Researchers: Banana pseudo stems are rich source of quality fibres

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Cross section of a banana pseudo stem. Commercial value of banana fibre made from banana stems has increased and it is used all over the world for multiple purposes from making tea bags and sanitary napkins to Japanese yen notes and car tyres.

Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI) experts are encouraging banana farmers to put into good use banana stems that most of the farmers have discarded or use as feeds for their livestock by using the stems to make fibres that can be used in a wide range of fields.

Using banana decorticator machine which can be bought at any agro-vet outlets or any other machinery outlets, banana farmers can at their comfort zones extract banana fibres, also known as musa fibres, and sell to the many companies that use fibres as one their raw materials for their end products.

“Banana decorticator machine which is prototype developed uses ten blunt blades with adjustable clearance between the blades and the beater bar is easy to use and can be operated by any farmer as it does not need any in-depth skill to operate,” said Mr. Jackson Mutai, engineer-KIRDI.

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Mutai adds that the adjustable clearance between the blades and the beater bar allows fibre extraction from all forms of thickness of banana pseudo stems without damaging the fibres.

“This will leave farmers with fleshy parts which are by-products that can still be used to make biogas, organic manure, and animal feeds,” said Mutai.

The use of banana stems as a source of fibre declined after other convenient fibres such as cotton and silk became popular. However, in recent years the commercial value of banana fibre has increased and it is used all over the world for multiple purposes from making tea bags and sanitary napkins to Japanese yen notes and car tyres.

According to Mutai, what was earlier regarded as agricultural waste and a nuisance for farmers can be converted into rich raw material for good quality silk grade fibre yarn.

With Kenya being the lead tea producer and exporter in the world, banana farmers are assured of a ready market which are the factories that use banana fibres to make tea bags.

“Owing to its strongest and biodegradable natural qualities, musa fibres is so durable that if we make our Kenyan currency notes from them, the notes can be used for more than a hundred years and bags made out of it are not bound to any law penalties like plastics bags,” said Mutai.