Dried water lily stalks woven into fine handicrafts became the livelihood of women, housewives, out-of-school youths, and senior citizens of Paniqui, Tarlac, Philippines.
A wide range of products like shoes, sandals, slippers, bags, baskets, wallets, pouches, belts, trays, placemats, boxes, tissue holders and many others can be crafted by Paniqui folks using stalks of dried water hyacinths.
The ample visibility and fast growth of this plant caused a problem of obstructing the flow of water as the region is traversed with many rivers, swamps, and creeks, causing flooding during heavy rains. The local government started this project with 25 weavers which increased to 50 within 12 months as demand from local and foreign tourists poured out.
The BusinessOver a wide variety of handicrafts can be made from dried water hyacinths. It’s light yet strong fiber property can be woven to different products according to the clients’ preferences. Because it is organic, it can be used for packaging of goods which will substitute plastics that are non-biodegradable.
The abundant yield of high quality dried water lily straws with the hard-working weaving skills mean that the plant harvesters and weavers of Paniqui have very good potential to enter the market of producing high quality hand-made water lily handicrafts in different designs and products.
Furthermore, the same raw materials and weaving techniques can be applied to develop a range of good quality and attractive water lily fashion ware like slippers and handbags. The production of the water lily baskets and boxes would be undertaken by the Paniqui Women Association and the PAGASA Youth Association both recognized and supported by the local government. High quality fabric materials for fastenings, linings, gloss, water-proofing, and highlights were sourced from the locality.
Production of water lily mats, trays and other handicrafts would enhance the quality and value of products produced by the local groups and should give in a major income increase for their own households.
The target market for water lily handicrafts would be predominately the local market of wealthier Filipinos, overseas Filipino workers, expats and foreigners. The local government unit of Paniqui plans to engage on supplying water lily handicrafts for wholesale to a number of domestic distributors and retail networks.
The aim of water lily boxes, baskets, and handbags will primarily be environment conscious consumers who do not use plastic bags or plastic containers. These consumers and other unaware consumers will be targeted through direct marketing and direct and indirect advertising campaigns backed up by the local government unit of Paniqui, the Provincial Government of Tarlac, and the Department of Trade and Industry.
There are three main market targets for the water lily handicrafts. The target for the water lily fashion items (mostly handbags, slippers, wallet, etc.) will be established domestic handicraft wholesalers and retailers in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, as well as exporters for the United States, Japan, and European markets. It is anticipated that domestic sales to cater to the large tourism market all over the Philippine islands will make up the majority of water lily fashion item sales.
The target market for water lily handicrafts (mostly lampshade, decorative household products, placemats, etc.) will initially be the Filipino community living abroad. This embodies a significant market, as there are many Filipinos working around the world-over 860,000 not mentioning Filipino immigrants, so the overall potential market size is large.
The main potential competitors would be other communities all over the country who also started this water lily weaving project, as this is promoted by the Department of Trade and Industry to local government units with trouble with the pesky water plant. Another is handicrafts made of other indigenous materials. Water lily products could compete well on the basis of price with other indigenous materials as the raw materials are freely harvested.
The distinctive promotion about the water lily products is that they are well crafted by hand utilizing indigenous materials and the designs are decorative emphasizing the Filipino heritage. Also, the use of the product is very helpful to the environment as it substitutes the use of plastic materials and at the same time ceases the clogging of flow of water on rivers and creeks. However, the selling price of the handicrafts is very reasonable. The handicrafts could also be made to order.
The Entrepreneur & Management
The water lily project started as a livelihood program for the Paniqui women, out-of-school youths, and senior citizens organized by the Local Government Unit of Paniqui. Management is directed by the Municipal Mayor with the help of the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office. The Program is in coordination with the Provincial Government of Tarlac which also gives the needed promotional and advertising campaign with the national agency, the Department of Trade and Industry who assist the weavers for needed training and development.
It started from 12 housewives to 25 women and youths and then to 50 within a year. Handcrafting eventually became a constructive activity for people who were once dawdling outside their homes playing cards and getting drunk the every day.
Some weavers take their work at home with the whole family joining the making of the water lily handicrafts. While others chooses to work at the Paniqui Livelihood Center were materials are readily available.
A household would earn roughly around three hundred pesos (Php 300) weekly during slack season and about six hundred pesos (Php 600) weekly during peak season.
Before it became a livelihood program last August 2008, the conceptions for these water lilies are pests to the community as it hampers the flow of water in rivers and creeks during heavy rains causing flooding in the area.
It is projected that by the fourth year of operation the total income for the workers from handcrafting activities could increase roughly 3 times by the year 2012.|
Starting out as a backyard industry nearly a decade ago, the water lily handicraft business especially in Las Piñas City is booming as more people take notice of the wide range of products that can be made out of the plant that grow in abundance even in urban waterways. Some of these products were put on display at the 7th Water Lily Festival held on Thursday at Carnival Court, BF Resort Village, Las Piñas City, a brainchild of former Rep. Cynthia Villar that promotes water lily-based livelihood projects. These included baskets, trays, chests, bags, traditional bags (bayongs), hampers, cabinets, lamp shades of different shapes and sizes—and even a dining table complete with chairs. The smaller items range from coasters to slippers.
But as an added demonstration of the plant’s artistic and commercial uses, the festival also featured a beauty pageant wherein contestants donned gowns fashioned completely from dried water lily stalks and leaves. “This goes to show that with creativity, you can do a lot with water lilies,” Villar said at the sidelines of the event. Villar noted that aside from providing livelihood for hundreds of families in Las Piñas, the water lily business has also cleaned up the city’s waterways. “The industry has become so successful our Zapote River is now free of water lilies and fish have begun breeding here again. We are now getting our water lilies from the Laguna de Bay, and I hope the lake will also be cleared of water lilies because of this business,” she said.
Holiday season demand
Sales go up during the holiday season when orders for popular Christmas gifts like baskets, trays, and ornamental pots shoot up. To cope with demand, the foundation hires about 100 more workers, in addition to the 50 who work during off-peak seasons. “It’s a very profitable business, especially since you really don’t need a big capital to start this up. You just need to harvest water lilies, dry them, and start working on them. So many workers become interested in this livelihood,” Torres said.
How it works
The recycling process is straightforward.
Once harvested, the plants are dried under the sun and then cured in an oven. Then they cut, and bent around a wire frame and dyed before they are woven into craft articles. Step 1 Water Lily Stalk Harvesting Step 2 Sun drying Step 3 Oven drying Step 4 Wire cutting Step 5 Wire bending Step 6 Wire frame welding Step 7 Weaving Step 8 Trimming Step 9 Blow torching Step 10 Glue application
Step 11 Varnishing
Step 12 Finished product
The finished items are tissue holders, baskets, hampers, and other products. Each item is sold per piece and the amount of money one takes home depends on one’s diligence. Because output is directly rewarded, workers are motivated to be more productive. Cynthia Villar highlighted the importance of water lily in improving the lives of Las Piñas residents by declaring the 27th of July as the day of the Water Lily Festival.