“Start where you are.”
A phrase floating around on the internet and on many social media platforms.
For some it could just be a wise sounding phrase and yet for others it could be a realisation with tangible evidence.
The latter is more the reality of recent happenings in a part of the Makoko community.
Most people might know Makoko as a water community in the densely populated Lagos State in Nigeria. It’s interesting to note from our experience that the community is partly on the water, and partly on land areas extending inland from the waterfront. It is also one of those communities affected by the invasive aquatic Water Hyacinth weed.
Water Hyacinth growing in the slums of the Makoko Water Community
We got involved and connected to the community through the Enactus Team of The University of Lagos (UNILAG) while they were participants in the Enactus Nigeria National Competition with their Project 360. Project 360 aims to turn around the situation in Makoko slums partly by focusing on ways to turn Water Hyacinth into something useful for the betterment of the community.
With MitiMeth’s work in transforming the invasive weed to unique eco-friendly and useful products, we were brought on board to facilitate the training of community members in this type of handicraft.
The Baale of Makoko, Chief Raymond Akinsemoyin welcomed our team of facilitators and encouraged the Makoko women to be fully engaged in the water hyacinth handicrafts training workshop.
Baale of Makoko, Chief Raymond Akinsemoyin, addressing community members, July 2014
Showing up with Water Hyacinth in different stages as used in handicrafts, sparked the interest of the ladies gathered from the community. You see, they probably had not initially understood what a group of people carrying dried plant bundles in a sack, and seeming to have a determined purpose, were going to offer.
Introduction to Water Hyacinth and Products, July 2014
With our agenda made clear, we began our four day journey with the Makoko Women. We got familiar with some local names for this aquatic weed. The name ‘Gbeborun’ a Yoruba word which is loosely translated as a gossip,talebearer, and one that interferes, is then not a surprising name as it does invade their lives. It affects all things connected with the water in their community.
In our make-shift classroom on the chairs, floor and outside verandah of the Baale’s Palace, the women were given guidelines on when and how to harvest the weed. They were shown how to dry it naturally and how to weave the Water Hyacinth ropes in preparation for making useful items.
Training Session, July 2014
Providing some basic tools, and making the most of our time and training space, we were able to teach 20 Makoko women how to transform their woven Water Hyacinth ropes into jewellery boxes and bracelets.
A few months later, we had the opportunity to visit the community again in December 2014 and were delighted to find the creative efforts of the ladies in a number of new items. They had designed and created pens, trays, more jewellery boxes and bracelets amongst other items.
Creative surprises on our follow up visit, December 2014
With their newly gained knowledge, the gradual honing of these skills, and the added benefit of it fitting in easily with their daily lives and businesses, the ladies were on board for another session to learn how to craft new products.
Armed with an understanding of what areas we could focus on, we returned to Makoko in February 2015 for a follow up training session.
We worked the ladies through the creation of pens, coasters and keyholders made with Water Hyacinth. With the children on a mid-term break from school, we got a chance to see the women passing on their skills already.
Our Second Training Session, February 2015
Although we had a few less ladies show up this time around, we were able to further establish a platform to test out a pilot order of Water Hyacinth adorned pens, which have since been completed.
Water Hyacinth adorned pens by Ladies of the Makoko Community
A new order is already in the works, and we are delighted and hope this community will continue to create items with a story right from their own back yards, right from where they are.
To support the Ladies of the Makoko Community and be a part of this creative process you can place orders and make enquiries by sending an email to email@example.com or call +234(0)7057081482