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Kirinyaga farmers earn from banana stems as fabric

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In­teg­rated Com­munity Or­gan­iz­a­tion for Sus­tain­able Em­power­ment and Edu­ca­tion for De­vel­op­ment (ICO­SEED) ini­ti­at­ive in Kir­inyaga County has cre­ated over 100 jobs for the youth and women in the county who were pre­vi­ously job­less by turn­ing ba­nana pseudo stems into fibre that can be used to make fab­rics for bags and table mats for sale.

This ini­ti­at­ive was foun­ded by Mr. Patrick Gatere in 2015 to bring into good use ba­nana stems which farm­ers were felling down to enjoy the ba­nana fruits then could use the stems to feed their cattle or dis­card it to decay in the farm.

RE­LATED STORY: Re­search­ers: Ba­nana pseudo stems are rich source of qual­ity fibres

The ICO­SEED ba­nana pseudo stems’ value chain has many de­part­ments and stages where people are em­ployed to work. “Our pro­cessing sys­tem has en­abled us to em­ploy youth and women in trans­port­a­tion and ex­trac­tion of fibers, twin­ing and col­or­ing, and ac­cess­ory mak­ing hence re­du­cing crime rate among the youth who were job­less­ness,” said Gatere.

In ad­di­tion he says the ini­ti­at­ive has strengthened the ba­nana farmer groups with train­ings in ag­ro­nomy, in­creas­ing yields by 18 per cent hence provid­ing an al­tern­at­ive source of in­come for 400 farm­ers who be­ne­fit from the pro­gram every year.

Farm­ers are paid for the fibre ex­trac­ted from their ba­nana pseudo stems at Sh25 per kg. The fibre is handed over to youth for brush­ing and fi­nally to women for twin­ing and dying. The col­oured threads are passed on to hand loom op­er­at­ors who make fab­ric. The fab­ric is used to make bags, clutch purse, table mats and wall hangings.

The Kutus based ini­ti­at­ive’s tar­get mar­ket in­cludes ex­hib­i­tions, on­line shop­ping, curio shops, tour­ist ho­tels, churches and super mar­kets.

RE­LATED STORY: KALRO selling high qual­ity Ba­nana Tis­sue cul­ture seed­lings

ICO­SEED’s ef­forts at­trac­ted Na­tional En­vir­on­ment Trust Fund (NET­FUND) which gave fin­an­cial sup­port to the tune of Sh812, 500 as well as tech­nical and busi­ness sup­port skills en­abling the ini­ti­at­ive pur­chase three more ex­tract­ors and four more hand­looms to in­crease pro­duc­tion ca­pa­city and pro­duce qual­ity products.

In 2017 and 2016 ICO­SEED won Switch Africa Green (SAG) SEED chal­lenge Award and Green In­nov­a­tion Awards in the Civil So­ci­et­ies cat­egory re­spect­ively. Gatere says that their fu­ture plan is to in­crease pro­duc­tion and num­ber of farm­ers who sup­ply them with ba­nana stems.

RE­LATED STORY: Group earns from ulcer treat­ing ba­nana peels powder

“We plan to In­crease the num­ber of farm­ers sup­ply­ing ba­nana stems from 400 to 9,000. Scale up the pro­duc­tion ca­pa­city of ba­nana fibre by buy­ing new ma­chinery, in­clud­ing ad­di­tional mo­bile fibre ex­tract­ors, di­ver­sify the product range to in­clude san­it­ary tow­els and es­tab­lish two new pro­duc­tion sites in key ba­nana pro­duc­tion areas like Meru and Kisii,” he said.

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