The average price of a big bunch of bananas at the moment is about sh10,000 at the farm in western Uganda while the same size goes for sh25,000 and sh45,000 in Kampala and Wakiso districts.
This means banana farmers are making losses. Prices are likely to remain like this for sometime, or even drop further.
To compansate for the low banana prices, the women of Ngarama in Isingiro district have started earning money from other parts of the banana plant, such as, the dry banana leaves(ssanja) and fibres (byayi).
How they do it
Cotilda Nabaasa, one of the women crafting various items out of banana leaves and fibres, explains how they managed to turn a frustrating experience into an opportunity to make money.
“We use dry leaves to create various items, such as, ear rings, waist beads, arm bands, bags and many others. We also use the banana fibres to craft bags and baskets. The women started making ornamental items out of banana leaves and fibre, after attending a training workshop in Isingiro, organised by the Millenium Project for Women.
“During the workshop, we were taught how to make different items from different parts of the banana plant. We were also taught how to make bags, beads, earrings and arm bands. This was a big opportunity for us because we used to suffer whenever the price of bananas dropped. But since we started producing items from banana leaves and fibres, the situation is different. We look for the best dry leaves, or those that are almost dry. We harvest them before they dry completely. The parts that we use should not have any holes.
“We cut the leaves into pieces depending on what we are making. For example, if it is beads, the pieces have to be smaller,” she said.
However, if one is making a bag, the pieces are larger. At first, we were using, razor blades and knives to cut up the dry leaves. However, we got a paper cutting machine which we are now using.
After cutting, the pieces are then rolled in a cone shape, with a small hole in the middle. The beads are then painted with varnish, not just to beautify them, but also to hold them together.
Varnish acts as a jellying material, too. It takes a month to complete the process of making a bag. However, since we are many women, we handle every step separately.
On the marketing side, the items we make are moving well. One small leaf, about one square foot in size can earn us sh20,000. From that piece, we can make five bead laces, each selling at sh4,000. The smallest of the bags goes for sh40,000 each. It is challenging work, but then there is no easy route to wealth.