Building wealth from waste, women initiative in biodiversity conservation

The Akanyaru wetlands are among Rwanda’s Important Birds Area aka IBAs. IBAs are sites of global importance for the conservation of birds and other biodiversity at global,regional and national level.Unfortunately, the Akanyaru wetlands ecosystem invaded by Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), is losing some of its potential biodiversity while reducing livelihoods for adjacent local community who depend on it.

Introduced for ornament purpose and later became invasive alien species, Water Hyacinths are dramatically destroying biodiversity and having negative impacts on aquatic biodiversity specifically. In general, water hyacinths reduce water flow, block sunlight and starve water oxygen. In fact, depending on nature resources, local community living adjacent to Akanyaru wetlands noticed the reduction in productivity, invasion of those plant species and started to look for a sustainable solution to the problem of invasive alien species.

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Photo: Water Hyacinth at Akanyaru wetlands, Musenyi sector (Credit: ACNR)

The community of Musenyi Sector in the East of Rwanda depending on nature resources from Akanyaru wetlands joint hands in removal of Water Hyacinth in Akanyaru wetland. Gathered in KOSUMU (Cooperative Sugira Musenyi), a Site Support Group (SSG) engaged in conservation of Birds and Biodiversity of Akanyaru; they contributed in the removal of Water Hyacinth while restoring ecological niche.

Sustainable but time consuming, this solution pushed women gathered in KOSUMU to hit two birds with one stone as it said! They had to contribute to the removal of water hyacinth to insure conservation of biodiversity. And then, they realized that those so called waste material should be raw material to generate incomes. The idea was simple; dry water hyacinth, prepare it and make handcraft.

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Photo: Miss Nyiraneza from KOSUMU making agaseke (Credit: ACNR)

As simple as was the idea, they had to develop skills and knowledge in the new sector. To insure the implementation of such innovative solution, Rwanda environment Management Authority (REMA) trained members of KOSUMU and they gained more trainings and exchange visits through BirdLife’s Jensen Funded regional project entitled “Empowering local communities for the conservation and sustainable development of the birds and biodiversity of the Lake Victoria Basin, the Greatest of Africa’s ‘Great Lakes’ implemented by Association pour la Conservation de la Nature au Rwanda (ACNR). Being passionate about their new work, they continue to improve and produce awesome handcraft products.

Handmade and beautiful products, their handcrafts attract more customers. The increasing of demand resulted in average cost. This handcraft making activity contributes to the functioning of local economy while increasing the incomes of cooperative members. They produce bags, hats and related handcrafts which cost approximately 2 USD each. They also make tables at affordable prices.

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Photo: Handcraft made by KOSUMU members (Credit:ACNR)

Linking nature resources management and sustainable development, wise conservation of biodiversity has the positive impacts not only to biodiversity but as well to the people contributing to biodiversity conservation. It is one of the skills and knowledge to domesticate and to improve. Human kind interacts with nature but their innovations will guarantee its future.

Editor: Prudence Ndabasanze, LVB Project coordinator
Source: LVB Project -2015, ACNR

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