Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), any opportunities for the Alaotra wetlands and livelihoods?
Species invasions are one of the world’s most severe conservation threats. The invasive water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is one of the most troublesome plants in the world. It appears in over 50 tropical and subtropical countries. This plant species causes several ecological and socioeconomic problems affecting ecosystems and local livelihoods. The water hyacinth occurs in the Alaotra wetlands encompassing the largest lake of Madagascar. The Alaotra region is renowned as Madagascar’s bread basket as it is the biggest rice and inland fish producer. The current study collected socioeconomic data from the Alaotra wetland stakeholders within three locations around Lake Alaotra to contextualize local livelihoods and to identify the drivers and barriers for the utilization of this plant. Methods of control seem to be unrealistic due to institutional and financial limitations in Madagascar. Using the plant as fertilizer, animal fodder or for handicrafts seems to represent a feasible alternative to improve the livelihood of the local population. However, local concerns about livelihood security may hinder acceptance of such new alternatives. Providing information as well as financial and technical support to local stakeholders may help encourage the use of the water hyacinth in the Alaotra region.