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A Ugandan Firm Buys Banana Stems and Turns Fiber into Attractive Handicrafts

The idea is innovative as well as sustainable in the East African country. Uganda has the highest banana consumption rate in the world and is Africa’s top producer of the crop. To harvest the crop, the stem must be decapitated, and in the largest plantations the scene can seem violent after a bumper harvest. The stems inevitably 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 fiber that’s turned into items that would include hair extensions for women. John Baptist Okello, TEXFAD’s business manager, told The Associated Press that the business made sense in a country where farmers “are struggling a lot” with millions of tons of banana-related waste. The company, which collaborates with seven different farmers’ groups in western Uganda, pays $2.70 for a kilogram of dried fiber. Working with researchers, TEXFAD is now experimenting with possible fabric from banana fiber. While it is now possible to make paper towels and sanitary pads from banana fiber, the company doesn’t yet have the technology to make clothing.