New Sense in Nuisance - JaniPad

New Sense in Nuisance - JaniPad



Reality Studio, spring ‘09

Karin Lidman, Sophie Thornander, Marc Hoogendijk,

Lars Marcus Vedeler, Kristin Tobiassen

Reality Studio 09 - New Sense in Nuisance

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New Sense in Nuisance’ is a project in the course

‘Sustainable Development in a Southern Context’,

also known as ‘Reality Studio’, at Chalmers University

of Technology, Sweden. Our project area description

was determined after two weeks of exposure to

different parts of the society and the environment

in Kenya. The green mat of floating water hyacinths

covering the surface of Lake Victoria made a strong

impact on us all and we came to understand the many

problems that the ecosystem as well as inhabitants in

many parts of the world face due to its presence. We

decided to focus on how this invasive species could

be utilised as a resource, turning what many have

regarded as a nuisance to something that is seen as

advantageous. By doing so, we aspired to control the

amount of water hyacinths on Lake Victoria as well

as to provide employment for the local population.

Our time in Kenya was spent exploring possible

materials and products that could be made of the

water hyacinth. With simple means on the rooftop

of our guesthouse, we created a range of different

products. Upon our return to Sweden, we decided to

continue our project with developing a sanitary pad

out of water hyacinth. This decision was based on the

good water absorption capability of the plant and that

870 000 Kenyan schoolgirls miss four days of school

each month due to a lack of a low cost sanitary pad.

The way in which we have approached our project has

been different from a typical design process; we started

with a raw material, processing it in different ways

to create new materials, and thereafter investigating

how these could be implemented in a sanitary pad.

The process has been very iterative and new findings

have forced us to rethink our concepts many times.

In addition, we have had a hands-on approach, as

we wanted to keep the production process simple in

order to make the pad as inexpensive as possible. Our

final concept is a biodegradable sanitary pad with the

different layers made entirely out of water hyacinth

papers. A product such as this would not only be

a better ecological alternative to the conventional

disposable pad, but would also have an economical

as well as social impact on the lives of many women.

Being able to protect oneself during menstruation is

a basic need among women and should not exclude

those in poverty.

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Table of Content


Introduction to Phase I 6

Introduction to Reality Studio 6

Introduction to ‘New Sense in Nuisance’ 7

Aim of Project 7

Background Information 9

Natural Fibres 9

Plant Biology 9

The Water Hyacinths on Lake Victoria 10

The Impact of the Water Hyacinth on the Lake Victoria Region 11

Effects on the Inhabitants 11

Ecological Effects 11

Controlling the Spread of Water Hyacinths 12

Controlling the Hyacinths on Lake Victoria 13

Applications of Water Hyacinths 14

Products 14

Energy 14

Water Purification 14

Applications of Water Hyacinths in Kisumu 15

The Rope-Making Business 16

The Process – from Petiole to Rope 16

Identified Problems with Harvesting 17

Process 19

Rope-Strength Testing 19

Absorption Test 19

Colouring the Petioles 19

Paper 20

Fibreboards 21

Stool 23

Transport Protection 23

Diaper 23

Woven Mats 24

Thread 24

The Splitter 24

Interacting with People in Kenya 25

Workshop 25

The Exhibition at Kenyatta Sport Grounds, Kisumu 26

Discussion on Phase I 27

Prerequisites for Phase II 28

Arguments for Utilising the Water Hyacinth as a Resource 28

Potential Problems in Utilising the Water Hyacinth as a Resource 28

Direction of Project in Phase II 29


Introduction to Phase II 31

Motivation of Product Choice 31

Additional Project Aims 31

Background Information II 33

Existing Female Hygiene Products 33

Sanitary Pads 33

Tampons 33

Menstrual Sponges 33

Menstrual Cups 33

Sanitary Protection in Developing Countries 33

Affordability 34

Hygienic Risks with Improvised Sanitary Products 35

Lack Of Sanitation Facilities 35

Disposal 35

Cultural Perceptions and Prerequisites 36

Construction of a Conventional Sanitary Pad 37

Materials 38

Nonwoven 38

Possible Ways of Making Materials Hydrophobic 39

Sizing Agents 39

Natural Fats 39

Process II 41

Deriving Design Criteria 42

Design Criteria for the Sanitary Pad 42

Design Criteria for the Packaging 42

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Developing Materials 43

Tree of Materials for Different Layers of the Sanitary Pad 43

Making Paper 44

Making Nonwoven 47

Material Testing 48

Testing of Heavy Metals 48

Absorption Testing 49

Hydrophobic Testing 50

Evaluation of Materials 51

Absorbent 51

Surface Layer & Barrier Layer 51

Packaging 51

Developing a Sanitary Pad 53

Evaluation of Disposable versus Reusable Sanitary Pads 53

Brainstorming on Fastening Methods 53

Evaluation of Fastening Methods 55

Generating Concepts for the Whole Pad 56

Evaluation of the Pad Concepts 57

Further Development of Pad Concepts 58

Developing Packaging & Brand 59

Brainstorming on Packaging 59

Further Development of the Packaging Concept 60

Developing Product Name & Graphics 60

Result 62

Final Product 62

Sanitary Pad 62

Packaging 64

Brand 65

Implementation 66

Harvesting 66

Manufacturing 66

Distribution 67

Making Use of the Entire Plant 67

Continuation 69

Discussion on Phase II 70

Fulfilment of Project Aims 70

The Project Work 71

References 72

Appendix I 75

Appendix II 76

Appendix III 77

Appendix III 78

Appendix IV 79

Appendix V 80

Appendix VI 81

Appendix VII 82

Appendix VIII 83

Appendix IX 84

Appendix X 85

Appendix XI 86

Appendix XII 87

Appendix XIII 89

Appendix XIV 92

Appendix XV 93

Appendix XVI 94

Appendix XVII 96

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Introduction to Phase I

The project is a collaboration between three students

from Industrial Design Engineering, Chalmers

University of Technology, and two students from

Industrial Design, Oslo’s School of Architecture and

Design. As this project took part in two countries,

Kenya and Sweden, this project report is divided in

two chapters, Phase I and Phase II, one for each stay.

Additionally, the project work itself had very different

character in the two countries. Phase I is a chapter

describing the quite open start to our project where

aims were defined and research was conducted.

Introduction to

Reality Studio

During the spring of 2009, seventeen students

took part in the course ‘Sustainable development

in a southern context’ at Chalmers University of

Technology. This course, also called ‘Reality Studio’,

aims at giving the participants a new perspective on

how to work with sustainable development and how

this can be carried out in another context than our

own familiar surroundings.

The studio provides a basis for meetings of cultures

and disciplines. Architects, civil engineers, industrial

designers, and industrial design engineers, all are we

good at our different disciplines and through Reality

Studio we had the opportunity to learn from each

other through cooperation. With the mindset to

always be respectful, we also got to experience parts of

the everyday life of the residents in the city we visited,

Kisumu, Kenya.

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Introduction to ‘New

Sense in Nuisance

The water hyacinth is a fast-growing aquatic plant

originating from the Amazon. The beauty of its

flowers has been the reason to why the plant has

been introduced in other parts of the world. With

the problems it has created by covering large areas of

water surface, it has in many ways lost its glory and

has instead become a nuisance.

The water hyacinth was first reported on Lake Victoria

in 1988 and has remained there ever since in varying

amounts (The World Bank, 1996). The shoreline

of Kisumu is among the places that are completely

covered by water hyacinth large parts of the year,

affecting not only the ecosystem of the lake, but also

the inhabitants living around it.

Aim of Project

The project aims to investigate the possibilities of

utilising the water hyacinth as a resource. This aim in

turn constitutes of two separate objectives:

1. To control the amount of water hyacinths on Lake


2. To provide the local population with an opportunity

for employment

In achieving these aims, consideration will be taken

to three sub goals. Firstly, the manufacturing process

and final product will be made as environmentally

friendly as possible. Secondly, the product should be

developed for the local market. This however does not

exclude a potential export market. The third sub goal

is to make use of the entire plant.

The project proposes to fulfil these intentions by

exploring the possibilities of creating new products

or materials from the water hyacinth, and thereafter

implementing and sharing the results with the

local population. Showing the potentials of the

plant may lead people to produce and improve the

product themselves. With the hyacinth economically

benefiting the population, the widespread poverty

in the area may be alleviated. The realisation of the

project aims will also contribute to restoring the

ecological balance in Lake Victoria by reducing the

amount of water hyacinths.

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Background Information

For a thorough comprehension of the water hyacinth

and its characteristics, applications and related

problems, a literature study was performed. A more

local understanding was obtained by interviewing a

variety of persons within Kisumu.

Natural Fibres

The water hyacinth can be classified as a natural fibre,

a group of material consisting of elongated substances

that can be spun into filaments, thread or rope (FAO,

2009). The materials within this class are categorised

according to their origin and divided into three basic

types: animal fibres, mineral fibres and vegetable

fibres, the latter being built up of the cellulose from

plants (GlobalSpec, 2009).

The usage of natural fibres is widespread and is among

others used in papermaking, the textile and automobile

industry, and as a component of composite materials.

According to Food and Agriculture Organization of

the United Nations, the annual production of natural

fibres was over the period 2003-2005 estimated to be

31 million tonnes (Moir and Plastina, 2008).

The natural fibre industry constitutes an important

part of the economy of most developing countries,

providing resource-poor farmers with income and

food security and thereby with economic development

opportunities. The market for the material is however

challenged as it is in most of its applications subject

to competition from manufactured substitutes (Moir

and Plastina, 2008).

The year of 2009 is by the UN proclaimed as the

International Year of Natural Fibres, with the

objective to:

-Raise awareness and stimulate demand for natural fibres

-Promote the efficie-ncy and sustainability of the

natural fibres industries

-Encourage appropriate policy responses from

governments to the problems faced by natural fibre

industries (FAO, 2009)

Plant Biology

The water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is a floating

plant living in fresh waters, forming dense rafts in

water and mud. It originates from the Amazon and

can grow up to one metre high, although 40 cm is a

more usual height (Practical Action, 2006). The plant

consists of 95% water and 5% solid matter of which

the latter comprises of 50% silica, 30% potassium,

15% nitrogen and 5% protein (MDG Centre Nairobi

Environmental Team and MCI, 2009).

The water hyacinth is capable of proliferating faster

than any other known fresh water plant and it is

able to germinate during up to 20 years (Bader et

al, 2007). One plant can under ideal conditions

produce 2.7 daughter plants in one week and could

theoretically produce 28 000 tonnes of fresh weight

in one year (Sainty, 1985). The optimal temperature

for the plant is 28 to 30∞C and the rate with which

the water hyacinth grows is also affected by, among

other things, the supply of nutrients such as nitrogen

and phosphor to the roots. The water hyacinth can be

found in many places of the world, which indicates

that this aquatic weed is prone to adaptation and can

tolerate considerable environmental variation (Julien,


Evance Odhiambo with a fresh specimen of the

water hyacinth

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The Water Hyacinths

on Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria is the second largest fresh-water lake

in the world and bordered by Kenya, Tanzania and

Uganda. The water hyacinths has manifested the waters

since 1988 and its growth is partly due to declining

water quality of the lake from the increasing inflow

of nutrients from rural areas as well as municipal and

industrial discharges (The World Bank, 1996).

The distribution and abundance of water hyacinths in

the different bays of Lake Victoria are related to the

wind activity (Jembe et al, 2008). The water hyacinths

are only present in Kisumu with surroundings from

December to June due to the tides and winds. From

July to November, the water hyacinths can only be

found south of Kisumu in Nyakatch, Homa Bay

and Kendu Bay, this due to geographical barriers.

In 2008, the surface area of the water hyacinth mats

within Nyanza Gulf, an embayment of Lake Victoria

including Kisumu Bay, was calculated. The area was

estimated to be approximately 1 400 hectares (Jembe

et al, 2008).

The water hyacinths are not only a problem in itself

but have also supported the growth of the hippo

grass. This plant is not self-supportive and the water

hyacinths have given this plant a basis to grow,

allowing it to exist in other places than along the

coastline (Akello, 2009).

Map showing the seasonal movement of water

hyacinth on Lake Victoria (Jembe et al, 2008)

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The Impact of the

Water Hyacinth on

the Lake Victoria


The water hyacinth with its rapid proliferation can

cover large areas of the water surface, causing not

only imbalance in the ecosystem but also having an

economical and social impact on the inhabitants.

Effects on the Inhabitants

As the hyacinths grow uncontrolled, it creates thick

mats that clog the waterways, making water activities

such as boating and fishing nearly impossible. The

small scale fishery is normally conducted with small,

hand driven boats that find it difficult to reach their

fishing grounds. Even larger freighters are sometimes

affected as it can take up to an hour to get out of

the port (Michael Denga, 2009). With large areas

of water hyacinth mats covering the water, the lake

also becomes unappealing, from a native’s as well as a

tourist’s, point of view.

Ecological Effects

The water hyacinth has positive as well as negative

effects on the ecosystem of the lake. One of its

advantages is the ability to absorb nutrients and

pollutants, thereby cleaning the water. The roots

provide a good environment for aerobic bacteria,

which feed on the nutrients and produce food for

the plant (Gopal and Brij, 1987 in Practical Action,


The mat of water hyacinth decrease the sunlight

inflow and during its decomposition, also reduces the

level of dissolved oxygen. Furthermore they increase

the water evaporation through evapotranspiration by

as much as 1.8 times that of the same surface free of

hyacinths (Herfjord et al in Practical Action, 2006).

This has great impact where the water is already

scarce and it is estimated that the flow of water in

the Nile could be reduced by up to one tenth due

to the existence of water hyacinths in Lake Victoria

(Practical Action, 2006).

The biodiversity is affected as the hyacinth competes

with other aquatic species for light, nutrients and

oxygen. As a result of the lower level of dissolved

oxygen, fish species that require less oxygen become

dominant as others find it harder to survive. The

still standing water provides breeding grounds for

malaria carrying mosquitoes. Additionally, snakes and

crocodiles occur more frequently in areas where the

hyacinth is dominant (Ezeilo et al, 2007).

Sketch showing the negative ecological effects caused by

the water hyacinth

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Controlling the

Spread of Water


There are three main ways of controlling the growth

of water hyacinths; by chemicals, by biological

mechanisms and by mechanical removal. The

chemical herbicides most commonly used are 2,4-d,

Diquat and Glysophate. They have proven effective

on smaller scale but less successful on large areas. In

addition, the long-term effects on vegetation, animals

and humans are not known and the herbicides

should be used with caution in places where people

fetch water for drinking and washing. The biological

methods used contain a variety of weevils, moth and

fungi. It is said to be environmentally benign as the

controlling agents often are self-regulating and plantspecific.

One drawback is the time it takes for the

controlling agent to form a population large enough

to handle the spread of the hyacinth, several years

might be needed. Never the less, introducing new

species into an ecosystem has many times proven fatal

and one can argue that such methods should be used

with caution. The third method, mechanical removal,

is by many viewed as the best short-term solution. It

is somewhat expensive as machinery, often specially

designed, is needed to get the plants out of the water

(Practical Action, 2006).

Biological control by introducing weevils

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Controlling the

Hyacinths on Lake


The water hyacinths on Lake Victoria are a regional

problem affecting the coastlines of Kenya, Tanzania

and Uganda. It reached its peak on Lake Victoria

in 1998, covering a water surface area of 17 231

hectares. By year 2000, the amount had decreased

to approximately 500 acres but a few years later, the

water hyacinth experienced a resurgence (Petersen,

2007). The lake-wide decrease has mainly been a result

of biological control, but the weather phenomenon,

El Niño, of 1997 and 1998 most likely played an

important part in accelerating the decline of hyacinth

growth (Williams et al, 2005).

