Machines vs. Water hyacinth

Mulat is at the head of a construction and engineering company located in Baher Dar. He started to work in his father’s workshop since he was young and then carried on the family banner. The business has been specialized in boating and agricultural manufacturing.

He has his hands in all kinds of engineering and loves to create all kinds of prototypes. When we visited the worksite, his employers were creating an amphibian vehicle and a scale model of a vertical car parking system was being tested.

But one project was drawing our attention in particular. Mulat has engaged the company in the fight against water hyacinth, an invasive weed threatening Lake Tana’s ecosystem. Three solutions are developed in the world to eradicate the plant: biological, chemical, and mechanical solutions. The biological consists of introducing insect species feeding on the water hyacinth, but this solution is slow to be implemented and requires costly researches. The chemical solution creates a risk for the environment by polluting the lake and affecting its biodiversity.

The mechanical idea is the most used in the different places where the water hyacinth has mushroomed. There are two manners. The first one is through human labor, the plant is collected by hand and then dragged to the shores of the lake. This requires a lot of workers and is fairly effective. Mulat has decided to tackle this issue through machines. His floating boats reconverted in harvesters could be an effective way to solve this issue. According to him, 30 machines could wipe out the water hyacinth from Lake Tana.

Currently, the third prototype of his mechanical harvester can collect up to 40 cubic meters. If the mechanical solution faces some criticisms, associating this technique with the manual one could make the fight shorter and easier. In the medium term, this could at least help to resorb the invasion and prevent the Lake from asphyxia.

But, if Mulat is an entrepreneur engaged in the protection of Lake Tana, his initiative is little supported by Ethiopian authorities. He has dedicated time and money to design and produce his machines. Yet, neither the regional state nor the central government has funded or subsidized this project even though the Lake’s preservation has been listed as a national matter. In the meantime, the state is helping organizations to import Canadian machines with the same efficiency.

Having grown up in Baher Dar, on the lake’s banks, Mulat is deeply connected to it in his work. Naturally, he shifted his production from boats to harvesters to protect the endangered water body. 

Creative and full of new ideas, Mulat is also looking for funding and support to carry out his project.

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