Turning banana stems into useful fibres in Uganda

Did you know that you could make fibres out of discarded banana stems that can be “softened to the level of cotton”? I didn’t until the other day, and it’s happening in Uganda.

Uganda has the highest banana consumption rate in the world and is Africa’s top producer.

In rural areas, bananas can contribute up to 25 percent of the daily calorie intake, according to figures from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.


To harvest the crop, the stem must be decapitated, they’re often left to rot in open fields.

But local startup TEXFAD, which describes itself as a waste management group, is now taking advantage of this abundance of rotting stems to extract banana fibre that’s then turned into items such as hair extensions.

John Baptist Okello, TEXFAD’s business manager, says it makes sense in a country where farmers “are struggling a lot” and have tonnes of banana-related waste.

The company, which collaborates with seven different farmers’ groups in western Uganda, pays $2.7 (USD) per-kilogram of dried fibre.

Uses for these fibres include the making of hair extensions, lampshades, and rugs. Now that’s what I call recyclable waste!

Related: how fish skin is used for leather in Kenya and Kenyan art made from flip flops.

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