Kimani Muturi displays hair extensions made from fibers extracted from the sheaths of banana trunks. (REUTERS/Abubaker Lubowa)

Kimani Muturi displays hair extensions made from fibers extracted from the sheaths of banana trunks. (REUTERS/Abubaker Lubowa)

Women sell bananas in the street in Kampala, Uganda. Bananas are a staple food in Uganda. (AP/Ronald Kabuubi)

Women sell bananas in the street in Kampala, Uganda. Bananas are a staple food in Uganda. (AP/Ronald Kabuubi)

Workers at Texfad split banana stalks. Then they use a machine to extract the fibers. (Texfad)

Workers at Texfad split banana stalks. Then they use a machine to extract the fibers. (Texfad)

The fibers can be made into cloth or other products. (Texfad)

The fibers can be made into cloth or other products. (Texfad)

This rug is made from banana fiber. (Texfad)

This rug is made from banana fiber. (Texfad)

Banana Future?

Posted: July 1, 2021

The future is bananas. Just ask Kimani Muturi.

Bananas have been a staple food in Mr. Muturi’s country, Uganda, for a long time. A staple food is a main food a people group eats. The average Ugandan eats more than 400 pounds of bananas every year! But Mr. Muturi asks a good question: What about the rest of the banana plant?

Imagine this. A farmer lops bananas from his plants. What’s left? The plants’ bulbous trunks. Farmers usually either burn these or throw them away. Could those “extra” parts be of use?

Mr. Muturi’s start-up company is called TexFad. At TexFad, young men pile the trunks of banana plants in a heap. Next, they split them in half with machetes. They feed them into a machine, until . . . out come long, leathery, moist fibers. The workers hang these on lines to dry. Later, they use them to make carpets, placemats, and hair extensions. (Hair extensions are fake hair. They make a person’s hair appear fuller or longer.)

“The hair extensions we are making are highly biodegradable,” says Mr. Muturi. “After using, our ladies will go and bury them in the soil and they will become manure for their vegetables.”

TexFad is also experimenting with the fibers. The company hopes to soften them. Perhaps the fibers will become as cozy as cotton. Then people could wear banana trunks as clothes!

The company will ship carpets to countries outside Uganda for the first time this June. Mr. Muturi says customers in the United States, Canada, Australia, and many parts of Africa want to buy. But the little company has only 23 people on staff. It isn’t ready for that much business quite yet.

Banana fibers are light. They’re organically produced. Mr. Muturi can picture many future uses for them—including “paper” money.