Woven wonders from water weeds and waste

Story highlights

  • Achenyo Idachaba returned to Nigeria in 2009 hoping to start a business
  • Always interested in the environment, Idachaba noticed an abundance of water hyacinth
  • It is a fresh water weed known for clogging waterways, lowering fish populations
  • She decided to take the environmental pest and turn it into beautiful handcrafts
Every week, African Start-Up follows entrepreneurs in various countries across the continent to see how they are working to make their business dreams become reality.

Ibadan, Nigeria (CNN)Along the Niger Delta, an abundance of vivid purple flowers are blooming gently on the surface of the water, adding a touch of color to the inland waterways.

But that's where the beauty ends because these striking flowers are water hyacinths -- an aquatic weed wreaking havoc in local communities and ruining water supplies.
    Not only does this fast-growing water pest curtail access to waterways and cause problems for local fishermen, it also depletes nutrients from the water, which in turn reduces fish populations.
      But where many see an invasive aquatic nuisance, Nigerian entrepreneur Achenyo Idachaba identified a business opportunity.
      Setting up shop in Ibadan, a city in the south-west region of Nigeria, she began harvesting the water hyacinth and transforming the waste product into intricately handcrafted everyday items.
      "What we do is take an environmental problem and turn it into a win-win solution," Idachaba explains.
      The 46-year-old entrepreneur has always had a passion for sustainable development. Over the years she has consulted on various environmental projects relating to waste recovery. But turning these watery weeds into a tangible, bespoke craft was the first idea to really catch her entrepreneurial eye.
      Splitting her time between Nigeria and the United States -- where she was born -- she finally returned from the diaspora in 2009 and three years later founded MitiMeth. In 2013, the company was awarded a grant from the Federal Government of Nigeria allowing the small startup to grow and take seven full-time staff on board as well as provide work opportunities to local artisans during busy periods.
      Making each craft depends on the climate and having enough hands to work. The weeds are harvested from a myriad of local water channels and laid out in the sun to dry out, which can take anywhere from four days to two weeks in the rainy season. Once dry, they are then processed into the rope required to weave products together.
      In addition to creating beautiful woven handicrafts, Idachaba wanted to offer local communities skills and potential business ideas. Along with the MitiMeth team, she has branched out into eight communities, mainly in the Niger Delta, training and educating residents on how to take this watery menace and transform it into rope for weaving products.
      "We help them to see the invasive weed through a different lens in terms of this could actually become a