The Water Hyacinth

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What is Water hyacinth?

Often confused with the water lily, the water Hyacinth is a free-floating perennial aquatic plant that is characterized by its broad and thick leaves. It may rise up to 1 meter in height which causes blockage in waterways.

facts about the water hyacinth

  • It is considered one of the worst aquatic plant species.
  • It can reproduce at an extraordinary rate.
  • Its leaves can grow and expand up to 6 feet thick.
  • Surprisingly, the water Hyacinth thrives in polluted bodies of water. Studies have been done to test its properties for phytoremediation, a low-cost cleanup technique that directly uses living plants to lessen environmental contamination. However, no initiatives have been done to explore and utilize this potential.

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1. Environmental impact

Deemed as one of the most damaging aquatic plants in the world, the water hyacinth has severely infested Philippine waters and its nearby communities with its rapid rate of proliferation. It can flower throughout the year and releases more than 3 000 seeds per year. With this extraordinary rate of production, the Water Hyacinth species outnumber other aquatic species in the vicinity, threatening the stability of fresh water and its biological diversity. Furthermore, its leaves and pads can reduce light and oxygen, which causes phytoplanktons to significantly decrease in number, affecting the photosynthetic cycle and endangering fish species.

2. Impact on Safety and Health

Death and decay of large masses of the Water Hyacinth can cause rapid deterioration of water quality, potentially losing sources of clean, potable water. In addition, the floating mats of the water hyacinth serve as breeding ground for pests and other organisms detrimental to the health and safety of neighboring communities. There is an alarming increase of cases of malaria and cholera which can be attributed to swarms of mosquitos, snails, and other disease-carrying parasites that are commonly found inhabiting the Water Hyacinth pads. There are also increased incidences of crocodile attacks and snake bites that are said to have been caused by the extra cover and protection provided by the large pads of the water Hyacinth [4].

3. Economic Impact

This invasive species has not only threatened aquatic biodiversity but also hindered economic and social development among affected communities. In Laguna de Bay, it covers about 20% of the lake’s surface area; and because of the water’s high sewage concentrations, the plant yields about 657 tons of dry matter per hectare a year. In the 1990s, the world reportedly spent $3 Billion a year just to control the weed with little success.

It also causes problems in marine transportation, fishing, and irrigation. By clogging up waterways, it causes floods and increased water pollution. Its pervasive presence has caused barriers to waterways and hindered the development of the fishing industry, especially in the major water areas of the Philippines (Pasig River, Laguna de Bay, etc.). It also clogs irrigation systems, causing heavy flooding in major cities during the typhoon season.

uses.jpgBecause the Water Hyacinth is known for being one of the most invasive plant species, many people disregard its benefits and livelihood opportunities.

  1. New food source for animals

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Source

Many research scientists have investigated its potential as an inexpensive and sustainable food substitute for livestock. Massive volumes of dried water Hyacinth may be ground and treated using specific chemicals and machines to turn them into a viable food source for animals [3]. However, more research must be put into its economic feasibility as the treatment process may be complicated and costly. Despite this, with its enormous potential, this could significantly help water-infested communities financially and economically.

2. Water purifier

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Source

As mentioned earlier, the Water Hyacinth has already been tested for its phytoremediation properties, used to purify contaminated water. In a drinking water treatment plant water hyacinth have been used as part of the pretreatment purification step. After this purification process, the water will result in a significant decrease in turbidity. Water hyacinth has also been used for the removal or reduction of nutrients, heavy metals, organic compounds and pathogens from water [5].

3. Fertilizer

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Source

Water hyacinth can also be used as compost and fertilizer. In countries where mineral fertilizers are expensive, this can serve as a sustainable and cheap alternative for high-quality fertilizers. The water hyacinth pads are dried and mixed with ash, soil, and animal manure. The mixture can be left in piles to compost, the warmer climate of tropical countries accelerating the process. The compost increases soil fertility and crop yield and generally improves the quality of the soil [5].

