HUGE CHALLENGE FOR THE SAMOAN BANANA GROWERS! A Gold Mine Waiting For You.

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Everybody enjoys eating a banana in any shape or form. Monkeys do too.

Most of the Samoans never thought that what is left after you enjoy your banana can make you rich. No kidding! So, what is left, apart from the peels? 

First let us understand that banana is not a tree. Don’t say I have some many banana trees in my plantation. I will say I have 7 or 9 banana plants on my ½ acre “plantation” I can’t possible compete with Charlie whose plantation (banana) can rival the one I have seen up north Sydney, Australia.

It is the tallest herbaceous plant, a grass,  if you will, and there are more than 300 varieties mostly around the tropic and sub-tropic regions of the world grown  on about 8.8 million hectares.

Banana is the second largest produced  fruit  after citrus, contributing about 16% of the world’s total  fruit production.  

India is, of course, the biggest producer of banana in the world (19%) with 500,000 hectares producing 139 million MT.  Now listen to this: 

 but only 10% of the banana pseudo stem  waste is processed into fiber.  India  is  followed by Ecuador (12%), China (10%),  Colombia (6%) …etc.

In India there is the Jalgaon district with a banana plantation of 55,000 hectares with an average productivity of 50-60 MT of banana fruit per hectare.

Now let us do the math. Those 55, 000 hectares of banana  at the rate of 70MT/hectare  will give us 3,850,000 MT of left over pseudo-stem . 

Note. Since the banana plant is not a tree we can’t call it what is left a STEM

So it is called a pseudo-stem. 

These pseudo-stem as we all well know is considered a waste and are thrown on boundaries and burn after drying wasted presently by the banana grower.

Didn’t you know that part of the banana “tree” left after you chopped your bunch of bananas  is a gold mine? I didn’t know either. 

In a trip I took with a friend to visit the banana plantation of Charlie Westerlund that this question came to me : after harvesting so many hectares of banana what do they do with the pseudo-stem that is left  on the field?  I was told that some are chopped up in pieces and placed them around the black pepper plants. Really! Money  around a plant?

By nature I am a researcher, and a sharp observer;   so I decided to look up in the internet what other banana producing countries manage to “get rid” of that supposed to be an agricultural waste, and as such a burden for the banana grower  transportation wise.

Matt Simpson is an American teacher that settled in Kosrae. Kosrae is  not too far away from Guam were I worked for the USDA for three years. Kosrae is a poor island with 3,500 inhabitants. Most of the youth emigrates to other islands/countries due to the high unemployment. Matt also saw   and wondered what the banana growers were doing with the pseudo –stem. Nothing, 

Matt having a lot of spare time did some reading and found out that the Japanese were using that pseudo-stem to make a lot of things out of the fiber extracted from them. With his savings and help from the village chiefs he set up a cottage industry to extract the banana fiber for export to Japan.  First  by hand and later with a raspador machine. His initial crew were mostly women and youth, now close to 35.

My question is:  a lot of  Samoan  farmers growth banana . Therefore,  they  have in their hands a lot of Banana “trees” to get rid of. Most of them will get rotten in the field.

Modern society is unable to manage the enormous amount of household, industrial and agricultural waste that it creates. A large fraction of this is organic in nature, especially  pertaining  to agricultural and household waste.

Instead of making use of this “waste” it is  frequently  disposed  by means of landfill, incineration or land application. Applying organic waste to the land means that the waste has not been stabilized and could contain pathogens. Each of these methods is an imperfect solution.

Samoa and society in general   needs  a better way of turning waste into a usable form.

India, as I said above is the largest producers of banana in the world (19%), therefore, also the largest producer of pseudo-stem-and as I said before also the largest producer of pseudo-stem classified as  waste.

Of this waste only 10% is being used for making products and the remaining is truly  wasted . The population in India right now is over one  billion, of those 300,000 -350,000  (3.5%) people earn their living on banana cultivation, harvesting, handling, and transportation of banana.

Since I am talking about the pseudo-stem as a waste. Let us X ray it and see what we can get out of it.  Plenty.