In controlling the water hyacinths, mechanical as

well as chemical methods were designated for a rapid

short-term control of the plant in restricted areas. For

a long-term control, a biological control programme

was established in which two weevil species,

neochetina bruchi hystache and neochetina eichoniae

warner, were introduced to the lake (The World Bank,

1996). These interventions have been implemented

by the Lake Victoria Environmental Management

Project, a programme aimed at rehabilitating the lake’s

ecosystem for the benefit of the people in the area as

well as the national economies of which they are part.

The programme is funded by The World Bank and the

Governments of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania (The

World Bank, 2001). The first phase of the LVEMP

was implemented during 1997-2005 (The World

Bank, 2006) and it is intended to be followed up with

a second phase in the near future.

The damage that the weevils cause the water hyacinths

eventually lead to that they sink to the bottom of the

lake (Wilson, 2005). As mentioned, the rotting plant

material reduces the oxygen content of the lake water,

and as the effect of the weevils result in the decay of

enormous amounts of water hyacinths, the ecological

balance of the lake is affected. Moreover, the plant’s

ability to absorb nutrients and pollutants would not

be taken advantage of as they would be re-released into

the lake. Thus, an alternative way of controlling the

water hyacinth is necessary in which the entire plant

should be removed. This method entails an additional

benefit by weakening the reproduction ability of the

hyacinth as removing it, especially before flowering,

would ensure that the plant does not seed the water

(Jembe et al, 2008).

The overall cost of the water hyacinth control was

approximately USD 8.31 million, which constituted

11% of the total LVEMP cost. Within Kenya, the

costs were approximately USD 2 792, which was

10% of the Kenyan project cost. The removal has been

necessary in enabling among other things commercial

waterborne transport and the avoided costs have been

estimated to be approximately USD 25-40 million in

the period 2000-2005 for the whole lake. For Kenya,

the cost was estimated to be USD 8-13 million (World

Bank, 2006).

Floating water hyacinths on Lake Victoria

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Applications of

Water Hyacinths

As the spread of the water hyacinth is a worldwide

problem, many have tried to utilise the plant in

different applications. How successful different

projects have been is varying, but most noticeable are

products made out of the petioles, such as furniture

and bags from Thailand. The applications can be

divided into three categories based on their type:

products, energy and water purification.


The fibres in the mature petioles are suitable for

making ropes and braided structures, which in turn

can be made into different products like baskets,

furniture, home decoration, and bags. The fibres also

make it possible to manufacture fibreboards from the

plant. In one method the stalks are boiled, washed

and then beaten to a pulp, which is mixed with waste

paper pulp and china clay (or similar). The boards are

then finished in a press and ultimately dried, for use

as indoor partition walls and ceiling boards (Practical

Action, 2006)). A third product type is paper. There

has been research on whether or not the plant could be

used in the paper industry. The opinions are shifting

but it could probably be used for low quality paper

(Theliander, 2009). The water hyacinth is however

used in low scale papermaking in different countries,

among them Bangladesh, India, the Philippines, and



The water hyacinth can be rich in energy in form of

nitrogen and is therefore well suited for use in energy

and even for making animal food (Gunnarsson, 2005).

Possible ways to utilise this energy is by turning the

plant into charcoal briquettes, biogas, ethanol for

fuel, or fertiliser.

Water Purification

The water hyacinth is being used for purification of

water, as part of a pre-treating system. This is due

to the ability of the plant to reduce the amount of

nutrients, organic matter, heavy metals and pathogens

in the water (Practical Action, 2006).

top: Lampshed made of water hyacinth rope

bottom: Water hyacinth might be used as animal fodder

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Applications of

Water Hyacinths in


In Kisumu there are a handful of entrepreneurs

making paper or products from rope. Most of them

are in some way linked to Kisumu Innovation

Centre, Kenya (KICK). One of these persons is

Evance Odhiambo, who in year 2000 initiated the

organisation Zingira and has been working with the

water hyacinths ever since. Initially, the plant was used

for small scale production of paper but with some

inspiration from the Internet, the production has now

expanded into furniture made from water hyacinth

rope. This furniture has a metal frame as support and

the ropes are treated with varnish in order to prevent

the fibres from rotting as they otherwise easily absorb

water. The harvesting of water hyacinth is mainly

done in Nyakach as the plant stays there permanently,

and the harvesters are also the ones twining the ropes.

The hyacinth thrives in Navasha and Nairobi Dam

as well and Zingira has a few people in Kibera, an

informal settlement in Nairobi, who are trained in


In the process of making paper, the petiole is used to

produce pulp, which then is mixed with waste paper

in order to gain sufficient quality. The roots and the

leaves are used for creating decorative natural patterns

in the paper. The paper, rope and furniture are made

by local craftsmen and Zingira pays them per piece as

this gives them motivation to work efficiently.

Evance Odhiambo has furthermore experimented

with production of briquettes intended for cooking.

These were made of crushed plants and some clay

compressed by a hand driven mechanism made from

pipes. The briquettes burned with a blue flame and

did not give rise to any soot. In addition, they burned

longer than the commonly used charcoal. However,

the price of the briquettes became too high for the

market due to the labour cost, 70 Kenyan shilling,

KES for 2 kg compared to 20 KES for 2 kg charcoal.

Evance Odhiambo has not done any direct testing on

the mechanical properties of the ropes, but he knows

that the quality is lower compared to papyrus and

sisal. According to him, a doormat made from water

hyacinth lasts for approximately two years (Evance,


Evance Odhiambo and his pulp machine

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The Rope-Making


The small-scale rope-making business at Nyakach

was established in year 2002 and they are the main

suppliers of rope to Zingira. The business involves

50 people between 18-60 years of age and nine of

them are men. Making ropes is not their sole source

of income; some are fishmongers while others farm

vegetables. However, it is easy for them to learn this

craft since the twining has roots in the old weaving

culture. The amount of time that they work depends

on the season and number of orders. During the rainy

season, the quality of the petioles deteriorates and it

is not recommended to harvest, as the bad ones can

contaminate the good ones. Due to the long duration

of the rainy season, from October to April, dried

petioles are stored in the harvester’s houses in order

for them to still be able to produce ropes. The people

work in smaller groups due to the different schedules

of each individual and they are paid according to

the amount of rope they produce to ensure a just

payment. One meter of rope is sold for 3 KES, which

corresponds to a salary somewhere around 5 to 11

KES by the hour depending on how fast one works.

See Appendix I for calculations on the salary.

The Process – from Petiole to Rope

The petioles of mature water hyacinths are the only

part of the plant that is used for making ropes and they

can either be gathered directly by the shore or from

a boat, depending on the accessibility of the mature

plants. The petioles are manually removed with the

aid of a knife and the remaining parts of the plant

are left to rot. After the petioles have been brought

back to the households, they are sorted and then split

lengthwise with a knife into either four or six pieces

depending on the thickness of the rope. The split

petioles are carried a distance ten minutes away by foot

and spread out over the ground to dry. When dry, the

petioles are soaked in lake-water mixed with sodium

metabisulphide as a preservative for fungal decay. This

chemical was chosen because of its efficiency and low

cost, and it is a rather common food additive referred

to as E223. The petioles are dried once again and can

thereafter be used for rope-making, where they are

either twisted or braided into the desired thickness.

The average length of the petiole is 30 centimetres and

therefore new petioles must constantly be added and

joined when making the ropes. To facilitate the ropemaking

process, the petioles are wetted with water to

make them more flexible and thereby become more

workable. The continuous adding of new petioles

requires that the rope is trimmed with a scissors once

it has been made.

There were some problems connected to the rope

making, e.g. accidents with knife and that the process

is very time-consuming. See Appendix I for a time

schedule for the process and Appendix II for a complete

list of identified problems with rope-making.

top: Woman in Nyakach twisting dried petioles

bottom: Rope made of water hyacinth

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Identified Problems

with Harvesting

As previously mentioned, several problems were

identified with the process of making ropes. Most of

them were however connected to the harvesting and

the majority of these issues would remain even if the

plant were to be used for something else. These were

the detected problems:

1. Lack of mature water hyacinths

The workers had to walk a distance of four kilometres

and sometimes even had to hire a boat in order to

obtain plants with petioles of satisfying quality.

2. Water-bound diseases

This problem was not as common now as before,

mostly likely due to an acquired immunity after

continuous exposure to the water.

3. Encounters with snakes and hippopotamuses

Sudden encounters may lead to dangerous situations.

4. Accidents with knife

Many had cut themselves with the knife when

removing the petioles from the plants.

5. Back-ache

The workers must sometimes bend while standing in

the water in order to harvest the petioles.

6. Ankle sprains

The footpaths of the hippopotamuses by the lake

shore are deep and often not visible, leading to

unpredictable pitfalls.

7. Transportation of petioles

The petioles are carried by the workers in sacks placed

on their heads and are rather heavy due to the high

water content of the plant.

8. Plant remains are left

Once the petiole has been obtained, the remaining

plant parts are left and either rots, eventually reaching

the sea bottom where methane gas is produced, or

continues to grow.

Women in Nyakach harvesting water hyacinth

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As the goal was to develop a product made out of water

hyacinth, we used our time in Kisumu to experiment

with the material, trying to find its possibilities and

its limitations and with simple means create a range

of different products and materials.

After conducting a few material tests, we started to

list the characteristics of the plant. This mapping

turned out to be a good way of getting an overview

of the potential use of the water hyacinth and we

brainstormed around the characteristics several

times in order to get ideas for what prototypes to

create. These were the characteristics we found most

interesting for further exploration: soft, isolative,

biodegradable, renewable resource, nice smell, sound

absorptive, aesthetic values, fibrous, spongy, light,

and with high energy content. See Appendix IV for

an overview of the ideas we generated.

Rope-Strength Testing

A first step was to test the already existing ropes

for their strength. We cut pieces, approximately 70

cm long, from ropes off three different thicknesses,

grade B, C, and D. Then we tied an empty plastic

bucket to it, held it up from the ground and started to

pour water in to the bucket. The weight of the water

when the rope broke was then recorded. From the

harvesters in Nyakach, we knew that moist petioles

are more durable and flexible than dry ones. We

therefore conducted the test with wet ropes as well

as ropes soaked in coconut oil. If the rope was wet,

it could take approximately three times the weight

compared to when it was dry. The oil however added

approximately two kilos to the critical weight for the

dry rope. See Appendix V for a chart over the test


Absorption Test

In our search for different applications of the water

hyacinth, we also tested its absorption abilities.

These crude tests were mainly executed to see how

the plant material’s absorption properties were. Dried

petioles with differences in length, amount, and with

or without peel were compared to a regular tampon.

All tests were soaked in approximately two millilitres

contrast liquid of orange lemonade, and were timed.

In regards to the non-scientifically degree of the

experiment, we did not want to draw any conclusions.

However, we observed that there was good potential.

Colouring the Petioles

Two attempts to colour the dried water hyacinth

petioles were made in order to gain experience on

how the plant receives colourings. In the first attempt,

a pink pigment powder was mixed with wood glue,

some water, and whole dried petioles cut into smaller

pieces. The mix was then pressed into a square and

left to dry. The pigment became unevenly distributed

and looked like a painted layer on the hyacinth pieces.

top: Testing rope strength

bottom: Testing absorption properties

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The second experiment was performed with food

colouring. Split hyacinth petioles were left to soak in

the colouring for a while and were thereafter dried

in the sun. The food colouring was mainly absorbed

by the inner part of the petioles, which resulted in a

nice aesthetic effect. When the coloured petioles were

mixed with wood glue in order to make a solid piece

like the previous one, the food colouring dissolved

partly due to the water content and the mentioned

effect was dampened.


We wanted to test whether it was possible to use the

whole plant for making a paper pulp and therefore

bought a cheap blender. The fresh plants were then

crushed along with some wood-glue as a binder.

Out of the pulp, we made a pot for garden plants by

applying it on the bottom of a plastic container and

then letting it dry for a few hours. The idea with this

was to replace the plastic bags, which vendors used as

pots to sell their plants, with a pot that wasn’t only

biodegradable, but would also nourish the soil.

We also made paper sheets out of the pulp by patting

it in thin layers on even surfaces, metal plates and

rubber mats, and left them to dry in the sun. The

paper from the first test was quite fragile and bulgy and

we therefore went on experimenting with hyacinth

mixed with toilet and waste paper. These tests worked

out better and came out with a nice colour and

finish. We however felt that waste- and toilet paper

as a supplement were a substitute for our lacking

knowledge and tools. The test mixed with waste paper

was folded into a shopping bag prototype (ratio: 15%

waste paper and 85% water hyacinth). For handles we

used ropes made out of water hyacinth. Just as with

the pot, we think this is a good replacement for plastic,

though paper may be used for so much more than

just in bags. The other test, mixed with toilet paper,

was used as wrapping paper (ratio: 20% pink toilet

paper and 80% water hyacinth). This example also

addresses another problem, though situated mostly

in the western world; landfills covered in wrapping

paper every Christmas.

top: Wrapping paper

bottom l.: Flower pot, bottom r.: Shopping bag

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We also tried to use less waste paper in the mixture

by mixing wood glue, 5% of waste paper, and 95%

water hyacinth in a final test. This time we made a

packaging prototype for eggs, using a plastic egg

board as a negative mould and dried it for some hours

in the shade. By using water hyacinth in the pulp for

making paper and cardboard, you would replace the

need for timber, which is scarce in this area.


We experimented with creating a low density

fibreboard out of dried petioles. After having made

initial tests, we manufactured a large wooden frame

at Kibuye market, measuring 150 x 90 cm. In this

frame we made boards of the petioles, mixing them

with wood glue and drying them under pressure by

applying jerikans filled with water on the metal mesh,

fixed to the inner frame. We also tried different ways

of organising the petioles in the boards; randomly,

layered as plywood, and with different sizes where

smaller bits filling out the gaps sometimes left between

the petioles. In total, five fibreboards were made of

which one was cut up and used as cushions, and four

were used to put up the posters of the class projects at

the exhibition at Kenyatta Sport Grounds.

Egg carton

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With a different and more professional manufacturing

of these boards, such as being able to apply more

pressure and having no binder, they could be used as

building material, replacing the need for timber in

similar boards. With the way that we manufactured

them, at a low density, they could function as e.g.

partition walls or ceiling boards as the material has

good isolative and sound absorption abilities.

below: Colouring fibre boards

right: Applying weight when making fibre boards

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Using the same technique and materials as when

making a fibreboard, but with a cylindrical plastic

container as mould, we made a stool after the

traditional lou model with three legs. The sponginess

of the petioles gave it a nice cushioning effect, but

with our crude technique we could not make the stool

strong enough. We therefore added a metal skeleton

to make it more rigid for the up-coming exhibitions.

Transport Protection

The sponginess in the petioles can be used as transport

protection when e.g. transporting fragile goods like

glass bottles. Two prototypes, one for wine bottles and

one for the local beer Tusker, were made by gluing

together split petioles in a cross-pattern. With an easy

manufacturing method, this would be well suited for

replacing similar plastic padding, like polystyrene

peanuts, bottle wrappers etc. Another idea that we

had was to simply use the dried unprocessed petioles

for protecting a product during transport.


