All is good with the banana tree
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CTA. 2005. All is good with the banana tree. Spore 103. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/47874
Internet URL: http://spore.cta.int/images/stories/pdf/old/spore103.pdf
It would be a mistake to let the banana overshadow the banana tree. For while the fruit lends itself to a variety of uses, the pseudostem and leaves can often also be made into innovative products. In the South, a number of countries are doing just that.
The dessert banana is the most popular fruit worldwide in terms of export. And ACP countries have fought bitterly to retain their commercial advantage in the European market, since access is crucial to the economic development of their rural areas. Even so, exports only account for 13% of the 70 million t of dessert bananas produced worldwide. The remaining 87% are consumed locally. Sweet bananas aside, a further 30 million t of cooking bananas or plantains are produced each year for the domestic market. Bananas therefore play a key role in the economy and food security of producer countries. But other parts of the banana tree may also be used and the by-products sold on local or overseas markets. In ACP regions, countries are constantly researching, developing and inventing new uses, because nothing goes to waste in the banana tree. Drinking bananas with and without moderation Extending the banana s shelf-life Every last bit has its use, but not for long. The fruit is sensitive to heat and is highly perishable. More than one-quarter of total output is estimated to be lost in this way each year. In Ghana and Papua New Guinea for example, production rates exceed local demand, but the poor state of the roads makes it difficult to supply markets in the surrounding towns with sufficient speed. However, when the dessert bananas or plantains are processed into flour, dried fruit or chips, the shelf-life increases from 2 weeks to more than 6 months or even a year. Such products can replace wheat flour and potato chips, both of which are often imported. In the Pacific islands of Samoa, plantain varieties make excellent savoury chips. In South Africa, for the past 30 years a company in Mpumalanga, 400 km from Johannesburg, has been processing 10% of its output into dried bananas (cubes and slices) for sale to local schools. As for the banana skins, these provide free fodder for pigs. In Uganda, a banana processing company specialises in using solar power to dry the fruit in 2 or 3 days. It makes the dryers and sells them on credit for US$200 ( 165) per unit to their producers, after first training them on how to use it. Realising that production and processing are inextricably linked, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain (INIBAP) worked between 2002 and 2004 to select the species of bananas that would be most amenable to these various processing techniques. Drinking bananas with and without moderation Overripe sweet bananas can be made into pulp or drinks. In Fiji, the fruit is squeezed and the pulp is then filtered and enriched with vitamin C to prevent it from darkening. The product is sent by container to manufacturers of infant foods, ice creams and confectionery. In West Africa and elsewhere, small firms are successfully marketing pure banana juice, selling it by the glass in the street or in 500 ml bottles in the shops. Banana wine is very popular throughout East Africa. In Tanzania, bananas are left to ferment between 15 and 60 days to produce a wine of 7 to 9 degrees proof. In Kenya, banana wine is considered a palatable substitute for the much stronger sugar cane-based alcohol. Using banana fibre Although both dessert and plantain bananas lend themselves to a range of processing techniques intended for human consumption, these only generate limited revenues. That is why other parts of the banana tree are also used. Women in Kenya s Maragua district make craft items from banana fibre and sell them on the market. They take the broad base of the leaves which more or less enclose the pseudostem of the banana tree and which conceal fibres roughly 90 cm long, these are then dried, treated and plaited. The women offer tablemats, photograph frames, earrings and boxes as souvenirs, for sale to intermediaries who sell them in the market or on order, mainly to tourists. Each week, the women themselves harvest the leaves to ensure the finest quality, and extract some 50 kg of fibre. In Gabon, Haiti and Uganda, banana fibre is also used to make paper. The fibre is cut into 1 to 2 cm long pieces, mixed with ash and boiled for 8 h. The paste is then spread out as desired and dried, before being pressed to make it more uniform. Sold as sheets of paper, greeting or visiting cards, this paper can be found in craft shops throughout Europe and elsewhere in the world. Finally, the European association for composite materials, the JEC Group, has awarded an innovation prize to a company in the Philippines which is using banana fibre (Musa textilis) as a replacement for glass fibre in the lower bodywork of a top-range European car. According to the manufacturer, using this new fibre in the automobile industry could cut energy costs in production by 60%. The fibres from this banana tree are more commonly used to make fabric and rope. Products which make use of banana fibre, a part of the banana tree deemed useless in the context of food production, may in future offer quality, economical and ecological alternatives. Photographic credit: R. Faidutti © FAO / 19323