Lake Victoria Series: Crafters make the most of the lake’s hyacinth menace


Communities along the shores and beneath the waters of Lake Victoria share a common enemy – an alien species, water hyacinth.

The water hyacinth is a voracious plant that has colonised parts of the lake, with devastating results.  Local experts say there’s no real solution.  But some people have turned the challenge – into an opportunity.

On the Kenyan side of the world’s largest fresh water lake, crafters have made true the saying “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

With the invasion of the life-frustrating hyacinth, many people have been affected negatively, seeing their sources of income hit hard. Fishermen are not able to cast their nets because of the water plants, and water transport providers have been widely affected by the plants that make it impossible for their vessels to reach shores. Crafters however, have taken this as an opportunity to put more coins into their pockets.

While traditionally they had to source papyrus to make their products, the crafters now use the hyacinth that the lake has provided in huge quantities.

Unlike before, the crafters no longer have to travel vast distances to find papyrus, as the hyacinth is always readily available.

The plant initially originated from South America, and was introduced in Lake Victoria in a botched attempt to preserve fish stocks.

While others curse the plants, the crafters now say they cannot live without it, as it is their main source of income.

From it, they are able to make ornaments, household items and furniture, among other things.

Kenyan authorities have however said in the past that they are seeking ways of ridding Lake Victoria of the hyacinth that has been blamed for massive reductions in fish numbers, as well the disruption of water harvesting.