Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What Do Water Hyacinths Have to Do With Hunger?

A group of Wings Ministry volunteers from Albuquerque and elsewhere traveled to Kenya in late January and early February to connect with folks involved in prison ministry.  Here is a daily log from the trip.  The mission of Wings Ministry in the US and other countries is to connect spouses, caregivers, and children of inmates with the nurturing and supporting relationships of Christian people in local churches.

Some of the prisons that the team visited are located near Kisumi on the northeast shore of Lake Victoria.

Team leader Ann Edenfield  tells us what the visitors encountered when they went to the lake.

Since we are on the shores of Lake Victoria, we wanted to see the lake. A resort was near the airport, with a golf course next door, and yet when we got there we could see no water. A real problem is in the harbor in Kisumu as hyacinths have literally choked the harbor. For 8 months basically all one can see is greenery, which is a harbor full of hyacinths. This is because of all the waste from fertilizers and human waste which is feeding the hyacinths. We met the owner of the resort and his boats were stuck in the hyacinths. Apparently they often had hippos and even crocodiles in the water, but we didn’t see any animals. He said he wouldn’t even put his little finger in the water right now.

Water hyacinths are native to South America, and no one knows how they ended up in sub-Saharan Africa. Their presence has become a major environmental problem and is creating difficulties for local residents to maintain access to traditional sources of food.  Here's the problem:

Because of its dense growth, it blocks sunlight from reaching the lake's native aquatic plants, which affects fish and other marine life-- and those who make their livelihoods catching them.  A CNN article gives you the big picture.

And National Geographic offers a similar perspective. Getting to fishing grounds became a terrible struggle. A reduced catch and lowered income threatened to trigger widespread famine. Rotting vegetation, under the suffocating blanket of weeds, began to foul drinking water — which comes straight from the lake.  

There are ongoing efforts to control the invasive weed, and hopefully there will be long-term success.  But changes in the environment, whether created by humans or not, are a very difficult challenge.

Here is a video report from CNN (please pardon the advertisement--it comes with the video).

1 comment:

SteveK said...

This weed is a feloniously renewable resource, waiting for control by exploitation. It can be made into fuel in several ways. Its fiber can be made into clothing and furniture. It can be made into fertilizer or into biochar. Some livestock thrives on it for feed. It is so renewable that you will be stuck with it forever. Turn it into wealth for your people.