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African visitors learn water hyacinth weaving

LOCAL NGO Osmose is host this month to a small group from the West African state of Benin, here to learn from women in Prek Toal floating village the intricacies of water hyacinth weaving.

Since 2005, Osmose has supported a small cooperative of women from Prek Toal, who weave the invasive aquatic plant into mats, baskets and accessories, and have gained a reputation for quality and design.

Beninites Nicole Dossa and Martine De Souza are staying in the floating village to learn the craft, and are using the ecotourism services developed by members of the village over the last year. Both have been enjoying their trip.

“The women are completely professional. We’re so impressed with them,” De Souza said.

Another member of the group, Dominique Faïzoun, will spend his time in Siem Reap studying the processes and practices involved in running an ecotourism business, and how the development of local handicrafts skills can be used to improve livelihoods.

Knowledge garnered here will be applied in Benin to another floating village, at Ganvié, a commune of about 23,000 people, 25 kilometres from the capital Cotonou.

There, the team, along with the Benin government and UN, will develop an ecotourism industry to forestall the potentially negative effects of tourism, and to develop a handicrafts industry to assist uneducated girls and widows.

Notwithstanding the beauty of the flowers produced by water hyacinth, it is a pest and is known as one of the world’s worst aquatic weeds because of its astounding growth rate and capacity to block waterways.

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