Banana is cultivated in Erode district all through the year. Every year, after the plant bears fruits the main stem (called pseudo stem) needs to be removed, since the main plant starts to wither and the crop continues to grow through offshoots for two or more years.

Normally farmers employ labour to either cut or uproot the pseudo stems and throw them by the roadside. For this, a farmer needs to invest Rs. 10,000 per acre as labour charge for cutting and removing the plant from the field.

Very few farmers show inclination to use the stem as manure by shredding and incorporating it in the fields. They feel that it is time consuming and laborious.

Not aware

The fibre from the plant has been traditionally used for stringing flowers and in the manufacture of paper and rugs. But farmers are still not aware of the potential of fibre generation from an acre of banana plantation.

As part of promoting rural entrepreneurs in the field of agriculture and animal husbandry, the Myrada KVK in Erode designed a skill training programme on banana fibre extraction for unemployed rural youth in the region.

Mr. S. Prasath, an unemployed youth from Alukkuli village near Gobichettipalayam, was also a participant of this training programme. Hailing from a farmer’s family, Mr. Prasath studied to be an engineer and was dreaming to become an entrepreneur.

With the help of Myrada he set up a small banana fibre production unit near his village and initially produced 10 kg of banana fibre from the machine.

However, he was not satisfied with the production, so he further approached the institute for a better and more efficient machine and was advised to make changes to his existing machine.

Income

“Since the innovator is basically an engineering graduate he understood our suggestions and made suitable refinements to the machine. This enhanced his production to 120 kg per day and now he produces about 5 tonnes of fibre a month. In a month he earns Rs. 4,200 as net income from this enterprise.

“In addition, he provides employment to 25 agricultural labourers on a regular basis,” says Dr. P. Alagesan, Programme Coordinator, Myrada. Simultaneously the entrepreneur also worked to utilise the by-products of banana fibre extraction like pith and sap water.

Trials

“In case of managing banana pith, a series of trials has been taken up at the institute to find a suitable method for composting the pith, which can be mulched into the soil. The pith compost is a rich source of soil nutrient as it helps increase the beneficial microorganisms in the soil. The sap water from the stem is being experimented to be used as dyeing material for clothes, and use for as growth promoter in crops,” explains Mr. Alagesan.

“Since there is a huge demand and scope for banana fibre I am working on manufacturing bulk production, producing of yarn from the fibre and efficiently managing the waste generated from it. I am trying to manufacture household materials, agricultural inputs and handicrafts from the waste,” says Mr. Prasath.

From an acre

An acre of pseudostem is required for generating about 120 kg of banana fibre a day. From an acre of land you can produce about 1,000 to 1,500 stems approximately.

Roughly 10-13 stems give you around one to two kg of fibre depending upon the soil, water and plant condition. Companies willingly pay Rs 110--200 for a kg of fibre today, according to Dr. Alagesan.

Apart from this Mr. Prasath is using the pith to make banana fibre pots and pellets as growth base material for nursery plants.

For more details interested farmers can contact Mr.S.Prasath, No 20, Mahalakshmi nagar, Modachur, Gobichettipalayam, Erode district – 638476, Phone: 9790039998, Email: bananafibres@yahoo.in and info.braydil@gmail.com