When invasive plants produce some great ideas!

Posted on 09 April 2020.

The proliferation of water hyacinth is a real problem in Burkina Faso. Mariama Mamane, the founder of Jacigreen, decided to make it a development opportunity by turning this invasive plant into fertilizer and an energy source.

Mariama Mamane, an environmental engineer, founded the company Jacigreen in 2016, at the Institut International d'Ingénierie de l'Eau et de l'Environnement (2iE Institute) in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. The young woman's idea? Collect water hyacinth to make natural fertilizer with biogas as the by-product.

Water hyacinth is one of the most invasive species in the world. In Africa, this exceptionally fast-growing aquatic plant is threatening biodiversity by choking rivers, streams and lakes.Mariama Mamane's invention consists of recovering water hyacinth plants and putting them through a digester to turn them into fertilizer via an anaerobic fermentation process. Called JaciGrow, this nutrient-rich organic fertilizer will help small-scale farmers to increase production.
Biogas from the anaerobic digestion process is also recovered and connected to a generator – which then produces electricity for rural households not connected to the grid.    


Three goals

Jacigreen has three goals in its sights. Firstly, to rid West African rivers of water hyacinth while making use of an abundant resource. Secondly, to contribute to the development of sustainable agriculture by offering an alternative to the chemical fertilizers that impoverish the land, allowing farmers to improve their yields on small plots. And finally, to tackle the problem of access to electricity by providing a sustainable energy solution for families living in rural or remote areas of Burkina Faso.
This great idea, which transforms the problem of water hyacinth into an opportunity for the people of Burkina Faso, earned Mariama Mamane the UN “Young Champions of the Earth” award for Africa in 2017.   The award – for young innovators aged 18 to 30 - gave her global visibility and helped finance the development of her prototype. The young woman, now 29, is working with several families and farmers to test her fertilizer and biogas solutions. She hopes to be able to provide more than 1,000 farmers with fertilizer and 500 families with electricity by 2021.