We went further with the hyacinth’s ability to absorb

and contain liquid and made a prototype of a diaper

out of hyacinth paper and peeled petioles. The

prototype was more of a manifestation of the idea and

also addressed the waste issue with plastic diapers.

top l.: Stool, top r.: Transport protection- bottle sleeve

bottom l.: Transport protection- substitute for

polystherene peanuts,

bottom r.: An early prototype for a diaper

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Woven Mats

To explore how dried water hyacinth could be mixed

with textiles, a small mat was made out of dried

spilt petioles, stripes of wine red cloth, lilac recycled

fishnet, and white cotton thread. The thread was

taped on the backrest of a chair to resemble a simple

loom. Thereafter the petioles, the cloth and the

fishnet were woven by hand in an irregular fashion.

The mat turned out pretty neat and soft. To try out a

different colour combination a second mat was made

with the same method. This time dried split petioles,

whole dried petioles and recycled fish nets of different

colours were used. Mats like these could be used as

wall decoration if made bigger, possibly functioning

as an insulator and a sound absorber at the same time.

If the mats are made on efficient looms, they could

serve as tablemats, doormats or similar as the structure

gets more resilient when the warp is tight.


As twining dried petioles into rope is time consuming

and therefore expensive compared to its quality,

we looked at different ways of using the fibres. We

extracted thin fibres from the petioles, just beneath

the green peel, by pulling them out by hand. These

were brought to Pendeza Weaving where they helped

us to spin the fibres into a thread on a spinning wheel.

If an easy way of extracting these fibres is to be found,

this thread can be manufactured in a larger scale and

be used in the production of textiles.

The Splitter

When we visited the craftsmen in Nyakach, we got the

idea of developing a splitting device as the process of

splitting the petioles twice or thrice seemed inefficient.

The concept was generated almost instantly and a

few mock-ups were built in paper in order to decide

the dimensions and the directions of the blades. A

prototype made of a metal pipe and four knives was

created by local metalworkers.

from left: Woven mats of hyacinth, cloth and old fishnet.

String spun out of fibres from the hyacinth. The splitter.

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Interacting with

People in Kenya

To obtain feedback and inspiration from people in

Kisumu, we talked to everyone that was interested in

our project. This was also a way of gaining information

or suggestions on people who might be interesting to

talk to. Furthermore, we arranged a workshop and

participated in the two exhibitions of which all the

course members were a part of.


In an attempt to coordinate local water hyacinth

craftsmen and to generate creative ideas on new

products made from water hyacinth, a workshop was

arranged. Only one member of the group had held

a workshop before and we were slightly uncertain of

how to organize it. Nevertheless, we had some help

with arranging food as well as premises and we set up

a schedule containing two brainstorming sessions and

one session with practical work. See Appendix VI for

the schedule.

The workshop took approximately four hours and

during lunchtime, tea and sandwiches were served.

As it turned out, the brainstorming sessions took

longer time than expected. The group brainstormed

around several plant characteristics, but unfortunately

almost no characteristics came up that were new to

us. See Appendix VI for characteristics and potential

product applications that were generated during the

brainstorming sessions.

During the practical work session not much worth

documenting was created. Most participants seemed

unsecure of what to do and several of them ended

up doing something fairly familiar to them. However

one man tried to twine water hyacinth together with

recycled fishnet, one applied a traditional but slightly

unusual way of braiding the dried petioles and two

people invented new ways of braiding. One could

notice a small unwillingness of sharing ideas but apart

from that, there were some factors that probably

had a negative effect on the workshop. The room

the workshop was held in was quite small and the

furniture was not really adapted to crafting.

Workshop at Hyacinth Craft

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elow: The pavilion at Kenyatta Sport Grounds

right: Our stand at Kenyatta Sport Grounds

The Exhibition at Kenyatta Sport

Grounds, Kisumu

By the end of our stay in Kisumu, we prepared our

part of the course exhibition at Kenyatta Sports

Grounds. We exhibited all of our physical models, but

also a lot of different ideas, drawn on pieces of paper,

connected to the plants attributes. Our goal with this

was to create awareness among the people living in

Kisumu about how the water hyacinth may be utilised

as a resource. Our stand received a lot of attention

and most people were very interested and also quite

amazed by the fact that this plant could be used, and

that all of the products presented were manufactured

with very limited means at our guesthouse.

The Exhibition at UN-habitat,


Compared to the intense day on Kenyatta Sport

Grounds, the exhibition in Nairobi was almost like a

day off. Our presentation was more or less the same

as the one in Kisumu, except we didn’t have the same

do-it-yourself approach, as the crowd at UN is a quite

different target group. For some of the people passing

by, we managed to create awareness on the problem

at the lake, as well as the utilization of the plant, but

generally this place was much more about quality

than quantity. In other words, the few contacts we

got were relevant and good.

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Discussion on Phase I

A question that we have given much thought to is

the reasons to why so few products made from the

water hyacinths have taken off. One explanation is

that there usually already exists another material with

better properties or price. One of few somewhat

successful products in Kenya is furniture made from

water hyacinth ropes. These are often expensive and

are therefore inaccessible to large parts of the Kenyan

population. Initially, we had several ideas on products

that could be made from the water hyacinth ropes.

Our tests however showed weaknesses of the material

and we also felt that much experimenting already

had been done with products made from the rope.

Additionally, the rope-making process is rather timeconsuming,

and thus we chose to put our effort into

developing other materials.

Few, if any, products of water hyacinths are today

produced for the people in Kenya with small means.

We therefore focused our work on a locally produced

product for the local population. We achieved this

by creating all our products with fairly simple means

on the roof terrace of our guesthouse. With this

approach, we had the chance to experiment while at

the same time knowing that these products would be

easy to manufacture. We do not in any way want to

undervalue Kenya’s capability to produce products

with more advanced methods, but we were determined

to design a production that was uncomplicated

and most importantly, would not require any large

investments for the start-up.

At the exhibition at Kenyatta Sport Grounds, we

hoped to get feedback from the locals on which of our

many products they would prefer to see us continue

working with when we returned to Sweden. The

response we received from the locals was very positive

and this reaction also turned out to be somewhat of

a problem; peoples amazement combined with too

little need for imaginary thinking due to the degree of

finished products, seemed to keep them from having

an opinion of themselves. We thus felt that there was

a general lack of critique, which could have been

helpful in guiding us in our later work. Instead, most

of the visitors were more interested in hearing about

how we processed the plant and made the materials

and products. This, once again, was not negatively

perceived, as it was a way of sharing the knowledge

we had gathered. Nevertheless, people working with

harvesting were inspired by our splitting-device even

if some thought we should have worked more with the

dangers of harvesting. Many people were impressed by

our paper-based products and also by the fibreboards,

which were perceived as having a great potential both

for heat insulation, noise reduction and as an outdoor

resting mat. A few people commented on the risk of

insects living in the fibreboards and in the stool. One

person also mentioned a risk of forgetting the stool

outside the house, which would thus ruin it, if it was

not water resistant.

The gathered information and the concepts that we

generated during the first phase of the project must be

spread and reach the local population. The exhibition

at Kenyatta Sport Grounds was a good way of doing

this but we need to somehow make this information

more easily accessible during a longer period of time.

A website could possibly provide a good forum for

this intention.

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Prerequisites for Phase II

Our material explorations provided us with an

understanding for the different characteristics and

how the plant could be put into different applications.

In assessing the viability of a commercial production

of objects made out of water hyacinth, the advantages

and disadvantages that may arise in conjunction with

this were summarised.

Arguments for Utilising the Water

Hyacinth as a Resource

The water hyacinth has been a source of many

problems in Lake Victoria and a lot of money has

been invested in trying to eliminate the plant from

the water surface. If, on the other hand, the water

hyacinth would be utilised as a resource, money

could instead be generated. By taking advantage

of the attributes of the plant, economical as well as

ecological benefits would be able to be achieved. This

conclusion is based on the following aspects that are

attributed to the plant:

1. Abundancy

The water hyacinth is available in abundance. In

2008, the total surface area of water hyacinths in

Nyanca Gulf was estimated to 1400 hectare (Jembe

et al, 2008).

2. High reproduction rate

The water hyacinths can double its biomass in 6

days (Linsey and Hirt, 1999 in Jembe et al, 2008).

Under ideal conditions, one plant can produce 2.7

daughter plants per week and could theoretically in

a year produce 28 000 tonnes of fresh weigh (Sainty,


3. Free source of material

The water hyacinth is free for anyone to make use of.

4. Does not require land space

A resource that does not take up land space is

advantageous in regards to an increasing demand for

land due to population growth.

5. Ideal conditions

Lake Victoria provides ideal conditions for hyacinth

growth (LVBC unpublished report, 2008 in Jembe et

al, 2008).

6. Cleans the water

The water hyacinth has the ability to absorb nutrients

and pollutants from the water. This quality is however

only taken advantage of if the entire plant is removed

from the lake.

Potential Problems in Utilising the

Water Hyacinth as a Resource

A product or an industry based on using the water

hyacinth as a resource, must take the following factors

into consideration:

1. The high water content of the water hyacinth

The plants require large areas for drying. In addition,

drying them in the sun during the rainy season may

be difficult. Another issue is the transportation of

fresh plants, which will result in high transportation


2. Varying access

The seasonal movement of the hyacinth may lead to

varying access during the year. Lack of work during

several months may cause people to act in less beneficial

ways e.g. start using similar plants. A similar situation

may arise if the water hyacinth would become fully

extinct in the lake.

3. Manual harvesting

The workers are exposed to different problems

during the harvest. See ‘Identified Problems with


4. Poor water resistance

Products from the dried petioles are not water

resistant, which limits its area of usage to for example

indoor use.

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Direction of Project in Phase II

In deciding upon the continuation of our project,

the potential of our products and their processes were

evaluated. In addition, feasibility reports of possible

local applications within Kisumu were assessed.

These reports were prepared for the Kenya Industrial

Research and Development Institute by Francis

Opar and were shared with us by WIFIP, Women in

Fishing Industry Program, an organisation with the

interest of working with the water hyacinths. The

reports investigate the objectives, benefits, challenges,

cost estimates and implementation plans for the

production of handmade paper, fibreboards, biogas,

fertiliser, and animal fodder.

The reports provided us with a good basis of

information and how a future business could be

implemented. The general scope was however

sometimes too narrow or fixed. The paper report was

for example based on handmade paper for export

products such as picture frames and greetings cards,

and the production of fibreboards seemed too largescale

in production, hence having too high investment

demands. In addition, the cost estimates and general

feasibility can be questioned as they were found to

be too optimistic and simplified as well as lacking

sources. The questions that still remained after having

read the reports were what a realistic profit would be

and whom the potential investors would be.

During the end of our stay in Kenya, we had a meeting

with Megan White, founder of ZanaA, a non-profit

NGO providing and distributing sanitary pads to a

low cost to girls in Kenya. The “MAKA pads” that

they distribute come from Uganda and its absorbent

is made from the papyrus plant while the rest is made

out of plastic. Despite the small-scale production, they

were still able to provide pads at a lower price than

the competitors. The affordability of sanitary pads

is a vital issue as many schoolgirls in Kenya cannot

afford them and must therefore stay at home from

school 4 days each month during their menstruation.

This meeting, as well as additional research, made

us understand that there was a need for a low-cost

sanitary protection. With an apparent target group

and clear understanding of the outcome of such a

product, we decided upon developing a sanitary pad

as a continuation for our project.

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Introduction to Phase II

The chapter of Phase II describes our product

development process upon our return to Sweden. In

this phase, the way with which we have utilised the

water hyacinth as a resource has become more specific.

Motivation of

Product Choice

“870,000 girls in Kenya are missing four days of

school every month due to a lack of sanitary pads

and underwear” (ZanaA, 2009). In achieving the

goals towards a sustainable future, a poor menstrual

management directly counteracts several of the

Millennium Development Goals established by the

United Nations. Not only does a decreased attendance

at school work against the aim of achieving a universal

primary education, it also affects the gender equality,

as women are not provided with equal opportunities

as men. There is thus an urgent need of low-cost

sanitary protection; being able to protect oneself

during menstruation is a basic need among women

and should not exclude those in poverty.

The water hyacinth has a good absorption capability

and therefore there is a great potential in developing

an absorption material from the plant suitable for a

sanitary pad. One of the initial project goals was to

develop a product that is aimed for and benefits the

people in the Lake Victoria Region. A product like

this, which takes advantage of the high reproduction

rate of the water hyacinth, would facilitate the lives

of many women and have a tremendous ecological,

economical and hygienic impact.

Additional Project Aims

The initial aims and sub goals were still valid in the

second phase of the project. However, as the project

had taken a new direction, to develop a sanitary pad

out of water hyacinth, additional goals were set up to

complement those of the first phase.

1. To design an affordable pad, foremost for young girls

2. To make a locally produced pad for a local market

3. To have a simple production process with easily

maintainable machinery

4. To construct a biodegradable pad

The project aim had now developed from solving the

problem with the existence of the water hyacinth on

Lake Victoria to also solving the issue with poor girls

having to stay at home from school due to a lack of

menstrual protection.

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Background Information II

In order to obtain information on existing sanitary

protection and their construction, literature readings

and product examinations were performed. The

current situation for menstruating women in

developing countries was also reviewed, this through

literature studies and interviews.

Existing Female

Hygiene Products

Different types of absorbent materials for menstrual

protection have most likely been used for thousands

of years. Animal pelts, mosses, sea sponges, seaweed,

cotton, wool, rags and vegetable fibres are among

the many materials that have been used (Natural

Menstrual Products, 2009). The market for menstrual

protection products offers various solutions, ranging

from disposable to reusable products.

Sanitary Pads

Sanitary pads are worn outside the body and come

in many different lengths and thicknesses. The design

has varied through the years and before the disposable

sanitary pad, cloth or reusable pads were used. When

the modern and commercial disposable pads were

introduced in the late 19th century, they were held

in place by belts, suspenders or special underpants.

The belt-and-pad solution disappeared when adhesive

strips and smaller pads where introduced in the 1970s

(Museum of Menstruation and Women’s Health,



Tampons are inserted into the body to absorb the

menstruation blood. Although the industrially

produced tampons were introduced in the 1930s, the

principle of an internal hygiene product is dated back

to the Ancient Egyptians, where the women formed

smooth pieces of papyrus into rolls. Tampons have

different rates of absorbance and can either be inserted

with a finger or an applicator (The Tampons Working

Group of Edana, 2006).

Menstrual Sponges

Menstrual sponges are inserted into the body and are a

natural alternative to tampons. Apart from absorbing

blood, the sponges have also been used for medication

and killing sperms (Museum of Menstruation and

Women’s Health, 2007). The sponges are made of

natural sea sponges that are found on the ocean floors.

They contain no synthetic materials and are reusable

(Centre for Young Women’s Health, 2009).

Menstrual Cups

Menstrual cups are small cups of either rubber

or silicone that are internally placed to collect

menstruation blood within the body. The cups are

reusable and can last for several years (Centre for Young

Women’s Health, 2009). The commercial menstrual

cup has been available since the 1930s (Museum of

Menstruation and Women’s Health, 2008)

Sanitary Protection

in Developing


The lack of sanitary products has many implications on

women in developing countries. Rather than risk the

embarrassment of menstruating through their clothes,

many girls stay home from school during their periods

each month. This can lead to them falling behind in

their studies and possibly dropping out of school

altogether (Obae, 2008). Families may suffer from

increased poverty as women are unable to work during

their menstruation (ASA, 2009). Another issue is the

increased risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted

infections as women may resort to sex work to acquire

money to buy sanitary pads (Biriwasha, 2008).

