The technical team spearheading the country’s banana textile project has embarked on countrywide sensitization and fact-finding tours aimed at laying ground for the technology to make fabrics and other essential products out of banana stems.
The team was in Kabacuzi Sector, Muhanga District in the Southern Province on Tuesday where they met with members of women’s cooperative specializing in mat-making and basket weaving.
A week earlier, they had been to Rwamagana District where they visited Urugero Cooperative, which provided banana fibre from which Japan’s Tama Art University manufactured a gown that was donated to President Paul Kagame during the fourth Tokyo International Conference on Africa Development (TICAD).
The nationwide tours of the team comes two months after a Rwandan delegation returned from a study tour in Japan aimed at exploring the technicalities involved in creating a banana textile industry.
“After learning that there are some cooperatives in Rwanda are involved in the exercise of banana fibre extraction, we wanted to visit them and assess their traditional techniques, and at the same time inform them about the implementation plan to introduce new techniques of extraction,” said Yuri Mito, a Consultant on the project who works with Rwanda Workforce Development Authority (WDA).
She added that the next visit will be to another women cooperative in the Northern Province which is also involved in same field.
Yuri revealed that WDA has finalized a three-year implementation plan for introducing banana textile technology in Rwanda, and was closely working with UTEXRWA on installation of a production plant, and with KIST on research and development front.
On acquisition of extraction machinery, Yuri said that WDA was currently in contact with Indian and Pilipino companies to determine the feasibility of purchasing them from the two Asian countries.
“Introduction and development of banana textile could be beneficial for developing a new industry and a new technology, and create the employment and nurture skilled labour, leading to poverty reduction and sustainable development,” said WDA Director General, Chong Fook Yen.
Banana is an essential crop in Rwanda covering 23 percent of the total cultivated area and is grown by 90% of households. According to Rwanda Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), the country produces 2.5 million tonnes of bananas per year.
It has been suggested that the country has a potential to extract 2,500 tons of banana fibre per year (2.5million tons of banana fruits represent 25 million banana trees, and one banana stem can produce 0.1kg of banana fibres).
Currently, discarded raw materials (stems) are not utilized due to lack of techniques of the extraction of fibre and fabrication.