Of the many goodies available in Uganda, bananas remain significantly useful for market demands.
Grown widely across the country, it makes part of most meals.
Thirty-five-year-old entrepreneur, Sharon Ninsiima hopes bananas can be even more valuable; she is looking at turning their stalks into paper bags.
At her workshop in the capital, Kampala, Sharon feeds banana stalks into a machine that extracts the fibre, which will be boiled and mixed with waste paper then converted into pulp and finally smoothed out into sheets of paper.
The practise confirms the work of researchers who say banana fibre is ideal for making paper.
“I wanted to fight polythene bags, you know polythene bags take long to rot. My paper bags don’t even take a week to rot,”
Plastic bags, locally known as ‘Kaveeras’ are popular despite a ban nine years ago.
Sharon left a job as an office messenger four years ago. She has not looked back since. Today, she makes about 50 bags a day.
“You fold a paper bag using hands. We don’t have a machine that makes paper bags, so I need a paper bag forming machine, I need it. When I can get those machines I can have an opportunity to expand my business. I can now start exporting these bags and these papers.”
Uganda’s National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) says the private sector can play a major role to help promote the use of alternatives like banana fibre bags.
“We have plantain, we have banana plants everywhere, so the extraction of the fibre from the banana plantain and improving the paper material, the simple light paper material, to something more stronger is something that we desire, and we have seen corporate companies in their corporate social responsibility taking upon these initiatives. Most of these are desiring to have enough markets for their branded products to be put in this eco-friendly alternatives to the plastic polythene bags,” Bob Nuwagira, communication officer at NEMA said.
Bella Wines, a drinks company in Kampala is using Sharon’s bags as part of their marketing and branding strategy.
The bags cost 50 U.S. cents each.