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A Ugandan enterprise turns banana fiber into sustainable handicrafts

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MUKONO, Uganda — A decapitated banana plant is nearly ineffective, an inconvenience to the farmer who should then uproot it and lay its dismembered components as mulch.

However can such stems in some way be returned to life? Sure, in response to a Ugandan firm that is shopping for banana stems in a enterprise that turns fiber into enticing handicrafts.

The thought is modern in addition to sustainable within the East African nation. Uganda has the best banana consumption charge on this planet and is Africa’s prime producer of the crop. Particularly in rural areas, bananas can contribute as much as 25% of the each day calorie consumption, in response to figures from the U.N. Meals and Agriculture Group.

In Uganda, consuming bananas is in some ways embedded in native customs and custom; for a lot of a meal is incomplete with no serving of matooke, the native phrase for the starchy boiled mush produced from banana cultivars harvested and cooked uncooked.

To reap the crop, the stem have to be decapitated, and within the largest plantations the scene can appear violent after a bumper harvest. The stems inevitably rot in open fields.

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However native startup TEXFAD, which describes itself as a waste administration group, is now profiting from this abundance of rotting stems to extract banana fiber that is was gadgets that would come with hair extensions for girls.

John Baptist Okello, TEXFAD’s enterprise supervisor, informed The Related Press that the enterprise made sense in a rustic the place farmers “are struggling quite a bit” with tens of millions of tons of banana-related waste. The corporate, which collaborates with seven totally different farmers’ teams in western Uganda, pays $2.70 for a kilogram (greater than two kilos) of dried fiber.

David Bangirana, the chief of 1 such group within the western Ugandan district of Sheema, stated solely a small a part of the interior stem of a decapitated plant is harvested for fiber. And the “residue is returned after machine work to the farmer to be used as manure,” he stated.

His group is working to construct capability to make completed merchandise, he stated.

TEXFAD additionally takes materials from a 3rd get together, Tupande Holdings Ltd., whose vans ship banana stems from farmers in central Uganda. Tupande’s employees type by way of the stems, on the lookout for fascinating ones. Machines then flip the fiber into tiny threads.

Aggrey Muganga, the crew chief at Tupande Holdings Ltd., stated his firm offers with greater than 60 farmers who constantly provide plentiful uncooked materials.

That quantity is barely a small fraction of what’s obtainable in a rustic the place greater than one million hectares (almost 2.5 million acres) are planted with bananas. Banana manufacturing has been rising steadily over time, rising from 6.5 metric tons in 2018 to eight.3 metric tons in 2019, in response to figures from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics.

“We extract fiber threads from the sheaths of the stem … So our contribution within the worth chain is that we put additional revenue within the arms of the farmer. We flip this waste into one thing priceless that we promote to our companions who additionally make issues,” Muganga stated.

At a plant in a village simply outdoors Kampala, the Ugandan capital, TEXFAD employs greater than 30 individuals who use their arms to make distinctive and sometimes enticing gadgets from banana fiber. The rugs and lampshades they produce are particularly enticing to prospects, with the corporate now exporting some merchandise to Europe.

Such gadgets are doable as a result of “banana fiber will be softened to the extent of cotton,” Okello stated.

Working with researchers, TEXFAD is now experimenting with doable material from banana fiber. Whereas it’s now doable to make paper towels and sanitary pads from banana fiber, the corporate would not but have the expertise to make clothes, he stated.

The corporate is also designing hair extension merchandise it believes will assist rid the market of artificial merchandise seen as dangerous to the environment.

All merchandise by TEXFAD are biodegradable, stated Religion Kabahuma, of the corporate’s banana hair improvement program, describing hair extensions which have executed nicely in exams and shortly will likely be obtainable in the marketplace.

“The issue with artificial fiber, they accomplish that a lot clogging like all over the place you go; even in case you go to dig within the gardens proper now you can find artificial fiber round,” she stated.


Rodney Muhumuza reported from Kampala.

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