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Despite that sanitation and waste management have

become an increasingly important issue during the

past decade, not much has been done on menstrual

hygiene or management (Bharadwaj & Patkas, 2004).

A woman menstruates in average 2400 days of her

life, a total of more than six years (Gronnhverdag,

2008) and with an average blood loss of 35 ml (Healy,

2006) during a period of 5 days, a total of 16.8 litres

of menstruation blood needs to be taken care of.

For many women, there are several practical issues

involved with handling their menstruation that poses

as a problem to them. Apart from not being able to

afford safe menstrual protection and the hygienic risks

that women expose themselves to through improvised

solutions, there is also the issue of poor sanitation

facilities and the disposal of menstruation products.

In addition, many women also have cultural issues to

deal with.


The price of sanitary protection is often too high for

women in developing countries. Kisumu experiences

one of the highest incidences of food poverty in

Kenya with 53.4% of the population below the food

poverty line. Some women thereby have to choose

between buying bread or sanitary pads. In Kenya, a

packet containing eight sanitary pads costs 100 KES

(about US $1.50), which the majority of women in

a country, where approximately 54 percent of the

people live on less than a dollar a day, cannot afford

(, 2005).

Schoolgirls in Kenya

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According to White (2009), the price to strive for

is 4 KES and the production cost should therefore

not exceed 2 KES. Women seldom buy pads in large

numbers as it is too expensive for them since many

have a daily based income. It is therefore important

that the women have the possibility of buying only

one or two pads at a time.

The reasons behind the high prices of sanitary

protection are that they often are imported from

countries with a higher economic standard or that

high taxes are being levied on these products. This

discourages or renders it impossible to use sanitary

protection for many women (Tjon A Ten, 2007).

As most schoolgirls from poor families cannot afford

sanitary protection, they have to resort to using

unconventional solutions such as newspapers, cheap

tissue paper and pieces of clothes and blankets. The

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has in recent years

abolished the high taxes on sanitary pads, but to a

large group of women they are still too expensive

(Awuor, 2009).

Hygienic Risks with Improvised

Sanitary Products

The lack of proper sanitary protection gives rise

to improvised solutions, which can incur not only

risks to women and their health but also have social

implications. Girls may develop bodily odours due

to the improvised solutions. This in turn may lead to

social exclusion. The improper cleaning of rags used

during menstruation can lead to growth of mildew

and bacteria if they are washed without soap and

dried in damp and dark conditions (Mathews, 1995).

With improvised sanitary products, there is a high

prevalence of vaginal infections, making women more

susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases including

HIV/AIDS. In some cases, it has even led to infertility

or required hysterectomies (Action for South Africa,


Lack Of Sanitation Facilities

The lack of adequate sanitation facilities leads to

that one out of ten African schoolgirls does not

attend school during menstruation (Unicef, 2005 in

Biriwasha, 2008). Privacy may not be obtained due

to the lack of facilities separating girls from boys.

Moreover, many schools do not have basic sanitation

facilities such as running water, toilet facilities and

appropriate disposal systems (Biriwasha, 2008). The

shortage of clean water in Kisumu, with approximately

40 % of the population having access to piped water,

also has a serious implication on menstrual handling

(Anyamba, T, 2009). These issues all affect girls’

possibilities to wash their reusable pads, change their

sanitary protection and to remain clean during their


Female pit latrine in Kibera, Nairobi


An average woman in the Western world disposes 125-

150 kg of pads, tampons and applicators throughout

her lifetime (Bharadway & Patkas, 2004). Without a

proper waste management system, as often is the case in

developing countries, the disposal of sanitary protection

becomes an increasing environmental issue.

In Kenya, menstrual protection is mostly disposed

of in the pit latrines. This is a preferred alternative

to disposing it through burning as some believe that

a girl might lose her fertility when burning her own

blood (Awuor, 2009).

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Cultural Perceptions and


There are many myths, misconceptions and taboos

concerning menstruation. In many cultures, girls

must marry as a virgin and sanitary protections that

are inserted into the body are therefore not an option

as it is in conflict with their virginity. Thus, the most

suitable protection for menstruating girls living in

these cultures seems to be sanitary pads (Tjon A Ten,


According to Prick (2009), women and men do not

speak about menstruation but girls do speak about

it among themselves and to their female relatives. In

Kisumu, Awuor (2009) mentions that it is taboo for

a father to see his daughter’s blood, especially that

stemming from menstruation. During their periods,

they are not supposed to prepare meals for their

fathers, who should not know that their daughters are


Prick (2009) mentions that young girls prefer sanitary

pads that are thin and with wings. Older women prefer

pads that are thick and long or make use of old rags

for protection. These are then washed and dried in the

sun, which is positive as sun drying kills bacteria.

In the eastern parts of the Lake Victoria region,

elderly women usually do not wear underwear

whereas younger girls do. The underwear, worn on a

daily basis due to the heat, are mostly in cotton and

girls buy them with help of their parents, boyfriends,

“sugar daddies”, or might inherit them from richer

relatives (Prick, 2009). Girls from poor families can

however not afford underwear and they may then sew

something that is similar to underwear out of tattered

clothes (Awuor, 2009). As schoolgirls wear skirts for

their school uniforms, they will most likely feel more

comfortable and protected with underwear. Another

issue that poor girls face is the lack of privacy in

their homes. Prick (2009) mentions that many poor

families live together in one room, and this together

with poor access to sanitation facilities renders it

difficult for girls to change their pads.

Pictures of Kenyan women

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Construction of

a Conventional

Sanitary Pad

In order to gain knowledge on the construction of

conventional sanitary pads, a variety of models and

brands of pads were looked upon. Their different design

solutions, materials, sizes, thicknesses, number of layers,

and price were observed. All the examined sanitary

pads functioned more or less in the same manner, only

diverging in details. The materials used were also rather

similar, except for a biodegradable pad, which mainly

consisted of cotton and bio-plastic. Following is a

general and abbreviated list of layers and materials:

- Surface layer: Nonwoven or perforated film of

polyethylene or polypropylene. Allows the liquid

to pass through and is meant to give the user a dry


- Transfer layer: Loosely packed cellulose or a nonwoven

material made from polyethylene or polypropylene.

Transfers and absorbs the liquid quickly to the

absorbent layer.

- Absorbent layer: Compressed cellulose, sometimes

combined with superabsorbent polymers. Absorbs

and holds liquid.

- Barrier layer: Plastic sheet of polyethylene or

polypropylene. Possesses a hydrophobic quality in

terms of preventing liquid from leaking through.

- Adhesive layer: Adhesive of natural or synthetic resin.

Glues the pad to the underwear during use.

- Release paper: Plastic sheet of polyethylene or

polypropylene. Protects the adhesive (sometimes in

combination with the wrapping paper).

- Wrapping paper: Plastic sheet of polyethylene

or polypropylene. Protects the pad from its


- Secondary packaging: Plastic bag of polyethylene

or polypropylene. Keeps the single packed pads


Dissection of a conventional sanitary pad

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The materials of conventional hygiene products and

their production processes were investigated in order

to identify the possibilities of making similar materials

out of the water hyacinth.


Nonwoven stepped forward as an interesting type of

material when examining the materials of conventional

hygiene products such as diapers and sanitary pads.

There are several ways of making a non-woven

material and several kinds of fibres that can be used

to create the material. The common denominator is

that fibres are transformed into a web like structure

and thus forming a fabric without the need of making

yarn first. The fibres can be bound to each other

by mechanical, chemical or heat treatment. One of

the most commonly known non-woven textiles is

probably felt, made by wool that is worked together

in warm water and soap. Other natural fibres used for

non-woven textiles are cotton, bamboo, flax, hemp

and abaca (Hutten, 2007).

Conventional sanitary pad with nonwoven layer

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Possible Ways of

Making Materials


Different means of treating materials, possibly made

from water hyacinth, in order to make them waterrepellent

was investigated to obtain the barrier layer

of the pad.

Sizing Agents

Sizing agents are used to prevent paper from absorbing

water or ink due to capillary attraction. There are

many different types of sizing agents used in the

preparation of paper. Below follows a review of three

different agents.

Alkyl Ketene Dimmer

Alkyl ketene dimmer, AKD, is an internal sizing

agent made out of vegetable or animal-based fatty

acids. The wax is produced in Trollhättan, Sweden,

and is for the Nordic market emulsified in Borås,

also in Sweden. An AKD dispersion has a limited

storing possibility when exposed to heat; normally

30 days at 20°C (Lyrmalm, 2009). For one tonne

of paper, a few kilograms of AKD is required. The

price for one tonne of emulsion with 10% AKD is

5000€. The sizing agent is approved for usage in food

packaging, and would thereby also be suitable for the

hydrophobic layer of the sanitary pad (Andersson,

2009). In addition, AKD is biodegradable; after 28

days it has reduced more than 90% (Lyrmalm, 2009)

and would thus fulfil the project aim of creating a

biodegradable pad.

TopScreen DS13

TopScreen DS13 is an ecological water based water

barrier coating, which contains a biopolymer. The

agent has no negative impact on the recyclability

and biodegradability of papers and cardboard.

Furthermore, it is approved for use in food packaging

(Topchim, 2008).


In 2008, the Cooperative Research Centre for

Sugarcane Innovation through Biotechnology found

a way of utilising the cellulose in sugarcane plant

waste to produce waterproof paper and cardboard. In

the process, the cellulose is extracted and thereafter

fermented to make a lignin that can be used as a

waterproof coating for papers. This technology would

be advantageous in terms of using the sugarcane waste,

which would normally be discarded, to replace for

example petroleum-based wax for cardboards (CRC

SIIB, 2008).

Natural Fats

Natural oils and waxes are produced from animals

and plants as organic fatty acids, liquid or solid. In

general these fats are insoluble in water, and when

cleaned, sterilised and free of water, they withstand

microbes. There are several different types of these

fats, and below follows an overview of types relevant

for a locally produced sanitary pad.

Beeswax (cera flava)

- Smell of honey and a characteristic taste

- Melting point at 62-65°C

- Bleaching it (either with chemicals or sunlight) will

decrease smell and taste

- Used for e.g. treating leather, producing waxed

paper, lithography, cosmetics, ointment and in special

candles (Store Norske Leksikon, 2009)

- Beekeeping is well-established in Kenya, which has the

potential of producing 10 000 metric tonnes of beeswax

per annum. However, at the moment only 2 000 metric

tonnes are produced (Embassy of the Republic of Kenya

in the People’s Republic of China, 2008).

- One of the main exports of the neighbouring country

Ethiopia is beeswax (BBC, 2009)


- Solid fat or wax without odour or taste

- Together with palmitin, the largest part in most

animal and vegetable fats e.g. tallow and cacao fat

- Melting point at 72°C

- Used in e.g. candles, cosmetics, pharmaceutical

products and lubricants (Store Norske Leksikon,



- Cheaper and easier accessible than beeswax

- Produced from the solid fat around the bigger organs

of ruminant animals

- Melting point at 45-50°C, thereby becoming liquid

- Used in e.g. candles, cosmetics and soaps (Shenet, 2009)

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Process II

Different types of brainstorming sessions have been

combined with different methods of evaluation in

order to generate new ideas and thereafter decide

upon which solutions to continue with. The work

has had a hands-on approach, in which we have had

the possibility of making and testing paper as well as

non-woven materials with the dried water hyacinth

stems that we brought with us from Kenya. With

the materials that we produced out of the plant, we

were able to make prototypes and evaluate them. The

product development process has been iterative, in

which we worked parallel with different phases of the

process, frequently having to rethink our concepts.

Our iterative design process. Instead of starting with an

idea, we started with a raw material

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Deriving Design


In a product development project, it is common to

state a list of design criteria for the product to be.

These are often derived from user studies, similar

products or visions within the company. These criteria

are then used as guidelines and for verification during

the design and development process.

Design Criteria for the Sanitary Pad

To start the work with developing a sanitary pad, design

criteria was derived from the gathered information on

existing pads and the current situation for women in

Kenya. Many conventional sanitary pads have a twolayered

absorptive kernel for improved performance.

This type of construction could be possible to

manufacture from water hyacinth and therefore

design criteria was derived for four different layers,

also including a surface and barrier layer. In addition,

some requirements which apply for the whole pad were

compiled from our own experience, our visions about

sustainability, and the website of Hygiene Absorbent

Products Manufacturers Committee, HAPCO. Some

of the criteria were decided to be of less importance as

the pad will be of low cost. The criteria were therefore

divided into absolute or desired criteria. Thereafter, the

somewhat negotiable requirements were marked with

a different colour. Some criteria were supplemented

by goal measurements, others with explanatory

comments. See Appendix XIII for the complete list of

design criteria for the pad.

Design Criteria for the Packaging

The criteria for the packaging were generated through

brainstorming. As with the criteria for the sanitary

pad, the criteria were divided into the two categories

absolute and desired and then classified as important

or negotiable. See Appendix XIV for the complete list

of design criteria for the packaging.

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Developing Materials

One goal with the development of the sanitary pad

was to keep the manufacturing process as simple and

cheap as possible. It would also be a great advantage if

the production was easy to start up in a small scale. We

therefore started to investigate how paper traditionally

was made by hand. Additionally, out of curiosity over

the possibilities with a nonwoven material, we tried

to create such a structure. We also considered other

materials possible to use in the sanitary pad, taking

into account if it was to be disposable and if it would

be reusable.

Tree of Materials for

Different Layers of

the Sanitary Pad

To structure our thoughts concerning different

materials possible to use in the different layers of

the pad, we drew a tree-structure showing different

possible layer-combinations for a disposable, semi

disposable and reusable pad. See Appendix XV for an

illustration of the tree.

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Making Paper

At the manual paper mill, Kvarnbyns Handpappersbruk,

in Mölndal, Sweden, we got the opportunity

to learn the traditional methods of papermaking and

to experiment with our dried water hyacinth petioles.

This non-profit organisation has been a most valuable

resource to us and during three weeks we visited the

paper mill several times in order to produce material

for our development process. Our work there can

be divided into three stages; getting to know the

methods, developing an absorbent and developing

the surface layer.

right: Making hyacinth pulp in the Hollander Beater

below: Bertil Mark teaching us about making paper

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The first step of the process is to treat the petioles in a

so-called Hollander Beater, a machine designed to tear

and shear the fibres. By adjusting the space between

the blades on the roll and the bedplate, it is possible

to regulate the level of fractioning of the fibres. On

the Hollander Beater at the paper mill, this is done by

adding or reducing weights to a lever. At our first visit,

the Hollander was filled up with water and about 200

g of dry matter. We then ran the machine for about

half an hour adding on weights after about 5 and 20

minutes. The slurry was then poured into a container

and diluted with more water. After this it is common

to add a sizing agent. At Kvarnbyns Handpappersbruk

they use AKD and we chose to use this agent in a small

percentage of our papers. Next step is to produce the

papers by sliding a mould and a deckle into the tub and

gently pulling it upwards and out of the slurry. The wet

paper mass is then pressed upon a piece of textile and

hung horizontally to dry for a couple of days. To get

a thinner and more compact paper, it is possible to

compress it in a press before hanging it to dry.

from left: Levering the mould and deckle from the tub

filled with water hyacinth slurry

Pressing the mass on a piece of textile

Hanging to dry

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In order to create different patterns, potentially

beneficial for a paper for the absorbent layer, we

pressed the paper mass onto table mats with varying

structures. Some papers were also pressed between

two table mats. The thickness was also varied and

some papers were additionally pressed in the press

while others were not.

