The Economy of Francesco

young people, a pact, the future

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young people, a pact, the future

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September 22-24 2022, - Assisi

September 22-24 2022, Assisi

"The Economy of Francesco"

young people, a pact, the future

Breaking news:

published today the letter with which Pope Francis summons young economists and entrepreneurs to Assisi to propose a pact for a new economy. Economy of Communion participates in the organizing committee of the event together with the Diocese and the Municipality of Assisi and the Seraphic Institute.

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#EoF - Benin's water hyacinth: poison turned into green gold

#EoF: stories - Benin, Africa: With the Jevev NGO a weed from which compost is produced has become a resource for local agriculture

by Maria Gaglione

published in Avvenire on 17/02/2022

An extraordinary tropical beauty, the water hyacinth is an aquatic plant with purple flowers, thick stems and leaves. Native to South America, it has been widely introduced throughout the world. In many areas it has become an invasive species, in some cases a pest. In its natural environment, it is a water purifier. But in the absence of natural enemies, Eichhornia crassipes spreads rapidly, covering the surfaces of lakes and rivers to form a physical barrier that is an obstacle to navigation, prevents sunlight from reaching native aquatic plants, slows water flow and reduces oxygen content to the point where it causes fish and turtles to die. It is therefore a serious threat to ecosystems and biodiversity.

Henri Totin, entrepreneur and green economy expert, director of the Ong JEVEV (Jeunesse et Emplois Verts pour une Economie Verte; Youth and Green Jobs for a Green Economy) lives in Benin. Like a film script, based on a true story, Henri recounts a matter involving a plant and a community. Title: the 'magic' compost. But there is nothing magical about it. There is a lot of work, study, research and numerous international awards received. Like other natural fibres, water hyacinths have been used for decades to make small items such as mats or baskets. But sporadic harvesting is not the solution: this way, the plant tends to grow stronger.

One day,” Henri shares, “my younger brother had an accident: he was being transported along the river and the slowdown caused by the plant delayed his arrival at the hospital. This tragedy called me to action.” Henri tells Henri TotinEoF 500us a lot about the possible use of hyacinth, the result of years of study. The compost obtained from the water hyacinth has important characteristics. The root extract can be used as a fertiliser. Other uses are the production of bio-gas and paper (especially from the stems). Finally, from the leaves and stems, a black charcoal is obtained which can be used to produce, for example, inks and paints. The company in which Henri Totin works with 11 other young people also provides training and disseminates this practice. “Our centre offers training courses in around 40 villages, mainly for young people and women, on the uses of the hyacinth plant. Benin farmers have found this practice easy and convenient right from the start. The use of organic fertilisers has improved the quality of their crops significantly.

A kind of poison transformed into what Henri calls green gold. And the numbers prove him right: “Since 2015, more than 1450 young green entrepreneurs and 240 producers have been trained; 3550 farmers in Bonou, Dangbo, Adjohonu and other villages now use hyacinth derivatives. River navigation has improved and the risk of flooding has been reduced; there has been an improvement in water quality and biodiversity, a reduction in the use of chemicals, fertilisers and pesticides and their impact on health. 45% of households use charcoal made from hyacinth, to give a few examples.”

This story has a lot to tell us: turning personal pain into social commitment, turning a limitation into an opportunity. But one thing above all: safeguarding the common goods. The use of the hyacinth became a common good that Henri wanted to share with his community and beyond. To fight a common evil, a common good is needed, and then the sharing of knowledge, the commitment of a community. JEVEV's international collaborations are numerous, including with the United Nations. “We are working on an online platform for the dissemination of good practices and the use of new green technologies to foster entrepreneurship and youth employment but also because we expect clearer positions from politics regarding the use of chemical fertilisers and actions to support entrepreneurs who promote environmental care and social equity.” We also expect Henri in Assisi in September 2022. For realities like JEVEV in Africa, the road is long, the establishment slow, the competition too unequal. But the hope of these young entrepreneurs who dare to change, without postponing or delaying, is strong. And it is not in vain.

Photo credits: Carlos Morán by Pixabay

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