The decorative items made in Phulchhari upazila are exported to the US
For the farmers of Bangladesh, water hyacinths are a real headache as they block canals that irrigate agricultural lands. But women in the remote hamlets of Gaibandha have turned this problem into profit, literally.
Yes, a number of women in these remote villages have given aesthetic appearance to dried water hyacinths by weaving them into fancy home decor items such as vases, flower tubs, mats and baskets.
The growing demand for these fancy items at home and abroad has provided these women with sustainable livelihoods in areas where employment opportunities are scarce -- all thanks to one entrepreneur who has taught them the art of living.
Subhash Chandra relocated to his parents-in-law's house at Bhashapara in Phulchhari upazila from Dhaka a couple of years ago. With water hyacinths everywhere, he saw an opportunity.
Initially, he taught weaving techniques to a few women in the neighbourhood. These women, in turn, inspired 250 others from villages across the district -- Dariapur and Taltola to name a few. All these women are now small-scale entrepreneurs.
One such woman entrepreneur is Halima Begum, who used to be just a homemaker a few years ago. "My husband was the sole bread earner then. Now I support him financially," she says.
By putting in a couple of hours daily, Halima earns Tk200-300 every day.
College student Hasna Hena has also started supporting her family. "Apart from household chores and studying, I find time to make vases with hyacinths. I too earn Tk200-250 daily."
Subhash, however, does not have enough capital to expand his business. "There's a growing demand for hyacinth decors both at home and abroad. But I need financial support from the government to expand the business and help all women of the district."
Phulchhari Upazila Parishad Chairman Selim Parvez says he's happy that the women in the villages are converting the hyacinths into artistic items. "The decorative items made in our village are exported to the US. It is a matter of our pride for us."