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Renewable energy company turns water hyacinth into gold

A renewable energy company in Kisumu has embarked on manual removal of the water hyacinth from Lake Victoria to produce baskets and bags.

The initiative by Chemolex Company targets to clear the invasive weed from the lake and at the same time curb pollution to restore the lake’s lost glory.

Domiciled at Kobala in Dunga area along the shores of Lake Victoria, the company has absorbed hundreds of youth and women groups from the area who harvest the weed and make bags and baskets to replace the banned plastic bags which are in use illegally and choking the lake due to improper disposal.

According to the firm’s communication officer Robert Achoge, the hyacinth has affected the livelihoods of thousands of people who relied on the lake to earn a living.

The initiative, he said, targets to eliminate the menace completely after several attempts by government and other non-state actors to restore the lake failed.

Disposal of the harvested hyacinth in the past remained a challenge, which he said has been addressed by turning the weed into biodegradable bags and baskets to be used by the locals to carry fish and other commodities.

“In this project, we are seeking a solution to the water hyacinth which has been a menace in the lake for long. In the process of executing the project, we aim to create employment, stop pollution and replace the polythene bags with the bags made from the weed,” he said.

The procedure, he said, involves harvesting the hyacinth from the lake which is then shredded and dried to produce fibre.

The fibre is in turn organically fermented to create a compound which could be used for biodegradable packaging materials.

One of the youth absorbed by the company Enock Owuor said that the process does not require a lot of resources since the raw material is extracted from the lake with the water used in the prcess also drawn from the lake.

The project, he added, has impacted many lives with so many people benefiting directly and indirectly.

A fisherman at Kobala beach Michael Obala said the project has helped restore fishing activities in the area after years of being blocked by the invasive weed.

He said the youths engaged on the project are now able to eke a living following the daily stipend they receive from the company.

A resident of Nyalenda Joe Ochieng who is the community mobilizer for the project said the initiative was an eye opener for the unemployed youth, asking them to be innovative and think of other ways the hyacinth could be used to impact their lives economically.

He urged the government and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to bring projects of such nature to the area to end joblessness and insecurity.

By Samwel Oyugi

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