MitiMeth takes these invasive weeds and weaves them into beautiful homeware and personal accessories, including baskets, rugs, lamps, notepads, computer sleeves, and sandals. They are helping build a strong local artisan economy to break the cycle of poverty and empower communities.
Ogunte: How and when did you come up with the idea for MitiMeth?
Achenyo: When I returned to Nigeria in 2009, I started doing some environmental consulting. I focused on waste transformation and climate change mitigation. I was therefore on the lookout for opportunities and solutions to improve the environment.
The seed for the birth of MitiMeth was sown on a divinely orchestrated day. I was standing on the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos, when I noticed that severe water hyacinth infestation had hemmed in several fishing boats along the shore. That bleak image sent my mind spinning with questions: What do the fisherfolk do when access to the waterways is blocked by invasive weeds? How do you get rid of these invasive weeds? What beneficial and functional things could these weeds instead be used for?
I decided to start researching around these questions, and the idea for MitiMeth evolved in the process. I often say that MitiMeth is a tangible expression of the message I had been preaching about waste transformation!
Ogunte: What kind of a leader are you?
Achenyo: I think I am a ‘lead by example’ kind of leader. I prefer ‘do as I do’ over ‘do as I say’! This is especially important for me, considering the type of work we do at MitiMeth.
Ogunte: What was your greatest obstacle in the early days of MitiMeth?
Achenyo: The greatest obstacle for us was the dearth of local information available for research purposes. There was very little information in the public domain on water hyacinth infestation in Nigeria, even in the artisan sector. I had to start from scratch!
However, I see now that this obstacle actually presented an opportunity for MitiMeth. Yes, it meant far more time, effort, and resources spent gathering information. But, we are now the go-to enterprise when people think of water hyacinth crafts in Nigeria, so it all paid off in the end.
Ogunte: How important are women to MitiMeth?
Achenyo: Women are vital to what we do at MitiMeth. At MitiMeth, we aim to provide decent work and economic growth for women. The majority of the artisans we have trained from rural communities are women. They are the biggest beneficiaries, but they are also our biggest cheerleaders.
Our artisans are even reaching out to help others in their communities, encouraging them to join the artisan economy. For us, this lends further credence to the saying ‘Educate a girl (or woman), change the world’!
Ogunte: Which area of business do you find it most difficult to be confident in?
Achenyo: The most difficult area for me is marketing. If it were up to me, we would give out all of our products and services for free!
However, we are a for-profit social enterprise; we must deliver solid commercial returns combined with a long-term positive social development impact.
We’ve made steady progress over the past few years, but we do need to ramp up. We need to ensure our artisans are fully equipped to deliver high-quality products on a consistent basis, and in turn realise solid economic gains that will improve their quality of life.
Ogunte: How should an innovator go about trying to solve a problem?
Ogunte: Fast-forward a decade. What does your world look like?
Achenyo: Here’s a look at the world through a water hyacinth lens:
Ten years from now, I see a world in which vibrant business models to transform water hyacinths have been successfully replicated in all of the 50+ countries that are infested by the weed. I see a world with plenty of thriving grassroots enterprises, which are tackling the environmental and economic problems faced in their communities.
I see a world where the entire water hyacinth plant is put to good use. Communities are transformed and empowered.
In a decade, I see a world where abject poverty has been eradicated through the artisan economy.
Ogunte: Who are three women in social enterprise who inspire you?
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