The anamed book: Use Water Hyacinth!
Water hyacinth - Use it!
A crisis or an opportunity?
The ”world’s worst water weed”, or a ”golden plant”?
Many species of animals, fishes and plants are threatened with extinction. Therefore, today, conservation is of paramount importance.
It seems, therefore, somewhat ironic that we seek to destroy, sometimes at all costs, a plant that is available in great abundance.
Water hyacinth has caused many problems, and ruined the livelihoods of many people. However, we have a moral imperative to think about how this abundantly available source of biomass could be utilised for the benefit of those same people for whom it has created such havoc.
There are already many examples in many countries of the world of how individuals and communities have used water hyacinth to great advantage. New possibilities are constantly being discovered in the universities of Africa and Asia.
What can we do with water hyacinth?
Water hyacinth can be very helpful in meeting some of the most urgent needs in tropical countries:
- in food production;
- as leaf protein concentrate, which is rich in protein and vitamin A.
- as a substrate for mushroom cultivation,
- by making soils more fertile which yield better crops.
- by purifying water, in which fish can then thrive.
- through the production of silage, for fattening animals.
- through vermiculture, producing feed for poultry or fish.
- in regenerating degraded soils;
- as mulch.
- as compost.
- as fertiliser, produced by mixing with other organic materials, and phosphate rock.
- in energy production, thereby combating deforestation;
- as biogas, which can be used for cooking in kitchens for schools or restaurants.
- as briquettes, which can be used for cooking in place of wood.
- in providing employment and income, through the production and sale of;
- a range of art papers and card.
- crafts and furniture.
- (on the industrial level), chemicals and liquid fuels.
- by removing pollutants and nutrients from water.
Utilisation makes economic and social sense
When thinking about whether water hyacinth utilisation is economically viable, the following factors should be taken into account:
- When water hyacinth is removed from the water body, the nutrients and pollutants are also removed. Thus a contribution to improving the water quality is made. If the hyacinth were allowed to rot in the water, even following control by chemical or biological means, a further reduction in oxygen content would take place.
- If the water hyacinth is returned to the land, then the nutrients are taken back to the land, even in an improved form.
- If villagers have improved crops of bananas or vegetables as a result of using water hyacinth, their standard of living and almost certainly their health will be greatly improved.
- Local economic activity will have been stimulated and opportunities for employment created.
- Purposeful activity and being able to meet oneâs basic needs leads to an enhanced sense of well-being.
There are two dangers associated with water hyacinth utilisation that must be taken seriously. For these reasons, some people even say that water hyacinth should never be used.
- The danger of seeds being transported to new locations, perhaps quite innocently in the form of silage or mushroom substrates, and a new infestation of water hyacinth appearing. Therefore, never transport water hyacinth that may contain seeds.
- If people find water hyacinth to be really very useful, they may well deliberately plant it in a new location, and thus start off a new infestation which gets out of control. Therefore, never plant water hyacinth except in very strictly controlled conditions.
Water hyacinth is like a fever thermometer!
Take an example from the world of medicine. Many doctors have recognised that, if a patient has a fever, the fever is not the problem to be treated, but a very important indicator that the patient has an illness. That complaint needs to be diagnosed and treated.
Where water hyacinth is found in abundance, it is not itself the problem, which is to be eradicated at all costs. Rather, it is a clear sign that something else is out of balance. Often it is a sure sign that the water contains too many nutrients, which may come from soil erosion (from careless agricultural practice), from agricultural chemicals or from domestic or industrial pollution.
Thus, to spend a small fortune trying to eradicate water hyacinth might be to ignore the real problem.
The anamed book: Use Water Hyacinth!