In India, six women from a fishing community are collecting water hyacinth, an invasive plant species, from Deepor Beel Lake and turning them into yoga mats. They hope the industry will help save the livelihoods those who rely on the Assam lake as well as migratory birds who have difficult finding fish amid the hyacinth-choked lake waters.
“The water hyacinth covered the lake affecting the fishing activity and the livelihood of the fishermen,” Mitali Mainu Das tells The Better India. “It further affected the migratory birds, as the dense plantation covering water made the fish in the water body inaccessible.”
The process involves collecting and drying the hyacinth, which is then woven with cotton threads to make mats. Natural dyes are added during the process.
The women received training and handlooms from India’s Weavers Service Center. They have called the mat Moorhen after a bird commonly found in the Deepor Beel Wildlife sanctuary. To date, they have made 700 mats, 100 of which have already been sold in the US. To date, they have removed 10,000 kilograms of hyacinth from the lake.
“Our venture is unique and has the potential to earn a good income,” Mitali adds. “We wish to involve more women by offering free training and empowering the community.”