During our first visits at the paper mill, we discovered

that the paper mass from water hyacinth was made

up of two main components, finely ground plant

matter and thin fibres about tree centimetres long.

The discovery of the long fibres made us excited and

we decided to extract these in order to create a thin

and strong surface layer for the pad. After pondering

on how to extract the fibres and consulting Bengt

Svennerstedt at the Swedish University of Agricultural

Sciences in Alnarp, Sweden, we decided to try combing

the paper mass, submerged in water, for fibres. This

proved to work well though it was a truly labour

intensive task. We extracted a small amount of fibres

that we moulded to a sheet, then pressed and hang

dried. The result was a thin and flexible sheet and on

a later visit, we made more paper of this fashion, from

now on referred to as fibre papers.

left: Pressing the mass on different surfaces to create

different structures

below: Extracted fibres from the hyacinth pulp

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Making Nonwoven

To investigate if it would be possible to make a

nonwoven textile out of the water hyacinth fibre,

we contacted Swerea IVF, a company working with

research and development for the industry. From

the water hyacinth mass created in the Hollander at

Kvarnbyns Handpappersbruk, we extracted long fibres

in the same way as when creating the fibre papers.

We dried the extracted fibres and brought them to

Swerea IVF. At their lab we inserted the fibres in a

carding machine. Unfortunately the amount of fibres

was not enough and instead of creating a gauze, the

machine merely fluffed the fibres. However, we placed

the fluffed up fibres on a large sheet of tissue paper

in order to simulate a gauze, which was necessary in

order to feed the fibres through the needle punch

nonwoven machine. This was done twice in an attempt

to make the structure durable. As a result, the fibres

were fastened to the paper. Without this supporting

foundation, the nonwoven would probably tear apart

very easily.

below: Extracted and air-dried fibres

right: Attempt to make a nonwoven at Swerea IVF

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Material Testing

After having created different papers and the

nonwoven, it was time to test the qualities of the


Testing of Heavy


Since the water hyacinth is known for absorbing heavy

metals and other pollutants, we saw it necessary to

test the materials meant for the sanitary pad for heavy

metals. Swerea IVF has a laboratory where it is possible

to test textiles for the Oeko-tex standard. With the

financial help of SCA Hygiene, we sent Swerea IVF

two grams of one of the papers made without AKD

and two grams of the dried petioles. The Oeko-tex

test is a simulation of wearing the material against

the skin. The samples are put in a sweat-solution and

are, at a temperature of 40°C, shaken for an hour.

Thereafter, the solution is analysed for metals.

The results of the tests were satisfying, none of the

limiting values were exceeded and the water hyacinth

would therefore be suitable as a material for a sanitary

pad. The results varied somewhat between the paper

and the petioles and this was according to the test

conductor due to that the fibres in the paper had been

processed and therefore might release some of the

metals more easily. The higher levels of some metals

in the sample of petioles might be due to the fact that

these were treated with preservative containing small

amounts of heavy metals. These metals may have been

“washed away” during the pulp making process. See

Appendix VII for test results.

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Absorption Testing

After developing the materials, we performed an

absorption test on single sheets of 100% water hyacinth,

measuring approximately 60x200mm. They had

differences in thickness and texture e.g. with “channels”,

semi-penetrating holes, mesh, and roughness. Some

sheets were pressed while others were not, and a few

papers were multilayered. The simulation liquid used

in the test was a mixture of water, corn starch and red

food colouring as contrast. Despite that the absorption

tests were quite non-scientific, they worked as a guide for

confirming or discarding assumptions. With a pipette,

we executed mainly two different tests with different

purposes, both being timed:

1) Drop-test; how fast the paper absorbed one drop from

the pipette

2) 3+3 ml test; how fast the paper absorbed and

transported a larger amount of the liquid

We also looked at the amount of leakage on the white

paper under the absorbents to see how well the hyacinth

papers absorbed the liquid.


- Unpressed paper was superior to the pressed paper in

absorption, especially in time but also in regards to the


- Papers with channels lead the water and transported

the liquid further compared with the sheets without

- The paper bulged when it absorbed liquid and became


Testing absorption properties

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Hydrophobic Testing

This liquid repellent test was of the same character

as the absorption test; non-scientific and more as a

guidance. The purpose was mainly to make the bottom

layer hydrophobic, as a liquid barrier, but maybe also

applying it to the top layer, in that case together with


The hydrophobic testing was also performed with

different variables on each sheet. Firstly, the materials

were varied, most of the sheets were standard hyacinth

paper, pressed and without AKD, but we also tested

the nonwoven structure and paper made out of cotton.

The sheets were treated with stearin or beeswax and the

fats were applied in different amounts, either through

rubbing it on or melting it into the sheets with an

iron. As a last variable, the sheets were perforated in

one end, with holes of a diameter of 2.3 mm, and

with an average distance of 6 mm in between them.

An absorbent was placed under the holes to simulate

the way with which a sanitary pad functions. The

simulation liquid we used was the same as in the

absorption test; a mixture of water, corn starch and

red food colouring.

The reason why we did not try out tallow was

because it probably would be rather soft and greasy

at a temperature around 30 to 35°C, this would be

problematic as the average body temperature is about

37°C. In addition, AKD was not tested as we at this

point regarded it as a too expensive alternative. The

fibre paper was not a part of this test since we only

had a small piece of that quality when we conducted

this test. However, the results for the fibre paper were

assumed to be similar to that of the ordinary hyacinth



- The nonwoven turned out to be the material with

the best repellence. This was indicated through the

surface tension of the drop, enabling a minimal

contact surface with the nonwoven. This might

have something to do with the fibres “carrying” the

drop. Without the wax, this material was however an

excellent absorbent

- Beeswax seemed to be just as good and maybe also

a better repellent than stearin. Additionally, it also

made the nonwoven a bit more flexible

- The stiffness of the paper increased with the amount

of applied wax

- Sheets rubbed in with wax did not withstand liquid

particularly well compared to the ones with melted

wax. This might be due to that a smaller amount of

wax came onto the paper, and also that by rubbing,

another layer was applied rather than “blending” with

the paper

top: Applying beeswax to the hyacinth paper by melting

it in with an iron

right: Reppelency on wax-treated nonwoven

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Evaluation of


After having performed different types of testing, it

was time to evaluate the materials and decide upon

the most suitable materials for each and every layer of

the sanitary pad.


To choose a material for the absorbent layer was easy

as one of the tested papers was clearly the best one.

This paper was dried on a tablemat with small groves.

Before drying, the same type of mat was hand pressed

onto the other side of the paper, making it striped on

both sides.

Surface Layer & Barrier Layer

From the hydrophobic testing we could conclude

that water hyacinth paper with melted beeswax,

cotton based paper with beeswax, and nonwoven

with beeswax were the best alternatives. However,

the nonwoven material was time-consuming to

make compared to the papers and demands bigger

investments in machinery. Furthermore, this material

was very fragile before the application of wax, which

may make the manufacturing complicated. As the

papers became stiffer from the wax treatment, we

tried walking a short distance wearing first the water

hyacinth paper and secondly the cotton paper between

two pairs of panties. The water hyacinth paper broke

in two pieces very quickly, which forced us to rule

out that option. The cotton paper had a better

resistance to the movement but did however make a

lot of sound. It was also uncomfortable since it chafed

against the thighs. When all of our first alternatives

were dismissed, we turned to the fibre paper, which

was quite flexible and soft even after the waxing. It

was almost not noticeable when wearing it between

two panties and it did not tear apart as the regular

hyacinth paper did. Through a quick test, we noted

that the hydrophobic quality was a bit lower than

for the other chosen papers, but this was regarded as

depending on the thinness of the sheet. As we did

not have any other feasible alternative materials made

out of water hyacinth for the 1st and the 4th layer,

we decided to assume that this material would be

functional. This assumption was necessary in order

to enable the continuing development of the whole



For the packaging, we needed a thin and somewhat

water resistant paper. As the development process of

the packaging took place rather late in the project, we

had limited time experimenting with sizing agents.

The material we chose was therefore a rather thin

and pressed water hyacinth paper with AKD for an

increased durability that we assumed would meet our

design criteria.

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Developing a Sanitary Pad

As previously mentioned, our process has not been a

straight one and this is particularly true for our work

with developing the sanitary pad. Different methods

of evaluation and the mock-ups that we made helped

us in deciding which concepts to continue with.

Evaluation of

Disposable versus

Reusable Sanitary Pads

In the initial phase of the development process, we

considered both reusable and disposable concepts. The

reusable concepts focused on having a reusable pad

combined with an absorbent made of water hyacinth,

whereas with the disposable concept, we aspired to

make the entire pad out of the plant. Halfway through

the development process of the pad, we summoned

our argument for or against both product types.

The advantages and disadvantages of each solution

depend on the context in which it is to be used. As

our pad targets women in poverty, there is the issue

of access to clean water, soap and washing facilities,

which is required for the maintenance of a reusable

pad. Such a pad would however be beneficial in terms

of cost as it would be possible to make out of rags. In

addition, cloth may be more comfortable against the

skin. There would also be a possibility for the user to

adjust the amount of absorbent that can be put into

the pad depending on how heavy the menstruation

flow is.

From an environmental point of view, a reusable pad

has often been seen as more appropriate in terms

of reducing the amount of generated waste. The

absorbent in our concepts would have to be changed

a few times every day, but as it is biodegradable, its

environmental impact would be extremely low. The

disposable concept would have a similar effect if we

manage to make it entirely biodegradable.

Thus, in regards to the issue of washing a reusable

pad and the fact that in such a pad, other materials

such as newspapers could be placed in it, we decided

that a disposable pad would be the most reasonable


Brainstorming on

Fastening Methods

The aim of a brainstorming session on fastening

methods was to try to find other solutions than the

conventional fastening possibilities of a sanitary

pad. As an initial starting ground, images of existing

sanitary protections were looked upon for inspiration.

Ideas were generated around ten different fastening

solutions of which some were customary and others

more unconventional. Most of our focus was put on

developing concepts for panties, but consideration

was also taken to creating a solution for girls who

could not afford underwear.


A solution that today is used in all conventional and

disposable sanitary pads

Friction I

The aspiration was to see whether the barrier layer

of a pad consisting only of water hyacinth could be

treated or formed in a way so that it would be held to

the panty by friction

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Friction II

The idea was to use an additional friction layer of a

material other than water hyacinth to keep the pad

in place

Clips I

An additional accessory in for example metal or plastic

intended to attach the pad to the underwear

Clips II

A paper-clip solution intended to be integrated in the

pad itself for fastening on panty

Bikini Wrap

A no-panty solution in which the idea was to make

parts of the pad longer and thinner, in the front and

back, to enable the user to tie the material around the



Two strings moulded into the pad for tying it to the



One hole in the front as well as the back of the pad

and the intention is that it is up to the user to add

something to tie it with. The pad can either be tied

to the underwear or around the hips if the user

cannot afford underwear. This solution can also be a

complement to other fastening methods

Folding Wings

Fastening the wings together by snapping them to

each other. This can be done either by folding them

together, inserting one of them into the other, or

similar solutions


A solution intending to attach the pad to the panty

with the aid of a button or pin in either one or two


Early sketches on fastening methods

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Evaluation of

Fastening Methods

From the list of design criteria, a few requirements

important for the evaluation of fastening methods

were chosen. In order to determine the most essential

criteria, we performed a pair comparison. See

Appendix VIII for matrix and procedure. Next, the

different fastening concepts were evaluated according

to the chosen requirements. The criteria of low cost

and maintenance were also evaluated according to

whether the concept was disposable, semi disposable

or semi reusable. This due to that these criteria greatly

depend on the type of concept of which they are

to be in. The evaluation of the different fastening

methods was performed and structured in a matrix.

See Appendix IX for matrix and procedure. The

concepts of glue, friction I, string, holes, folding

wings and button scored rather high in general,

whereas the concepts of friction II, clips I, clips II and

bikini wrap scored relatively low. However, to only

choose concepts depending on these scores may be

misleading as the ranking leading up to the scores is

somewhat subjective.

As the evaluation of material for the barrier layer was

complete, we could finally choose an appropriate

fastening method. At this point we had also decided

to focus only on a disposable concept and the most

promising fastening methods were glue, strings, holes

and folding wings. The other methods were considered

unfeasible, uncomfortable or unpractical. As the

paper chosen for the barrier layer is somewhat fragile,

the two solutions “holes” and “folding wings” was

reckoned to increase the risk of breakage. In addition,

to make the wings adjustable to fit different panties

was considered more complicated in comparison with

strings or glue.

The comparison between glue and strings started

with a mock-up test of the two solutions. To test

the string concept, we took conventional pads and

attached strings to them in various ways. In one test,

we investigated whether a string could be used to keep

the different layers of the pad together and at the same

time act as a friction material on the pad bottom. The

string was however to smooth for the pad to fasten

properly on the panties. One test aimed to see whether

the strings could be used as substitutes for the wings.

Four holes were made in the pad through which two

pieces of strings were tied together in different ways to

hold the pad in place. We tried tying the ends of each

string together and the result was similar to the test in

which we attached the end of one string to opposite

end of the second string and thereby creating a cross on

the bottom. The disadvantage with the latter method

was that the knots were concentrated in one spot. The

overall result was satisfactory as the strings kept the

pad in place and did not permit much movement.

In another test, we tested to see whether string could

be used to hold both wings and pad in place. This

solution also kept the pad in place. However, there

was a tendency for it to move length wise and the

tying procedure required several aspects to take into

consideration. The strings in both tests scrunched up

the panty crotch and the tying action was perceived

as somewhat difficult. This could however be worked

around with different tying solutions.

To test the glue concept, we left parts of the protective

paper covering the glue and we could then try out how

much glue was needed. The first test was to just attach

the wings to each other under the panties. The pad

was held in place sideways but it moved somewhat

lengthways. Next step was to try to fasten the wings

on the underside of the panty. This method proved

to provide sufficient fastening of the pad. Finally, the

pad was stripped of its wings and fastened with a few

square centimetres of glue in the front and rear end.

This method was however not good enough as the

pad moved a lot in the panty due to that the glue was

too weak.

To complement the mock-up test, another evaluation

matrix was set up. This analytic ranking was performed

with five criteria that were determined to be the most

important to compare. See Appendix X for matrix

and procedure. In both the mock-up test and in the

evaluation matrix , the glue concept came out as the

preferred solution and we thus decided to continue

with it.

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Generating Concepts

for the Whole Pad

When both fastening method and materials were

determined, it was finally time to start generating

concepts for the whole sanitary pad. This was done

through brainstorming. Aspects such as how to fasten

the different layers to each other, how to minimise

leakage and how to use the materials efficiently

were considered. Concerning the measurements of

the sanitary pad, we decided to use measurements

inspired by conventional pads as these measurements

are known to be suitable.

In the end, we had three methods for fastening the

layers to each other. The first one would be to melt

the beeswax on the edges of the pad and this could

be accompanied by some kind of perforation. The

second method would be to produce one fibre paper,

put an absorbent-shaped piece of plastic onto the wet

paper and then press a second layer of fibre paper

onto it. When the double paper has dried, it would

be possible to remove the plastic and a space for the

absorbent is created. This method will further on be

referred to as the pitta concept. The third method

would be to simply roll the fibre paper around the

absorbent, making a double layer on the bottom of

the pad. This solution limits the form possibilities but

decreases the risk of leakage through the barrier layer.

