowers add some beauty and color to the water’s surface. But they actually do far more damage than good. Aside from limiting access to waterways and causing problems for fishermen, the aquatic weed also depletes nutrients from the water, which can reduce fish populations.
But instead of just seeing these plants as a nuisance, entrepreneur Achenyo Idachaba sees them as a business opportunity. She founded MitiMeth in 2012. The startup harvests weeds from local water channels, leaves them to dry in the sun and then processes them into rope. The rope is then used for weaving various craft products. Idachaba said to CNN:
“What we do is take an environmental problem and turn it into a win-win solution.”
The 46-year-old has worked on various environmental projects over the years in both Nigeria and the United States. But in addition to the environmental benefits, Idachaba also wanted to create opportunities for other local entrepreneurs.
So she has taken her craft to eight different communities along the Niger Delta, training local residents how to harvest the aquatic weeds and turn them into rope. After that, they can use their creativity to come up with different products to make or sell. Idachaba explained:
“After we assist them with basic training, the rest is left up to their own creativity and we see them use the skills they have acquired to turn them into products that we’ve never even mentioned.”
So even though her business involves making products, Idachaba considers the environmental and social impact of her company more important. By teaching others how to transform a problem into a resource, her business is not only helping the environment. It is also helping people make their own entrepreneurial opportunities.