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Ugandans turning banana wastes into useful fibres

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Ugandan startup TEXFAD is turning banana stems into biodegradable handicrafts, a new idea in the East African country that is Africa’s top producer. Bananas contribute up to 25% of the daily calorie intake in rural areas, and their consumption is deeply embedded in local customs and traditions. The company, which operates as a waste management group, collaborates with seven different farmers’ groups in western Uganda and pays $2.7 per kilogram of dried fiber.

TEXFAD also takes material from third-party Tupande Holdings Ltd., which delivers banana stems from central Uganda farmers. Workers sort through stems, looking for desirable ones, and machines turn the fiber into tiny threads. The company’s contribution to the value chain is that it puts extra income in the hands of the farmer and turns this waste into something valuable that they sell to their partners, who also make things they can sell.

Banana production has been rising steadily over the years, growing from 6.5 metric tons in 2018 to 8.3 metric tons in 2019. At a plant in a village just outside Ugandan capital Kampala, TEXFAD employs more than 30 people who use their hands to make items from banana fibers. The company exports its rug and lampshade products to Europe and is working with researchers to experiment on possible fabrics made from banana fibers.

TEXFAD is also designing hair extension products that could help rid the market of synthetic products. All products by TEXFAD are biodegradable, and the company’s hair extensions will soon be on the market.