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3. Rwanda: Ban on plastic bags creates new market for banana bags (Syfia Grands Lacs, Spore)

Plastic bags used to mar the Rwandan countryside. Four years ago, the government passed a law against them. Last year, they started enforcing it. The new law is not only clearing the countryside of plastic bags. It is also creating jobs for innovative artisans.

Alexis is a member of a co-operative called Land Love Rwanda. The cooperative developed an alternative to plastic bags used to germinate seeds. They make ibihoho – or germination bags – from banana bark.

Alexis explains some of the benefits of banana germination bags. They retain moisture well after watering. And when it’s time to plant the seedling, there’s no need to remove the bag. The banana bark decomposes and acts as a natural fertilizer.

Land Love Rwanda sells each bag for 10 Rwandan francs (approximately 0.02 American dollars or 0.01 Euros). There is no shortage of buyers. Alexis says many nurseries order from the co-operative.

KOABIMU is another co-operative that produces banana baskets and bags, as well as other banana products. Since plastic bags have been outlawed, grocery stores now order banana bags, too.

Joseph Bimenyimana is president of KOABIMU. He says artisans make a good living weaving banana fibre. Each member of the co-operative earns 30,000 Rwandan francs per month (about 53 American dollars or 37 Euros).

A local leader in the capital city of Kigali reflects on the plastic bag ban. He has seen it transform the city. The streets are clean. And hand-made bags and baskets are now in high demand, providing employment for many artisans.

Follow these links for past FRW stories on innovative uses of bananas and banana waste:

-“East Africa: Handmade banana briquettes could replace firewood [1]” (FRW #66, May 2009)
-“Rwanda: Processing bananas changes lives in Rwanda [2]” (FRW #41, October 2008)