By Nikka Garriga
STA. CRUZ, LAGUNA— Over the years, communities living near the country’s largest river systems have had to deal with the infestation of water hyacinths.
This free-floating plant is even considered the main culprit for clogging major waterways such as Laguna de Bay and Agusan River, which brought about damaging floods in many low-lying areas.
The perennial problem prompted the government to find ways that will turn water hyacinths as a potential source of income for the affected communities.
The response led to the creation of the Water Lily Development Project, a component of the Laguna Livelihood Emergency Accelerated Program (LEAP) by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
The initiative aims to clean-up the Laguna Lake by using water hyacinths and transforming them from being a supposed waste product to raw materials for livelihood enterprises.
The products, ranging from simple ‘bayong’ bags to slippers, table and home ware and even dresses, took center stage at the recently held One Town, One Product Market Fair 2012.
This recognizes the program’s significant contribution to the local economy. Since it was launched in 2010 up to the first semester of this year, the Water Hyacinth Development Project raised P13.77 million in investments and P21.2 mullion in domestic sales.
“These indicators of success inspire the industry players and stakeholders to continue the efforts of sustaining the program and to further strengthen water hyacinth products as a sustainable industry,” the agency said in a statement
It also aided in generating 3,021 jobs across nine regions where an abundant supply of water hyacinth can be found. This includes CALABARZON, Ilocos, Bicol and Western Visayas, among others.
The initiative also shed light to issues and advocacies relating to environment and ecology, particularly in the use of eco-friendly materials against traditional, non-biodegradable plastic.
“The success of the program is anchored mainly on the strong private-public partnership; the willingness of the micro and small enterprises to continuously improve their products,” DTI added.
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