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Start Where You Are ...

A phrase floating around on the internet and on many online 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 waterfront 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.

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 Nigerian National Competition with their Project 360. Project 360 aims to turn around the situation in Makoko slums partly by focusing on ways to turn the invasive Water Hyacinth into something useful for the betterment of the community. With MitiMeth’s work in transforming an invasive aquatic weed, the Water Hyacinth, to unique eco-friendly and useful products, we were brought on board to facilitate the training of community members in this type of handicraft. Showing up with Water Hyacinth in different stages of use in handiwork 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.

With our agenda made clear, we began our four day journey together 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. The Baale of Makoko, Chief Raymond Akinsemoyin welcomed the team of facilitators and encouraged the Makoko women to be fully engaged in the water hyacinth handicrafts training workshop.

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.

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 tried to create picture frames, pens, trays, and more jewellery boxes and bracelets.

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 you can purchase a pack of pens from here.

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