4. Furniture, Handicrafts, and Paper

The Water Hyacinth is only a pest when we don’t utilize it to its full potential. Many companies and social entrepreneurs have explored the idea of using Water Hyacinth as paper, ropes, or the base of woven bags and other handicrafts.

Other uses of the Water Hyacint: Charcoal Briquettes, baskets, yarn & ropes, paper

Sources: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Our company, Jacinto and Lirio, is one of the few that uses creativity to market this “pest” as a viable environmental, social and commercial solution to this infestation problem.

Through the creation of well-designed, functional and Philippine-inspired plant leathergoods, Jacinto&Lirio aims to improve the lives of people from both ends of the spectrum—the water hyacinth communities who are empowered through meaningful work, and the people purchasing who are enriched by the eco-friendly products. We aim to work within a collaborative business model for the purpose stated in the mission– social impact in livelihood, environmental protection, and product innovation.

livelihood opportunities 2.jpg

Jacinto and Lirio’s core mission is to help our partner communities in our supply chain to be sustainable & scalable enterprises. There is a need to strengthen the sustainability of community livelihoods using indigenous materials, which is a major source of income in various areas in Asia.

We capitalize on material innovations to create higher-value products using their indigenous materials. This supply chain synergy will be the platform to channel wealth back to the communities which will benefit community development and give a higher quality of life.

For every purchase of Jacinto & Lirio, we contribute to the community development of our partners so they can keep transforming their families, and their communities for the better.

 

References
Anon, (2019). [online] Available at: https://www.phlpost.gov.ph/stamp-releases.php?id=3662 [Accessed 30 Mar. 2019].
Ecop.pbworks.com. (2019). Environmental Challenges of the RP / Water Hyacinth – A Crisis or an Opportunity 0708. [online] Available at: http://ecop.pbworks.com/w/page/18520921/Water%20Hyacinth%20-%20A%20Crisis%20or%20an%20Opportunity%200708 [Accessed 30 Mar. 2019].
Ecop.pbworks.com. (2019). Environmental Challenges of the RP / Water Hyacinth Pollution Control Properties 0708. [online] Available at: http://ecop.pbworks.com/w/page/18520928/Water%20Hyacinth%20Pollution%20Control%20Properties%200708 [Accessed 30 Mar. 2019].
UNEP Sioux Falls. (2019). Water hyacinth-can its aggressive invasion be controlled?. [online] Available at: https://na.unep.net/geas/getuneppagewitharticleidscript.php?article_id=98 [Accessed 15 Apr. 2019].
Library.uniteddiversity.coop. (2019). [online] Available at: http://library.uniteddiversity.coop/Water_and_Sanitation/water_hyacinth_control.pdf [Accessed 16 Apr. 2019].
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Values and women-led social entrepreneurship | International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship | Ahead of Print

Thank you, Bruce for mentioning Jacinto&Lirio in your study and giving light to our advocacies! Our company has always been deeply rooted in our values and our mission to help our partner communities in Water Hyacinth-infested areas. It is the heart of what we do.

“J&L produces and markets “plant leather” wallets, journals and planners made from the water hyacinth (an invasive aquatic plant that clogs lakes and rivers in the Philippines). The company remediates the environmental impact of the water hyacinth, empowers affected communities through sustainable livelihoods and social development programmes and promotes responsible consumption and national pride. We categorise J&L as faith-inspired because both founders identify religious faith as a primary inspiration, but religious practices do not feature in the company’s programme and activities.”

 

You can read the full article at Values and women-led social entrepreneurship | International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship | Ahead of Print

A Meaningful Summer at Jacinto & LIrio

by : Hannah To

Gone are the days of bumming around from morning to night. This summer had been an incredibly busy one for me—not because it had to be, but because I wanted it to be. Nothing beats the gratification I get from helping other people while enjoying and learning at the same time.

Working for Jacinto and Lirio is a blast. I’ve certainly become more aware of the problems in our community; at the same time realize how beautiful and rich it is. I decided to work for Jacinto and Lirio because I wanted a backstage pass to the world of social entrepreneurship and the retail industry at the same time. I didn’t expect to learn so much from plainly marketing the products, and I owe that to the brand’s inspiring advocacy.