The second and the third method require additional

fastening of the layers in the front and the rear end of

the pad. This would be possible to accomplish with

the first method of using beeswax.

In addition, we had three concepts for preventing

leakage. The first one would be some type of folding

around the edges of the pad. These upward facing

folds would act as walls and stop flow from slipping

of the pad. The walls could be shaped in various ways

and be placed on only the long sides, in front and on

the long sides or on all four sides. The second and

third concepts were the same as conventional pads,

with or without wings.

The different principles of how to fasten the layers

to each other can be combined with the concepts

of leakage prevention and thus generate several

interesting concepts.

Conceptual sketches for the whole pad

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Evaluation of the

Pad Concepts

To evaluate the different concepts, five mock-ups

were constructed. As the newly produced fibre papers

hadn’t dried when we made the mock-ups, we used

thin paper towels for the surface and the barrier

layer. These layers were glued together where it was

needed. For the absorbent layer, we used two sheets

of the chosen absorbent paper. Mock-up one was

constructed like a regular sanitary pad with no wings.

Mock-up two was also shaped like a conventional pad

but with wings. Mock-up three had a rim all around

the edges and no wings. Mock-up four functioned

similarly to number three but with folded rims along

the long edges. Mock-up five had the paper towel

wrapped around the absorbent forming a double

barrier layer. This mock-up also had wings.

Two group members tested the mock-ups between

two panties. Each pad was fastened with tape in a

few designated spots and used during five minutes.

One group member tested the mock-ups with just

one panty thus wearing the pad as a real user would.

These tests were also five minutes long each. The

two first group members thought all the pads to be

rather comfortable except for mock-up three, which

was somewhat unpleasant to wear according to one

of the persons. Mock-up one was favoured by one

of the persons while mock-up two was favoured by

the other. The group member who tested the mockups

with just one panty observed that all the models

made a lot of noise when walking. Mock-up one was

considered to be least comfortable as it was the one

causing the most chafing against the thighs. Number

two, three and four also caused chafing. Mock-up

five was the most comfortable one since it caused less

chafing of them all, probably as it had no glued edges

and that it was slightly narrower than the others.

As the testing of the mock-ups resulted in spread

judgements, an analytic comparison was performed.

Design criteria important for this kind of comparison

were elected and a pair comparison was performed

in order to determine the relative importance of the

different criteria. See Appendix XI for matrix and

procedure. Mock-up two got the highest score, closely

followed by mock-up on and five. Mock-up three and

four got the lowest scores, which agreed with the

results from the physical testing.

The five mock-ups (though not in the same

order as in the text: 1, 3, 4, 2, 5)

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Further Development

of Pad Concepts

Mock-up one, two and five proved most promising in

the evaluation phase and were thus chosen for further

development. We started by building a realistic model

of concept two, with the top and bottom-layer waxed

and glued together along the sides. This model turned

out to be very inflexible, mainly due to the hard and

quite sharp edges and wings. Moreover, as the first

and fourth layer were not allowed to move relative to

each another. These discovered issues also ruled out

the pitta concept since this method of attaching the

layers to each other was believed to create the same

kind of stiffness and sharp edges. However, when

having made the fibre paper according to the pitta

concept, the surface of the hollow space was found to

be very smooth. The industrial process of this is called

calendaring and it showed that the fibre paper could

become more comfortable for the user if it was dried

against an even surface.

To address the revealed problems, we started generating

ideas on how we could allow the top layer to compress

or move relative to the fourth layer. The trouble was

that if the layers were fixed to each other, the top layer

would crease and cause discomfort during usage. We

came up with a variety of solutions, mainly based

on the idea of folding the layers in different ways to

allow movement. This kind of solution proved to be

complicated to manufacture and as the fibre paper

is not very strong, these solutions would put stress

on the material. The winning solution proved to be

parallel slots in the top layer, which allows this layer

to compress during usage.

We liked the flexible edges of mock-up five but were

discouraged by the square shape, which made the pad

feel somewhat primitive and inflexible. The problem

was thoroughly thought through and the solution was

to partly keep the fold. On the ends of the pad, there is

no need for more than one layer as the absorbent is both

less broad here and also ends about a centimetre from

the short side of the pad. This results in that it is possible

to cut any desired shape in the ends, without losing the

folded edge along the main part of the long sides.

When examening the tests, like this absorbent core, we

saw the potential in making the pad pre-shaped

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Our minds where for a long time set on that a pad

must be flat before usage but looking at the shape of

tested mock-ups made us rethink this. The edges of

the pad are often slightly folded upwards due to the

panties, and in the middle a soft ridge is formed. In

order to make our pad more flexible, we came up with

the idea to pre-fold the pad to create this ridge in the

middle of the pad, so that the pad can adapt more

easily to the body.

A prototype, combining the slots with the half

folding, was built and tested with satisfying results.

The pad was tested for about three hours. In the start

of the test, the pad was slightly uncomfortable but

it adapted well to the body rather quick. It stayed

well in place with the help of four pieces of tape, one

in each end and two on each side of the fold in the

middle. The top layer showed some weakness as one

of the “bridges” between two of the slots broke. This

might depend on the fact that the top layer was left

untreated on this prototype.


Packaging & Brand

The work with the packaging started first when a final

concept for the sanitary pad was almost ready. This

since the form of the packaging is related to the shape,

size and possible fastening method of the pads.

Brainstorming on Packaging

A brainstorming session was conducted to generate

ideas for possible packaging solutions. Focus was

put on how to best protect it against dirt and dust,

space and material efficiency, how to allow the selling

of single pads and how it could be formed for an

intuitive understanding. Different ways of printing

on the packaging were also discussed.

For a long time, we worked with concepts where the

pads were connected to each other in some way. This

by for example mounting them on a long strip that

protected the glue on the pad and at the same time

provided a surface for printing information. We also

thought much of how the packaging could be used as

a display for the pad in the shop.

Evaluation and Choosing of Packaging Concept

To choose concept and material for the packaging was

not as comprehensive, compared to the sanitary pad.

In our development process, we came up with many

solutions, but we had a very good candidate early in

the process, fulfilling our design criteria in a simple

manner. Nevertheless, we sketched many ideas and

several mock-ups were constructed with office paper.

These were discussed in our group and put up against

our criteria. The selected concept, a wrapping-paper

solution was ready for further development.

Sketches on different packaging solutions

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Further Development

of the Packaging


We tried out our wrapping-paper concept with different

kinds of paper, sizes of paper, several ways of folding

the paper and different fastening solutions. Tissue and

sandwich paper resembled our thin hyacinth paper, and

were used to put the right feel to it. Inspiration from

different ways of wrapping gifts, groceries and food was

brought in when trying out many ways of folding the

paper, towards our aims of using as little material as

possible, finding an easy way of opening and closing

it, and making it look attractive with smooth folded

edges. We also looked at different ways of fastening the

opening flap. As we had decided in our design criteria

that the packaging would communicate the price, the

logo etc. we wanted to combine these two and decided

that a good solution was to use a sticker with all the

information printed on it.

Developing Product

Name & Graphics

In the search for a suitable name for our product, we

wanted a ki-swahili word, which preferably would

be associated with the water hyacinth as the raw

material, the product being a sanitary pad or being a

product for females. We brainstormed around names

and searched in web-based dictionaries in order to

find translations on ki-swahili. The name “Jani” was

an early favourite, meaning “leaf” and “sheet”.

In the making of the logo for the name “Jani”, we

wanted a strong connection to the hyacinth as a plant.

It was also important that the logo, in addition to the

letters, consisted of a symbol that could stand on its

own but still communicate the brand. The lettering

was influenced by some of the typography painted on

building facades in and around Kisumu, working as a

combination of modern and traditional.

Symbols on the back of the packaging strip, attached

to each pad, were developed to inform the user how

to use the pad as well as how to dispose it through

pictograms. By communicating this through symbols,

it was thought that awareness of how the pads were

to be handled would be created in a more powerful

manner. When shaping these symbols, feminine

colours and details were applied to seem appealing to

our target group.

Sketches on the logo, playing with organic shapes

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The result of ’New Sense in Nuisance’ consists of

two parts; the first describing the final product and

the second part depicting the ways with which the

product can be implemented.

Final Product

The final product is a summation of the best of our

solutions in which our focus has been put on designing

a simple, cheap, attractive and biodegradable sanitary

pad and packaging.

Sanitary Pad

The final concept has no wings as the properties of the

fibre paper would make that solution uncomfortable.

The long sides of the pad are instead of being glued,

folded to prevent leakage and to increase comfort

and durability. To generate even more flexibility,

the sanitary pad is pre-folded. This creates a ridge

in the middle of the pad, allowing it to adapt faster

and more easily to the body. The slots in the surface

layer allow for the layer to easily adapt to the user

instead of creasing and thereby causing discomfort.

The pad is easily fastened to the underwear with a

mild adhesive, a flexible solution in the sense that it

fits most underwear.

The ‘Jani’ sanitary pad

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In the construction of the pad we have had several

focuses; comfort, simple production and most

importantly a low price. To meet these demands,

the first and fourth layers are made out of one sheet

of fibre paper with only one joint on the bottom of

the pad. Making both layers out of one sheet saves

both material and simplifies the production process.

The sheet is treated to obtain a hydrophobic quality

and the fourth layer is in addition waxed to minimise

the risk of leakage. The first layer is not treated with

beeswax since this makes it inflexible. In order to let

the liquid pass through the surface layer, the slots are

accompanied with perforated holes. These holes are

arranged in a pattern that forms the leaf from the logo

in the front and rear end of the pad, see Appendix

XVII. The absorbent core of the pad consists of two

layers of absorbent paper, one smaller than the other

to create a smooth transfer from the thickest part of

the pad out to the edge. Two layers also contribute to

a more flexible pad and increase the absorbability.

The final concept deals with the weaknesses and

takes advantage of the strengths of the material. By

our construction we have created an efficient yet

comfortable and not least, a biodegradable sanitary

pad. When measuring the pad against the design

criteria that were derived in the beginning of the

development process, we believe that it fulfils the

majority of those that are possible for us to evaluate

today. Other criteria, such as easy manufacturing,

need more investigation.

from left: Explosion sketch of the pad’s layers

Image showing pre-folded ridge

Un-folding pad before use

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Each sanitary pad is in itself folded and kept in position

with a thin paper strip with a smooth surface to protect

the glue. The waxed barrier material on the pad faces

outwards, and combined with the strip these two forms

the primary packaging and protects the individual pads.

Our secondary packaging is a simple solution in which

ten pads are wrapped together with water hyacinth

paper, measuring 23x23 cm, and fastened with a sticker.

This flexible solution allows the customer to either buy

a pack of ten pads in one go, or just one or two at a

time. The vendor can then easily tighten the wrapping

around the remaining pads and reattach the sticker.

Packaging concepts

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Both the paper strip and sticker have in addition to the

logo also the price, 4 KES, printed on them. By doing

so, the customer will know the correct price and the

person who sells them cannot charge a higher price.

On the paper strip, there are also six symbols that

describe how the pad is to be placed in the underwear,

that it can be thrown in the garbage or burned, that it

should be used no more than five hours, that it should

not be thrown in the water closet, and that the pad is


When evaluating the packaging against the stated

design criteria, we consider that the majority of them

are fulfilled. The criteria that are related to the climatic

conditions of Kenya were however not possible to

evaluate in our Swedish climate.


The name ‘Jani’ means ‘leaf’ and ‘sheet’ and is possible

to associate both to the water hyacinth and to our

sanitary pad, consisting of several sheets. Furthermore,

it is a short and catchy name, communicating both

freshness and youthfulness.

The logo has the letters J, N and I written in a thin,

simple and geometrical Egyptian font. The ‘A’ contrasts

to this font with its thick organic shape, resembling a

leaf of the hyacinth, and can thus be recognized as the

symbol of the brand. With no complicated details,

gradients etc, the logo works in small sizes. Moreover,

the low complexity makes it easy to perforate the

symbol into the top layer of the sanitary pad and to

paint the logo by hand on a vendor’s shop wall or on

a sign, as is customary in Kenya.

The primary colour is a “peachy pink” (PMS: DS

141-4 C, RGB: 255, 50, 140, CMYK: 1,82,6,0),

which can be perceived as both fresh and feminine.

In addition, the colour goes along with the colourful

Kenyan style, and is an effective contrast to the beige

material of the pad. A dark and rich brown colour is

used as background in the profile. In dry areas like

Kisumu, the feeling of an intact product remains, as

the packaging will not seem to be affected by a dusty


below: The ‘Jani’ logo

bottom: Graphics on the pad’s wrapping with

instruction symbols and price

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In implementing our sanitary pad, there are many

aspects to take into account in the process of

transforming the plant material into a sanitary pad

and how this pad then reaches its user.


As mentioned earlier, the harvesting of the plant

presents several problems. With its high water content,

it is heavy to transport, and there is a possibility that

people will be put in danger when harvesting the

plant since snakes, crocodiles and malaria carrying

mosquitoes occur more frequently in areas where the

plant is dominant.

What harvesting method that is suitable depends a

great deal upon the scale of the production. In a smaller

production, manual harvesting would be appropriate.

Design solutions for this, needs to be developed for

the safety of the worker e.g. long tools which enables

them to keep a distance to the plant, and possibly

even enable harvesting from the shoreline.

In a larger scale production, whole mats of hyacinth

could be harvested and kept. Benefiting on the plant’s

mobility, one could gather them with a wire, or by

making them float into a designated area when the

direction of the wind is right.

In our project, we have assumed that the plants need

to be dried before making pulp. We thus envision that

the hyacinth could be dried next to the harvesting i.e.

along the shoreline. It could also be possible to utilise

the shallowness of the lake, and put up poles with lines

for drying the plants on site. Another idea is to utilise

the fact that the water hyacinths already cover the

surface, and therefore dry it on top of other plants.


When planning for the manufacturing of the pad,

there are several factors that need consideration. The

production of the pad should be possible to start up

in a small scale and with a relatively small budget in

order to facilitate the establishment of a production.

In accordance with our project aims, we have therefore

chosen to work with uncomplicated and traditional

manufacturing methods.

The petioles should be harvested and dried, then

shorn and torn to a pulp in the Hollander Beater.

This machine is however rather expensive and not in

production today, but could be simulated by simple

means with for example a cement mixer and a stone

that acts as a beater. After making the pulp, some of

the long fibres should be extracted from the pulp to

make the fibre paper. This “fibre pulp” could also in

this step of the process be treated with chemicals such

as AKD to make it hydrophobic. The rest of the pulp

should be used to make absorbents and wrapping paper

for the package. When the sheets have dried, they are

to be cut into shape and the sheet that makes the

first and fourth layer should be perforated and partly

treated with beeswax. This sheet is then to be wrapped

around the two absorbent layers and either glued or

perforated and melted together with i.e. beeswax. The

pad should then be pre-folded, unfolded again and

folded in three in the other direction. Next, glue and

a protective wrapping paper should be applied to each

pad. Ten pads are thereafter to be put together in a


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‘Jani’ is intended to be available where the target

group is located, accessible to them from either small

kiosks or by street vendors. The vision is that vendors

buy the pads from a local distributor, paying about

30 KES for a package of ten sanitary pads. As a whole

package should cost 40 KES for the customer, the

vendors would then earn 10 KES per package when

selling them. As mentioned earlier, the pads should

also be sold one by one, with the same profit.

