Freshwater infestation by the water hyacinth weed has reached crisis proportions in many areas of Africa and the Middle East. Accumulated environmental, economic, and social damages to date are estimated in the billions of dollars. Most severely affected are riparian communities and those people who depend upon the environmental services or production from affected water bodies.
Years of research has produced significant new findings and advances in water hyacinth control and utilization. However, it is all too apparent that this knowledge is not being properly applied to manage the weed. Early in 1996, and in response to disparate requests for water hyacinth research support from across Africa and the Middle East, IDRC launched an initiative to assess the extent of the problem. Most importantly, the initiative was to investigate the apparent lethargy of governments and affected communities to acknowledge, react to, and manage impending water hyacinth infestations. This publication summarizes the findings and recommendations of the initiative. It will be of interest to decision-makers, policymakers, development professionals, researchers, and academics.
Luis A. Navarro is a program officer at IDRC’s office in Nairobi, Kenya. Dr Navarro holds degrees in agriculture and agricultural economics from Universidad Austral in Chile and from North Dakota State and Oregon State universities in the United States. Before joining IDRC, Dr Navarro was Senior Agricultural Economist and Technical Coordinator at CATIE in Turrialba, Costa Rica, and Associate Professor at Oregon State University. (Our friend, Luis Navarro, passed away in 2007.)
George Phiri is an entomologist with the Malawian Department of Agricultural Research and Technical Services. From the Makoka Research Station he coordinates the Cassava Green Mite Project of the Government of Malawi, with support from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Dr Phiri holds degrees in agriculture and agricultural entomology from the universities of Malawi, Ibadan in Nigeria, and Reading in the UK. Previously, and during the development of this publication, Dr Phiri was CAB International’s water hyacinth scientist, stationed at the Africa Regional Centre in Nairobi. In 1996 and 1997, he edited the African Water Hyacinth Newsletter.