Upon working as an intern, I realized that pursuing a social enterprise isn’t a one-shot deal. There are a lot of factors to consider, and it isn’t as easy as creating a typical start-up business. Our items don’t sell out as fast as other commercial products, our direct partnership with the community is time-consuming, but the customers are happy and the community is served. The results are amazingly rewarding. I’m very thankful to work alongside a very responsible and motivated bunch. Not only are they serious with the tasks at hand, but they’re also very helpful and inspiring. I learned a lot from my fellow interns, too. These are the kind of people we should be cultivating ourselves into.

Our country—although it has been through a lot—is still very young. A lot of communities remain untapped, a lot of riches yet uncovered. There is beauty in the Philippines, therefore there is hope. I did not write this entry to talk about how I changed people’s lives, but how a certain group of people changed mine.

One day, my grandchildren will ask me to tell them my story. I’d want my story to be worth telling, so that they’d want theirs to be worth telling, as well. It’s never too early or too late to help the world become a better place. You can start small; start by internalizing the fact that we have a wealthy community, but we can do a lot more to make it even better. I never thought I’d learn so much in one summer.

(Hannah To is a business management major at Ateneo de Manila University. She interned with Jacinto & Lirio during the summer of 2012)

Mythbuster : A Jacinto & Lirio Internship Experiment

new story Jacinto&Lirio

by: Lia Malferrari 

There’s a show on the Discovery Channel called Mythbusters where the most common myths are either proven to be true or busted. The team goes through a series of experiments to see if there is any substance behind what could have been a rumor grossly blown out of proportion or an actual fact passed from one generation to the next. I enjoy that show because (1) I always love learning new things especially about things I thought I already understood, and (2) the team’s quips and personalities are just so fun to watch.

My summer at Jacinto & Lirio was sort of like that, a summer of learning new things about stuff I thought I already learned in school and while working, and of being surrounded by a team with great personalities (J&L board & fellow interns included) who were fun to be around. As for the myths to be busted? Let’s tackle them below one by one.

Myth: It’s too late to start over 

I’m 24, graduated in 2008 with a degree in Business Administration and you could only imagine that applying for an internship at my age and time in my life (I graduated 4 years ago, which is already an entire college life for someone else) was not easy. I had already worked at one of the top companies in the country where I was receiving a substantial pay and awesome benefits package and did not know if I could go back to something unpaid and usually reserved for incoming 4th year students. What pushed me to send that email to Noreen (J&L CEO) asking if I could still participate was that nagging feeling at the bottom of my stomach that somehow this experience would change my life and open me up to new experiences and to a world I was not a part of before, and that what I gain working for them in experience would be worth so much more than working freelance instead during my free time. I realized through my work with Jacinto and Lirio that it is never too late to start over, change the path, and enter a new world. You just need the willingness to give up a lot of things, lower your pride, and open your mind to possibilities.

Myth: That businessmen (usually pictured in their Armani suits and Alligator dress shoes – and usually male), are nothing but power hungry piranhas who feed on the less fortunate and work toward nothing but profit, profit, profit.

As a woman into business myself, and a daughter of a self-made entrepreneur, this was never a myth I believed in. But I know, ever since my days in college, that a lot of people outside the business world have that misconception that businessmen are nothing but corporate slave drivers (and why are they always male as default?) who don’t care about anything except making money. Maybe all those people should get to know our world a little more and maybe they should start with the social entrepreneurs I’ve met during my internship. Never before have I seen more powerful women taking a stand against global issues and working on uplifting our pride as a nation until I entered the world of Social Entrepreneurship. Women like Noreen and Anne have showed me that there are businesses who legitimately care (and not just for their CSR / Marketing campaigns) about others and try to make a difference in the world. And although it is natural for a business to care about profits, there is so much more that drives the business to continue. To take a quote from Gawad Kalinga – Less for self, more for others, enough for all, and these businesswomen I met over the summer embody this philosophy to the core.