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Dorothy Nakaweesi:

Uganda makes fibre from bananas waste

Uganda is the second largest producer of bananas after India with about 9 million tonnes produced annually. All this production creates tonnes of waste in form of stems and stocks. These are returned back to gardens to be used as fertilisers or mulching materials.

But the stems and stocks can be turned into fibre and used to produce different products which you can export and earn a living from.

The banana fibre is a widely used product in making coarse woven fabrics for example sacks, ropes, twigs, sand bags, tents, webbing's, canvas and screens, kit bags, tool bags, luggage, gunny bags and covers. Banana fibre can also be blended with wool and cotton to make blankets and carpets.

Here is how you can make money from adding value to the banana stems and stocks into fibre.

Ideally, the fiber is extracted from the pseudo-stem of banana-establishing a banana fiber making plant to utilise the products of the variety of banana plantations in Uganda.

Ms Victoria Byoma is the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa's leather expert with vast knowledge in making products out of banana fibre which she sells locally and regionally.

It is a business you can do from the confines of your home with ease and you will be surprised at how it can sustain family needs for years.

Ms Byoma makes ladies' hand bags out of banana fibre, centre pieces, ornaments, decoration items, table mats, mats, and purses among other products.

"This is the kind of business you can do in your free time. The beauty is the raw materials (banana fibers) are easily accessible in our backyards, villages and markets," she shares.

Investment capital
Ideally, this is a low-cost business to start. Many people would worry about starting capital but Ms Byoma says with Shs50,000 (US$13.84) you can start in this kind of business.

"All you need is a pair of cutters, wood glue, straw bond and varnish and you will be good to go," she shares.

But if you want to do it on a large scale according to Uganda Investment Authority's investment ideas report, this project can cost you $4,325 (Shs15.7 million) to mainly purchase the machine that will help you process the fiber.

This plant which can be imported from either India or China can also be fabricated in Katwe.

Producing massively means one would be processing 46,800 kilograms of fiber per year. In this case, one will be assured of revenue estimates worth $93,600 (Shs341 million), annually indicating a net profit margin of 72 per cent.

Production costs
Production costs assume 312 days per year with daily capacity of 150 Kilograms. Depreciation (fixed asset write off) assumes a 4-year life of assets written off at 25 per cent per year for all assets.

Direct costs include: materials, supplies and all other costs incurred to produce the product. A production month is 26 work days.

Industrialists' Associations are allowed in the formulation of government policies on taxes and industries, through Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA) representation in budget making.

A wide range of products can be produced which enjoy a good market in both rural and urban areas and these include weave bags, mats, wall hangings and sanitary towels.

Ideally, the dried fibre is used to make handbags and purses, sold at between Shs1,500 and Shs5,000 depending on the size, wall hangings at Shs5,000, a set of table mats selling at between Shs3,000 and Shs10,000, large sized floor mats costing Shs20,000 and bed side mats for Shs10,000.

1 Ugandan Shilling = 0.00028 US Dollar

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