A delegation from Japan is in the country to talk technology, and more specifically, technology to utilise banana stems and convert them into textile.
This reads like a Hollywood script – turning a hitherto useless though abundant waste product of one of our most important food crops into unimagined wealth – the rags-to-riches scenario.
The Japanese are now here to show the country that we need to use technology in a smart manner to transform the earning power of Rwandans.
A workshop has been organised where a number of people will be trained as weavers, so that we get the first batch of future trainers who will then pass on their knowledge to others. It is a hands-on training project.
There are two reasons why this project is wonderful in the extreme. The first is that there is an abundancy of raw materials. Banana plantations are to be found everywhere in Rwanda – even in dry, cattle-keeping areas like Umutara.
There has always been a feeling of waste whenever a banana crop has been harvested; the big, juicy stem is left in the garden, used only for mulching purposes.
It is this stem that is targeted for its fibre that has been used only in very limited uses like in making banana fibre mats and arty pieces of balls and ropes. This fibre will now be finely woven to make fabrics.
The second reason to be happy for this project is the fresh interest that the world is taking in banana growing.
As recently as last week, there was a big Pan-African Banana Conference in Mombasa, Kenya, where researchers, scientists, and farmers met to discuss ways of effective growing and selling of the banana crop.
Bananas are widely grown in East Africa, and this conference was exploring ways of developing disease-resistant and high-yielding varieties without compromising on the local standards in taste.
This means therefore that increased banana growing in the region will not only increase revenue from the crop, but it will also ensure that Rwanda, which might grab the honour of being the first African country to have banana fabric technology, gets constant raw materials, and on the cheap.