The decapitated stems of banana plants, often considered agricultural waste, have found a new lease on life in Uganda thanks to the innovative efforts of TEXFAD, a local startup specializing in waste management. With Uganda boasting the highest banana consumption rate globally and being a leading producer of the crop in Africa, the abundance of banana-related waste has become a significant challenge for farmers.
TEXFAD has pioneered a sustainable solution by repurposing these discarded stems into valuable banana fiber. In collaboration with seven farmers' groups in western Uganda, the company purchases dried fiber at $2.70 per kilogram. The initiative not only addresses environmental concerns but also provides additional income to struggling farmers dealing with tons of banana waste.
TEXFAD's Eco-Friendly Approach to Utilizing Banana Stems
John Baptist Okello, TEXFAD’s business manager, emphasized the company's commitment to sustainability in a country where bananas are integral to local customs and traditions. The inner stems of decapitated plants are harvested for fiber, and the residue is returned to farmers for use as manure after machine processing.
Tupande Holdings Ltd., a third-party collaborator, plays a crucial role by delivering banana stems from central Uganda to TEXFAD. Sorting through the stems, machines at Tupande turn the fiber into threads. Aggrey Muganga, the team leader at Tupande Holdings Ltd., highlighted their contribution to the value chain by providing farmers with additional income while turning waste into a valuable resource.
Expanding Beyond Handcrafted Banana Fiber Items
TEXFAD's plant, located just outside Kampala, employs over 30 people who handcraft unique items from banana fiber, including rugs and lampshades. The company has successfully tapped into international markets, exporting some products to Europe. Notably, all TEXFAD products are biodegradable, aligning with their commitment to environmental sustainability.
The company is not stopping there. TEXFAD is collaborating with researchers to explore the possibility of fabric made from banana fiber. While they currently produce paper towels and sanitary pads from this sustainable material, the development of clothing remains a goal for the future. To combat synthetic products' environmental impact, TEXFAD is also designing biodegradable hair extension products. Faith Kabahuma, part of the company’s banana hair development program, expressed confidence in the positive environmental impact of their biodegradable hair extensions, which are soon to be available on the market.
Bananatex®: Pioneering Sustainable Fabric from Banana Plants
Bananatex® stands as a groundbreaking achievement, being the world's premier durable, technical fabric crafted exclusively from Abacá banana plants grown organically in the Philippine highlands. Flourishing within a natural ecosystem of sustainable mixed agriculture and forestry, these plants are self-sufficient, eliminating the need for pesticides, fertilizers, or additional water.
This inherent eco-friendliness has enabled Bananatex® to play a pivotal role in reforesting areas once eroded by monocultural palm plantations, simultaneously bolstering biodiversity and fostering economic prosperity for local farmers. After three years of meticulous research and development, we proudly present a revolutionary material that addresses the core tenets of environmental, economic, and social sustainability. As an open-source project, Bananatex® emerges as a genuinely circular alternative to the synthetic fabrics currently dominating the market.
Since its debut in October 2018, Bananatex® has garnered widespread acclaim, receiving numerous international sustainability and design accolades. Notable honors include the Green Product Award 2019, the Design Prize Switzerland Award 2019/20, and the prestigious German Sustainability Award Design 2021. These recognitions underscore Bananatex®'s significant contribution to a more sustainable and innovative future.