Water Hyacinth has been threatening the Hartbeespoort Dam for years. Given its ability to spread rapidly, it has affected Hartbeespoort economic development and residents’ livelihood.
For the past two years, Hya Matla’s harvesting technology that aims to tackle the problem plant that is infesting the dam has been hard at work. “We have developed this technology to harvest the water hyacinth through the process of mineralisation and convert the harvested material into a quality organic fertiliser,” said Gilead Mtegha executive director for operations at Hya Matla Organics.
Hya Matla started six years ago with a focus on extensive research on how to combat the water hyacinth. After seeing through news channels how the problem plant was choking the Hartbeespoort Dam and the negative effect it had on the community, the company decided to step in. “There was a public outcry from the community about the hyacinth and when we heard about it, we approached the government with a solution and to get the rights to harvest the plant,” said Mtegha. After being authorised to harvest the plant by the departments of Environmental Affairs and Water and Sanitation, Hya Matla started its operations on October 2017. The company started the harvesting process with little machinery and having to dig deep in their pockets for capital to keep the project rolling, but later got a major boost from Coca Cola beverages.
“We started work here with capital from our pockets and we received a loan from Coca Cola which helped in buying more equipment to carry out our work. One thing I must make clear, Coca Cola did not give us funding, they loaned us money and we have to pay it back.”
At their project site, the company uses two types of harvesting methods. One is the ‘floating Harvester’ that is designed to go into the water and extract the hyacinth and bring it back to the shore where it is loaded into the cutters. Then the work, a precise process to turn the water plant into an organic fertiliser product, begins. Hya Matla converts the harvested hyacinth into the Hya Power Organic Fertiliser which can be used for any type of crop.
“Our product contains up to 16 of all the nutrients that a plant requires and needs to be applied only once in a season, and it enables higher crop yield,” said the executive director.
Hya Matla sells its fertiliser to clients throughout the country, as well as outside South Africa.
“We need support from local residents because if you buy one 10 kg bag of our product, you help harvest 200 kg of hyacinth from the dam.”
The company has provided employment for 35 local people. Emily Maake, an employee, says she is grateful to Hya Matla for the opportunity.
“I am happy to be working here and we are treated well. Now I can put food on the table and send my children to school, so am grateful for the employment opportunity.”
Customers can buy a 10kg bag of fertiliser for R50 or 1kg bag for R9, but the company claims that the more you buy the less you pay.
For more information on the water hyacinth project contact Gilead on 083 448 0589 or Donald Makuvaza on 07 465 31455 or visit www.hyamatla.co.za.