 

USEFULNES OF BANANA “TREE”

Banana fruit (human)                                                                leaf (animal)

Pseudo-stem

85-90%

Sap                                Fiber                              Central core             Scutcher

35-40%                         1.5-2%                           10-16%                      40-45%

1.-Liquid fertilizer      1,-Yarn                          1.-Candy                   1.-Vermicompost

2.-Nutrient spray        2.-Fabric                       2.-Pickles                  2.-Fish fee

3.-Mordant                  3.-Apparel                    3.-Soft

4.-Paper and paper made  products

5.-MCC Biochemical

Let us concentrate for a second on the fiber component of the pseudo-stem.

All varieties of banana plant abound in fibers. These  fibers (1.5-2%) inside the pseudo-stem is that maintain the plant erect. There are 14-18 sheaths available in a pseudo- stem. Each sheath has 3 distinct layers.

Just by looking at the above diagram you and anybody with enough common sense can figure out that there  is a lot of by-products that can come out of our humble banana pseudo-stem waste.

I challenge the government (MAF) and private individuals and  corporations  in Samoa and other small islands,  to make use of this waste to infuse an economic gain to the  country and at the same time ameliorate in great degree unemployment of women and youth.

Your question would be: How we go about taking advantage of this waste? Simply. By  creating clusters cottage industries at the village level. And what cottage industry would consist of?  Elementar Dr. Watson.

For that you (the banana grower (s) ) need:

A shed of 2,000 sq. ft. or an appropriate space.

1 or more fiber extraction machine (could be done by hand) check with SROS.

1 pseudo-stem splitting machine (cut the stem in 4 sections.)

1  press machine for separation of sap (liquid fertilizer)

Compost pit

Electrical fitting and connections

Storage tank

Crates and trays.

Of course, all these elements cost money. Money invested on the above is money well invested. Those villagers who borrow money for faalavelaves and show off funerals can channel that money plus the remittances from your hard working relatives overseas to their cottage  industry.  Banks should be happy to lend money to make money. No slavery paying loans for church donations and show off funerals. Hot tea from lemon trees leaves and hard biscuits will do for a loved one going to heaven. Some wise Samoan suggested that. I believe in cremation. Cheaper and fast and your loved one still get to go to heaven.

Here is the challenge to the Samoan entrepreneur:   

  • The biggest challenge is to  convert  this huge Biomass of Pseudo-stem into value added products. Hello SROS!
  • Second challenge is to convince the banana growers for extraction of their Biomass into Fiber,  Sap and Scutcher i.e. basic products from banana Pseudo-stem
  • Third challenge is to convince the banana  growers  for utilization of Sap as growth promoter and convertion of scutcher into Compost.
  • It is very difficult to change the mind set of banana growers in context to: 
  1. Banana Pseudo-stem is a gold mine
  2. Compost made out of scutcher  is very good compost for soil
  3. Banana sap has high valuable nutrients for crop growth. 

Here is how it works and it is done in Zambia, Nepal, Costa Rica, etc.

The Banana Growers bring their banana pseudo-stems after cutting bunch of  banana  to your nearest Cottage Industrial Unit and get an agreed price per MT.  These units are operated by the local farmers. The Unit extracts banana fiber from banana pseudo-stems.  The banana fiber and sap is carried to a Central processing Unit for value adding.

The Cottage Industrial unit makes compost at Unit from the Scutcher waste and sell to local farmers. Great savings in fertilizers.

Single Fiber Extracting Machine can extract around 15-20 Kg of banana fiber per day from 1 MT of pseudo-stem (approximately 50 to 60 of them). The fiber thus extracted can be exported to Japan or elsewhere. 

Note to the reader. This the third challenge to MAF. The other two brilliant initiatives, as published in the S.O., by yours truly are:  !.-Stevia Growing. A  replacement for sugar cane. 2.-.Introduction of Guinea Pig in Samoa. A more nutritious meat than beef, pork and our frozen chicken.

If MAF/SACEP or else can not supply of: (this straight from the paper:: Healthy food? “Take the cost of  lettuce,  which is nearly S50 tala.” And “…at the  same  store,  two imported tomatoes cost S35” 56 years with MAF and 6 years with SACEP and still paying thru the nose for those healthy foods? No wonder NCD is as bad as climate change. Any Samoan handicraftman can make a reusable shopping bag out of banana fiber. Adieu plastic!

On the above, further details can be obtained by contacting me by email: orlandomalololelei@gmail.com

 

 

*Orlando Huaman is an agronomist and a freelance writer.

 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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