Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is an aquatic plant native to Amazon Basin, it is a floating plant with round bright green leaves and purple leaves. There are mainly two types one is with long stems and that can grow up to 2 feet in length in ideal conditions; the other is with bulb like stems. It has a feathery root system and new plants get attached to the roots of the mother plant and grow.
It is an invasive plant and one of the fastest growing weed known, a single plant can produce thousands of seeds in a year and propagation of the plant is too easy. It can grow and propagate in Tropical Desert, subtropical areas to rain forest and it appears as a thick green bed above the water bodies.
Before it is identified as a weed, many years back like in 1884 it is considered as an ornamental water plant. And believed to introduce in 1884 at the World’s Fair in New Orleans, as a giveaway gift. People started growing it in their water gardens as an ornamental plant, and it was beautiful and absorbed pollutants from the water body.
What’s the problem?
But in few years it became a problem in many parts of the world, it grow and choked water bodies, covered entire water system as a mat and this prevents sunlight to reach the underwater, and decreases oxygen and thus kills aquatic plants and destroys the Eco system. It blocks water flow kills fish disturbs water transport and it started directly affecting economies of large and small countries alike
There varying types of controlling measures that many countries experiment and practice every year to get rid of the problem. There are mechanical, biological, chemical control techniques, the rapid growth rate of the plant nullifies the effect of controlling mechanisms. It is advised to perform a combination of all methods according to the atmospheric conditions of the place to control the weed.
Productive controlling of water hyacinth
A small percentage of water hyacinth is utilized in production of bio-gas, biomass, converted to as manure, used in paper making, pulp is used in different forms and also the stems are used in handicrafts and furniture.
Water Hyacinth in Kerala
Kerala is the land of water bodies and tourism, transport and activities like fishing is all related to it. The spreading of water hyacinth is affecting all the above activities adversely. A combination of controlling measures like mechanical removal, saline water treatment and biological measures are essential in addressing the problem. Attempts to convert water hyacinth to utility products are also done here at a smaller scale.
Water hyacinth products from Craftpair
We believe as an organisation working with sustainable materials in Kerala, have a duty to address the problems water hyacinth creates. We are converting it as an opportunity to make beautiful rugs and mats, storage baskets, and furniture. We have developed a processing mechanism and technique to process the raw material – Water Hyacinth and converting it to the above products. The production process is labor intensive and we could make an idle community active and provide them employment.
The production process happens in three stages, raw material processing, product making, and finished good processing.
Raw material Processing
As already mentioned above entire process of material processing to make baskets and mats are labour intensive; and in all the three stages utmost care is given so that the final product has its desired quality and finish. Each step starting from raw material processing is very important and ignorance can lead to lots wastage. We have a guideline to monitor raw material processing and it is strictly followed.
The long stem variety of water hyacinth is used for making baskets and rugs, these are identified and collected from water bodies in Kerala. And brought to a single processing space here it is cleaned and root system and leaves are removed and kept for drying directly under sunlight. Five to 7 days continuous sunlight is essential for drying the stems properly. The dried stems are collected and stored as bundles in a dry area.
The production stage is rather interesting and creative, unlike other fibres water hyacinth is soft and flexible, and artisans are more than happy to weave or make products out of it. Weaving or basket making is a process where the person has to be very careful about the shape and pattern of the product. Since it is handmade each product will be unique, the Craftpair guidelines for product making gives uniformity for a single design to the maximum.
Testing and Finishing
The completed products are tested for few parameters including finishing and colour variations, the products are then smoked in smoking chamber to kill and protect it from insects. According to the buyers preference surface treatmen
We have a chemical smoking method that kills the insects and improves the colour of the product as well. But we recommend our clients to go for a special spices smoking. This is completely natural and can give similar feature as the chemical smoking.
All our products are made on order basis, and we take bulk orders only for mats and baskets. Kerala has a good weather that gives the water hyacinth a better texture that adds to the feel of the products that we make.
Other than mats and basket we make braids and ropes that can be used in furniture industry.
In our space water hyacinth is most sought after natural fiber , so it is like adding a design every day. You can reach us for any type of design in water hyacinth for we have many skilled artisans all across Kerala.