Making Use of the Entire Plant

Early in our project, we stated that use of the whole

plant was of high importance, this with special

attention to the roots, as this is the part that is the

least evident for use. However, when we worked with

our sanitary pad, this was less emphasised due to a

shortage in time. Still, we feel this is an important

subject that needs to be taken further.

When making the paper for the pad, only the stems

of the water hyacinth were used. The leaves would

however most likely be possible to use for the paper.

The roots, on the other hand, are a leftover from this

process but could nevertheless be an economic resource

for e.g. making fertilisers or in methane production.

From a biological point of view, throwing back the

roots of the plant into the lake would minimise the

positive aspects of removing the hyacinth, since it

would either regerminate or sink to the bottom and

rot, and much of the nutrients would be brought back

to the lake.

The illustration shows the advantages in using the

whole plant; stems and leaves as pulp for making

sanitary pads, and roots as for example fertiliser, since

this production requires a low degree of investments.

Both the disposed sanitary pad and the fertiliser will in

the end bring back nutrients to the soil, contributing

to a sustainable farming.

Simplified flow model of nutrients

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There is a great potential for a low-cost sanitary pad

made out of water hyacinth, especially in regards to the

acknowledged lack of affordable sanitary protection in

developing countries. Not only would such a product

have an economical as well as social impact on the

lives of many women, it would also be beneficial to

the environment. A totally biodegradable pad is a

good alternative to a conventional disposable pad as

the average Western woman makes use of 15 000 pads

and tampons throughout her lifetime (Bharadwaj &

Patkar, 2004). With respect to the simple means of

how we have made our pad, the production process

can easily be reproduced and spread around the world

as the water hyacinth is a problem not only in Kenya

but also globally.

In order to satisfy the yearly consumption of sanitary

pads for the 870 000 Kenyan school girls who miss

out on school during their menstruation, a minimum

of two percent of the total surface area of water

hyacinths on Lake Victoria is required to be harvested.

This indicates that there are more than enough water

hyacinths to also satisfy older women in poverty

and eventually those in neighbouring countries. See

Appendix XII for calculations.

If continuing with our project, there are still several

aspects that need further development and research.

Below follows a summation of these questions:

The manufacturing process. How can the simple

methods we used become more efficient? How is

the cutting and perforation of the sheets to be done?

Is it possible to make pulp directly out of the fresh

plants? Can domestic cattle be used as Hollanders? Is

it possible to also use the leaves in the paper making


Alternative materials for the sanitary pad. Are there

cheaper and better ways of making the fibre paper

hydrophobic? Can the fibre paper be treated to

become more flexible? Are there any other materials

available that would be suitable for the first and fourth

layer, and still fulfil our project goals? How would the

construction of the pad change with a more flexible


Investigate cultural perceptions of the pad, the

name Jani and the graphic profile. Do the women

of Kenya perceive the product in another manner

than we do? Is the name ‘Jani’ a suitable one, and

are there any negative associations to it? How is our

choice of graphic profile and colour looked upon?

Do they understand the symbols on the wrapping?

May interviews and focus groups be relevant tools for

further elaboration?

Further and more extensive research on harmful

substances and bacterial growth in our hyacinth

material. Is there for example a risk of allergies or

bacterial growth in our pad?

Detailed cost analysis. What are the material and

production costs? What are the investment costs? Will

the price of the sanitary pad be low enough?

A general systemic look with a larger overview.

What effects can a production like this have on its


Organization. Do the pad and our other ideas need

some kind of patent or protection? How and by whom

is it to be produced?

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Discussion on Phase II

After an extensive project there are always subjects

to discuss. We have divided our reflections into two

parts, one treating the fulfilment of goals, and the

other the project work itself.

Fulfilment of

Project Aims

As indicated in ‘Continuation’, it is hard to determine

whether all of our project aims have been fulfilled with

our product, as there are aspects that need further

investigation. This is especially true for the goal with

an affordable pad, even if the potential for a low cost

is estimated as high.

Most of our goals can however be argued for. Firstly,

the product is designed for women in Kenya as

a response to a real problem. Secondly, as we have

envisioned a local production, our product would

provide an opportunity for employment to parts of the

Kenyan population. The way our pad is constructed

enables a simple production process, possible to keep

environmentally friendly, and which has a relatively

small need for investments. Additionally the sanitary

pad is completely biodegradable due to the chosen


One of our main goals in the beginning of the project

was to control the amount of water hyacinth in Lake

Victoria. It would later show that the order of our

goals would shift and that providing cheap menstrual

protection was to be our main target. When calculating

on the required amount of water hyacinths to be

harvested in order to satisfy a yearly consumption of

pads for Kenyan schoolgirls, it became evident that

the production would not reduce the amount too

much. Therefore, the pad must be complemented

with additional products that claim larger amounts

or water hyacinth. Such products could be briquettes,

fibreboards, animal fodder or other paper products.

This could also be a way to meet the requirement to

make use of the whole plant, as mentioned in ‘Making

Use of the Entire Plant’.

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The Project Work

The work in our group has been multidisciplinary

with both Industrial Design and Industrial Design

Engineering students. Our collaboration has worked

out very well and we have been able to learn much

from each other. Working together in such a large

group has given us the ability to perform an extensive

exploration and a thorough product development

despite the little time we have had for this. Our

work was more efficient in Phase I, most likely due

to that we divided our different tasks among us. In

Phase II, all group members were present in nearly all

the different stages of our development process and

taking decisions could sometimes be a rather lengthy


Our design process has been very different from

a typical one. Normally, one goes from an idea to

applying a material and thereafter having a final

product. In our case, we have instead started with a

raw material, processed it in different ways to get a new

material, which then has lead to an idea and thereafter

a product. This way of structuring our process has

worked very well, challenging our mindsets and

developed us as students of industrial design.

Working with a project on another continent has not

been as different as one might think. Before we left to

Kenya, we were worried that we would end up in a

situation in which we would be telling the locals how

and what to do. These misgivings were however not

justified when interacting with the local population.

One feature that differed from conducting a project in

Sweden or Norway was that we were not acquainted

with many of the cultural aspects of Kenya. It took

more effort and respect in getting to understand the

Kenyan culture, and even though we felt that we had

only scraped the surface, this was perhaps enough for

the first two phases of our project.

Last of all, this course and project has been both

challenging and exhausting but first and foremost

incredibly fun and developing for us to work with.

We have learned extremely much and hope that our

project will be realised in order to attack the major

problems that we have identified.

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Gunnarsson, C.C. (2005), Water hyacinths as a resource in agriculture and energy

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a global perspective with focus on Europe. Bulletin OEPP/EPPO Bulletin 38, p 477–486

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Reality Studio 09 - New Sense in Nuisance

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Appendix I

Time schedule for Transforming

100kg of Petiole to Rope

There are 4 different grades of the rope whereby

grade A is the thinnest and grade D the thickest.

Approximately 70-100 petiole are required to produce

15 meters of Grade D rope whereas the same amount

of petioles can produce 30 meters of Grade B rope.

A 100 kilograms of petioles can be transformed into 4

to 6 ropes of Grade D, each rope being a length of 15

meters. Thus, a total of 60 to 90 meters of rope can

be produced.

Calculations for Salary

In calculating the hourly salary for the rope-makers,

the information that was gathered during our

excursion to Nyakach was used as a basis. A minimum

and maximum wage was calculated as 100 kilograms

of petioles can be transformed into 60 to 90 meters

of rope.

- Time Schedule and Calculations for Salary


1. Harvesting

2. Splitting

3. Spreading out split petioles

4. Drying

5. Fetching water

6. Chemical treatment

7. Soaking

8. Drying

9. Twinin

10. Trimming

Time (hours)









(depending on skills) 12-24


100 kgs of petioles to rope Units min. max

Working time from petiole to rope [h] 25,25 37,25

Metres of rope produced [m] 60 90

Cost per meter rope [shillings/m] 3.00

Working cost per hour [shillings/h] 4,83 10,69

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Appendix II - Identified Problems with the Rope-Making Process

1. Accidents with knife

Many had cut themselves with the knife when splitting

the petioles lengthwise.

2. Time-consuming procedure

The splitting of the petioles requires a lot of time.

3. Transportation of petioles

The split petioles are spread out to dry in an area

which requires them to walk a distance 10 minutes

away from where the rope is made. The high water

content makes them rather heavy to carry.

4. Collecting the split and dried petioles

The wind could cause the split petioles that had been

spread out to move around, making the collection of

the dried petioles difficult.

5. Dry hands

The workers had noticed that the skin on their hands

had become drier after having worked with making


6. Fetching water

The water used to soak the dried petioles with the

preservative was carried in 20 litre jerikans from the

lake, making it a heavy part of the process.

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Appendix III - Interview with Akello

Kenya Agricultural Research

Institute, Kisumu, Kenya 2009-03-23

The amount of water hyacinths reached its peak in

1998, covering an area of 17 000 hectares. By 2006,

the area had reduced to 400 hectares. In the first

phase of the Lake Victoria Management Programme

(1997-2005), both biological and physical control of

the water hyacinths was performed. For the physical

removal of the plants, the community was provided

with tools such as pangas and steel rakes. This way

of controlling the hyacinth was however only small

scale. There has also been discussion of pathogens

where fungi were to be introduced to the river banks

where the weevils are not effective.

Biological control was seen as a safe and more

sustainable way of controlling the water hyacinths.

The people at Kenya Agricultural Research Institute

were trained by the Australians who had had similar

problems with the plants. Two species of weevils were

introduced into the lake: neochetina eichhorniae and

neochetina bruchii. These species were chosen due to

their preference for the water hyacinths. Their ability

of being host specific was further verified through

testing to ensure that they only ate water hyacinths.

The weevils reduce the amount of water hyacinths

through destroying the petioles by eating its inner

part. The negative aspects of the weevils are that it

takes time for them to establish themselves and that

turbulence in the water made it difficult for the weevils

to reproduce. This, together with the fast reproduction

of the water hyacinths (the flower has 10 capsules,

each with up to 300 seeds) required that the weevils

had to be placed continuously into the lake.

During the first phase of the Lake Victoria

Management Programme, approximately 1 million

weevils were introduced to the lake (in different life

stages: eggs, larvae). When the funds for the biological

control began to end, the rearing of the weevils was

decentralised. Teachers working in schools by the

beach were trained who in turn taught some pupils to

rear and place the insects into the lake.

Due to tides and winds of Lake Victoria, the water

hyacinths are only present in Kisumu and its

environments from December to June. From July to

November, the water hyacinths can only be found

south of Kisumu in Nyakatch, Homa Bay and Kendu

Bay. Geographical barriers are the reasons for this.

The water hyacinths are not only a problem in itself

but have also supported the growth of the hippo

grass. This plant is not self-supportive and the water

hyacinths have given this plant a basis to grow.

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Appendix III - Interview with Megan White

Zana Africa, Nairobi, Kenya


From googling sanitary pads in Kenya we came across

a fairly new enterprise (2007) called Zana Africa

(ZanaA), founded by an American called Megan

White. Luckily we managed to get a meeting with her

during the short period we had left in Nairobi in the

end of our stay in Kenya.

ZanaA is a non-profit and a non-governmental

organization providing and distributing sanitary pads

to girls in Kibera (among other places), Nairobi.

In our meeting with Megan, she listed a lot of

interesting information, these are some of them:

- Many school girls in Kenya are poor and can’t afford

sanitary pads. So when they get their period, they

stay home from school. 5 days are then missed every

month. This again leaves them lagging behind.

- Sex and menstruation are taboo subjects in most


- Virginity is very emphasised, the use of tampons is

therefore not common.

- “MAKA pads”, an already existing sanitary pad

business, situated in Uganda, manufactures the

absorbent in their pad from papyrus. This production

is quite small scale, but is still able to provide pads at

a lower price than the competitors.

- Because of poverty, the pads are seldom bought in

large numbers, but instead one at a time. The cheapest

pads in small quantities are sold at 10 Kenyan

Schillings (KES). The price to strive for is 4 KES; the

production cost should therefore not exceed 2 KES.

- The minimum absorption requirements for sanitary

pads is according to Megan 30 ml (30 cc)

- A lot of the girls do not “know their own plumbing”,

education and information is important.

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Appendix IV - Potential Uses of the Water Hyacinth

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Appendix V - Results from Rope-Strength Testing

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Appendix VI

Grows fast


Shoe soles, packaging/padding, towel, mattresses, seats,

filling in cushions, bulletproof jackets, shoulder pads,

sport-protection (helmets), cooler/hot box




Pencil casings, bowls, bags, jewellery, airplanes, kites, toys,

packaging (protection of goods), tie firewood, footwear,

tablemat, walking stick, indication stick, movable

furniture, baskets and trays, duvet, tea-cozy, saucepan

holder, cutlery set, belts


Long-lasting – backpacks, wine rack, fish-baskets, ceiling

boards, floor, mats/carpets, bedside mat, suitcases, baby

cot, sisal substitute, chicken cages, building material,

laundry-baskets, furniture (chairs etc.), door-curtain,

doormat, beds and pillows, lamp-sheds

- Brainstorming Session Words from Workshop in Kisumu

Local Availability

Jewellery, curtain holder, tiara/crown, head ring, animal

food, lamp-shed, fertiliser, hats, roofing, seats for bodaboda

or tuk-tuk, fan-covers, water bottle cover, decoration

(tablemats, seats, serviette holder), water-holding roots for

pest control, “beds” for chicken





Plates (take-away), diaper, packaging (bags), shoes,

napkins, shopping bags, flip charts, pocket-files, folders,

newspaper, book cover, carton-boxes, gift-boxes (for

jewellery), toilet paper, manure, sanitary napkins



Easy workable


Nice smell

Soaps, toilet, wick, oil (for lotions and soap), toothpaste,

dust-mask, decoration (mesh) in front of fans, windows

and air conditioners, air fresheners, sprays, perfumes,

honey production

Whole plant usable

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Appendix VII

The values in our samples:

[mg/kg] Paper Petioles

Sb (Antimony)

Appendix VIII

In this method of evaluating, the requirements of the

pad were compared to each other in order to weight

their importance to each other. Each requirement was

compared to all the others and only one of them could

be decided upon as more important. The number of

times that a requirement was seen as more important


A - Affordable A A A A A A A A A A A

B - Few materials B D B B G H I B K L

C - Environmental impact C C C G C I C C C

D - Comfortable D D G D I D K D

E - Discrete appearance E G H I E K E

F - Discrete after usage G H I J K L

G - Fit in panties H I G G G

H - Minimal maintnance I H H H

I - Stay in place I I I

J - No noise K J

K - Easy to manufacture

L - Affect panties

- Pair Comparison Matrix of Pad Requirements

was summed up and resulted in a ranking list. As

can be seen below, the criterion of low cost was of

uttermost importance when compared to the other

criteria and thereby obtained the highest score in the







C, H=7

K, D=6



J, L=2


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Appendix IX

In this evaluation matrix, different fastening concepts

were evaluated according to chosen requirements from

the design criteria. See Appendix XIII for the design

criteria. If a requirement was met by the concept, it

got one, two or three points according to how well it

fulfilled the requirement. If the concept did not meet

the requirement, it scored zero. After having decided



- Evaluation Matrix of Different Fastening Methods

upon a score for each requirement for each concept,

the points from the pair comparison were inserted

in order to get more accurate scores. The points for

each requirement were multiplied with the points for

a concept’s fulfilment of it and thereafter all the scores

for one concept was added. The criteria of low cost

and of maintenance were divided in three columns,

one for a disposable concept, one for a semi disposable

concept and one for a semi reusable concept. Thus, in

the final calculations of the total score, all fastening

concepts got three different scores depending on the

intended period of usage.

Requirements Score




Glue 2 3 3 1 1 3 3 3 3 3 0 0 3 3 2 3 16 15 15

Friction I 3 3 3 3 3 2 3 1 3 3 1 0 1 3 2 2 16,5 15 14,5

Friction II (added material) 0 1 3 1 3 2 3 1 3 3 3 2 2 2 1 2 12,5 13,4 13

Clips I (added material) 0 1 3 1 2 1 1 1 2 3 3 3 2 2 3 2 11 12 14,5

Clips II (integrated in material) 3 3 3 3 3 1 1 2 0 3 2 0 2 1 3 3 14 13,5 12

Bikini wrap 0 1 3 1 2 2 2 1 1 3 2 1 2 3 2 3 10 10,5 13

String 2 3 3 2 3 2 2 3 2 3 2 2 2 3 2 3 15 15,5 15,5

Holes 3 3 3 3 3 1 1 1 1 3 3 3 2 3 3 3 15,5 15,5 15,5

Folding wings 2 3 3 2 3 2 2 3 3 3 3 3 2 3 2 3 16 17 17

Button 0 1 3 1 2 2 3 1 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 1 14 15 17,5

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Appendix X

To accompany the mock-up test with an analytic

ranking, five criteria were regarded as most important

to compare. Four of them were part of a previous

evaluation but the criterion “easy to handle” was new.

This criterion was not part of the pair comparison

that was performed in the initial evaluation of the ten

fastening methods. It arose during the mock-up test

of the string method and was after discussion given

five points.

- Evaluation Matrix Between Glue and String Concept

Glue Strings

Affordable 11* 1 2

Stay in place 10* 3 2

Environmental impact 7* 1 2

Easy to manufacture 6* 3 1

Easy to handle 5* 3 1


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Appendix XI

The five different mock-ups were evaluated in the same

way as the initial evaluation of the fastening methods

with both pair comparison and evaluation matrix.

See Appendix VIII and Appendix IX for procedure.

As with the evaluation of fastening methods, each

concept was given zero to three points depending on

how well it fulfilled each criterion.

- Evaluation Matrix for Mock-ups


A - Affordable A A A A A A A

B - Prevent leakage B B B B B B

C - Minimal usage of material D C C G H

D - Comfortable D D D H

E - Discrete appearance E G H

F - Easy to change G H

G - Easy to manufacture

H - Little noise





































Mock-up one 3 2 3 3 2 3 3 1 67 6,5

Mock-up two 3 3 3 3 1 2 3 1 72 7

Mock-up three 1 2 1 2 2 3 1 1 39 4

Mock-up four 1 2 3 2 2 3 2 1 46 4,5

Mock-up five 2 3 1 3 1 2 2 1 58 6

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Appendix XII

Water hyacinth composition percentage 2 %

C P Petioles 43.78

C L Leaves 17.68

C R Roots 38.54

The weight of the different parts of the plant, both

fresh and dry, were sought for in order to see how

many kilograms of each part could be obtained from

one square meter of water hyacinths. Due to the

variation of the areal density of the plant, a minimum

and maximum weight was calculated. This was done

with the following equations:

Wet Weight:

W P = ∂ * C P

Dry weight:

W P = ∂ * C P * 0.05

- Calculations for Feasibility

Weight of water


Units wet weight dry weight 3

min max min max

∂ Areal density 1 [kg/m 2 ] 40.00 170.00 2.00 8.50

W P Weight of petioles per [kg/m 2 ] 17.51 74.43 0.88 3.72

W L Weight of leaves per [kg/m 2 ] 7.07 30.06 0.35 1.50

W R Weight of roots per [kg/m 2 ] 15.42 65.52 0.77 3.28

W PL Weight of petioles and leaves [kg/m 2 ] 24.58 104.48 1.23 5.22

After having weighed the Jani-pad, the number of pads

that would be able to be made from one square metre

could be calculated. The calculations were done with

the dry weight of the water hyacinth, as it is only the

solid matter of the plant that can be turned into paper.

Number of pads to be obtained from petioles per square


N pad1 = W P / W pad

Number of pads to be obtained from petioles and leaves

per square meter

N pad2 = W PL / W pad

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Number of Jani pads Units min max

W pad Weight per pad [kg/pad] 0.0020

N pad1 No. of pads per (only petioles) [no./m 2 ] 437.80 1 860.65

N pad2 No. of pads per (petioles and leaves) [no./m 2 ] 614.60 2 612.05

To find out how much of the total surface area of

water hyacinths that needs to be harvested each year

to provide pads to the Kenyan schoolgirls who cannot

afford conventional pads, the following calculations

were performed. It was estimated that during the four

days that schoolgirls miss out on school, they would

make use of approximately three pads per day.

Required no. of pads per year

T pads = 870 000 * 3 * 4 * 12

Area required to be harvested each month

A Harvest = T pads / N pad1

Percentage of area required to be harvested of the

estimated water hyacinth area in Nyanza Gulf

A = A Harvest / A Nyanza

Total surface area to harvest Units min max

Kenyan schoolgirls lacking pads each month 4 870 000

T pads Required no. of pads per year 125 280 000

A Nyanza Estimated water hyacinth area in Nyanza gulf 5 [m 2 ] 14 014 630

A Harvest Area required to be harvested each year [m 2 ] 286 158.06 67 331.31

A Percentage of water hyacinth area 0.0204185 0.0048044

1 Muzira et al (2008)

2 Bader et al (2007)

3 MDG Centre Nairobi Environmental Team and

MCI (2009)

4 Megan White (2009)

5 Jembe et al (2008)

Reality Studio 09 - New Sense in Nuisance

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Appendix XIII

Absolute Design


1st layer

Allow menstrual fluids

to penetrate the layer

Attach to the bottom





Low absorption In order to provide a dry

surface, comfort

Soft and smooth For the comfort

Very flexible

Keep fibrous layers in


2nd layer

Absorb fluid quickly E.g. by providing a large

absorption area

Lead fluid to the next


Centre absorption In order to prevent

leakage sideways


- Design Criteria for the Sanitary Pad

3rd layer

Absorb menstrual fluid The amount of menstrual

flow varies between women

but normally it is about

30 to 40 ml per period

(Healy, 2006). According

to Megan White one

sanitary pad should be able

to absorb 30 ml.

Retain menstrual fluid

(except when under


Distribute the fluid

4th layer

If the menstrual flow

is 80 ml or more the

menstruation is regarded

as heavy (Healy, 2006).

Hydrophobic To protect clothes

Keep fibrous layers in


Attach to the top layer

Very flexible


Black = Important

Grey = Negotiable

Reality Studio 09 - New Sense in Nuisance

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The whole pad

Affordable Maximum price of 4

KES (White, 2009). A

price of 20 KES for a

pack of 10 pads would

be affordable for most

girls (Awuor, 2009)

Have a shape that

prevents leakage


Fit in panties Most girls have some

kind of underwear, even

if it may be home sewn

of tattered clothes. If a

girl only has one pair she

might be forced to go

without for a day when

they are drying after the

washing (Awuor, 2009).

Most panties are made

of cotton (Prick, 2009).

Stay in place Not move more than 2

cm forth or backwards.

Sideways the goal is 0,5

cm at most.

Easy to keep hygienic With no water available

for example

Biodegradable and/or


A lot of girls throw the

pads in the pit latrine

since burning blood is

connected to infertility

(Awuor, 2009)

Easy to manufacture No need for too

expensive machines. Not

too much time spent on

each pad

Minimal usage of

material during


Size adapted for the

female body

No skin irritating

substances in direct

contact with skin

Easy to change

Soft For comfort

Black = Important

Grey = Negotiable

Both concerning the pad

itself and the generation

of material leftovers

For comfort. Have

different sizes? Be

adjustable? Young

girls prefer thin pads

with wings while older

women prefer long and

thick pads (Prick, 2009).

Reality Studio 09 - New Sense in Nuisance

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Desired Design


Discrete appearance

during use




Menstruation is a taboo

in most places according

to Megan White.

According to Awuor

(2009), fathers are not

supposed to know when

their daughters are


Breathable To prevent fungal

infection, especially in the

warm climate of Kenya

No noise

No odour

Discrete appearance

after use

Possible to use without


See the comment from

‘Discrete appearance

during use’

Since some girls and

women may not own

any underwear

Black = Important

Grey = Negotiable

Reality Studio 09 - New Sense in Nuisance

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Appendix XIV

Absolute Design





Cheap As the product should be




friendly materials

Protect the pad against

dust and dirt

Simple manufacturing


Simple machines, low


Easy assembly Short time for the


Allow selling of single


Water resistant for a

short time

Resist slightly increased

air moisture

Simple to handle for the



Space efficient For easy storage and to

minimise transport costs

- Design Criteria for the Package

Material efficient As little material as

possible, for the price

and environment

Communicate the price So that no salesman tries

to sell it for a higher price

Communicate the


Communicate the

product name, logo

Communicate product


Communicate core


Desired Design


Reusable, have a “second


Black = Important

Grey = Negotiable



Storage, usage, disposal

Or should it be more


Clean, environmentally

friendly, natural, discreet,

simple, soft, friendly,

proud, freedom, light,

“for all girls and women”,

reliable, trust, modern?


Since the target group is

poor it would be beneficial

if the packaging could be

used as something else

once the pads is used

Reality Studio 09 - New Sense in Nuisance

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Appendix XV - Tree of Materials for Different Layers of the Sanitary Pad

Reality Studio 09 - New Sense in Nuisance

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Appendix XVI


Akello – Kenya Agricultural Research

Institute (KARI)

The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute is an

institution that brings together research programmes

in food crops, horticultural and industrial crops,

livestock and range management, land and water

management, and socio-economics (KARI, 2009).

The organization has been involved in the water

hyacinth control in the first phase of the Lake Victoria

Management Programme.

Evance Odhiambo - Zingira

Zingira is a community-based organisation coordinating

and training local artisans to produce handicraft

products made from recycled and local materials. One

of the local resources that they are using is the water

hyacinth. Of this plant they make furniture, paper,

baskets, bags and lampshades. The products are sold

both locally and abroad. Evance Odhiambo is the

founder of the project and works with and trains other

in creating handicrafts (Zingira Nyanza Community

Crafts, 2009).

- Contact Persons

Mathew O. Ondiek – Practical Action

Practical Action is a development charity aiming

to alleviate poverty with technology. They work

directly in four regions of the developing world: Latin

America, East Africa, Southern Africa, and South Asia

(Practical Action, 2009).

Jennipher A. Kere – WIFIP Education

& Development

The Woman in Fishing Industry Project is a nonprofit

organisation based in Kisumu aiming to

empower women in the Lake Victoria basin (WIFIP,

2005). One of the intentions of the organisation is to

promote the use of water hyacinth as a material in a

range of commercial products (Opar, 2008).

Edith Kerubo – Wafts and Crafts

Wafts and Crafts work with house interior design and

produces house accessories and furniture out of water

hyacinths. Edith Kerubo works as an entrepreneur,

providing capital and managing the business. She

works with various artisans in order to make her

products (Raphael A. Kapiyo, 2009).

Margaret – Pendeza Weaving

Pendeza Weaving produces textile products, spinning

handmade thread and weaving it into material. The

thread is spun from Kenyan cotton grown at some of

the neighbouring farms (International Trade Centre,

2008). Most of the products are made of cotton but

they also use other natural fibres such as banana fibres.

In addition, they have experimented with ropes made

of water hyacinth. However, due to the high price

of the ropes, it has not been seen as economically

justifiable to use.

Carol Awuor

Caroline is a disabled woman who has created a small

business of making products out of water hyacinths

and papyrus plants. She has trained other disabled

people and taught them to be self-employed. Her

products are sold locally, regionally and abroad

(Raphael A. Kapiyo, 2009).

Mr. Matano – Lake Victoria Basin


The Lake Victoria Basin Commission, LVBC, based

in Kisumu, is an institution of the East African

Community, EAC. It has been mandated with overall

coordination for sustainable development of the Lake

Victoria Basin.

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Megan White – CEO of ZanaA, Tools

for Transformation

ZanaA is a non-profit and non-governmental organisation

aiming to empower people by developing

simple enterprise solutions. Their National Sanitary

Pads Solution Program is developing and distributing

sanitary pads to girls in Kenya (Zana A, 2009).

Elphas Ojiambo – Lake Victoria

Initiative, Swedish Embassy

The Lake Victoria Initiave, LVI, is based at the Swedish

Embassy in Nairobi and aims to achieve poverty

reduction through sustainable development of the

regions around the lake. Elphas Ojiambo is the Regional

Programme Officer of the LVI, which is complementary

to bilateral Swedish support in the Lake Victoria region.

LVI mainly supports regional institutions such as EAC

and LVBC but also to regional civil society organisations

and Swedish non-governmental organisations (Embassy

of Sweden in Nairobi, 2009).

Dr. John Gichuki – Kenya Marine

Fisheries Research Institute

The Kenya Marine Fisheries Research Institute,

KMFRI, is mandated by the Kenyan government

to conduct aquatic research of all the Kenya waters

(KMFRI, 2008). KMFRI was contracted by WIFIP

to assess the availability of the Nyanza Gulf in order

to help in planning for the commercialisation of the

raw material (Feasibility Studies Workshop).

Millicent Olol – Hyacinth Crafts

Hyacinth Crafts is a business making paper, furniture

and household items out of water hyacinths. Millicent

Olol manages the business by cooperating with artisans

and craftsmen, and their products are exported as well

as sold locally (Raphael A. Kapiyo, 2009).

Michael Odhiambo Otieno – Takawiri


Michael Odhiambo Otieno works for Hyacinth Crafts

and has recently started his own company in which he

creates products by recycling waste.


Eje Österdahl – SCA

Eje Österdahl works as Fellow Scientist at the research

and development department at SCA Hygiene. SCA

is a Sweden-based global company that offers personal

care products, tissue, packaging, publication papers,

and solid-wood products in more than 90 countries.

Bertil Mark – Kvarnbys


Bertil Mark has for many years worked as Chemical

Engineer at EKA Chemicals. He is now retired and

is a driving force behind the non-profit organization

Kvarnbyns Handpappersbruk that work to keep the

tradition of making paper by hand alive.

Bengt Hagström – Swerea IVF

Bengt Hagström works as researcher at Swerea IVF

which business concept is to initiate, perform and

transform research and development to growth within

the manufacturing industry.

Antal Boldizar – Chalmers

Antal Boldizar works as Asssistant Professor at the

department of Polymeric materials and composites at


Mikael Gällstedt – Innventia

Innventia is an R&D company working within the

fields of pulp, paper, graphic media, packaging and

bio refining.

Arne Andersson and Ebbe Lyrmalm

– Akzo Nobel

Akzo Nobel is a multinational company working

within the fields of decorative paints, performance

coatings and speciality chemicals. Arne Andersson

and Ebbe Lyrmalm have given us input on the sizing

agent AKD.

Hans Theliander - Chalmers

Hans Theliander is a Professor of Forest Products and

Chemical Engineering at Chalmers. He has a great

knowledge in pulp and papermaking and has advised

us on issues concerning the papermaking process.

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Appendix XVII - Pattern for Perforation

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Reality Studio, spring ‘09

Karin Lidman, Sophie Thornander, Marc Hoogendijk,

Lars Marcus Vedeler, Kristin Tobiassen

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