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Local Entrepreneurs Make Decorative Items from Banana Fiber

The Belize Banana Fibers is a local business that specializes in the refinement and recycling of banana fiber.  It is situated in the western village of Unitedville.  The banana stalks are acquired through donations from farmers after they have harvested their crops.  Reporter Giovanna Moguel tells us more about this modern marvel. 

Giovanna Moguel, Love FM News: Apart from being a rich source of potassium and jam packed with nutrients, bananas are also rich in fibre. These fibres would normally be thrown away but the Belize Banana Fibers takes this waste product and transforms it into strands of silky banana threads. The twines are then intricately woven into an array of everyday items. CEO Jerri Dennis says starting this business was not easy because the fibre machine was difficult to procure. However, that did not stop her. She says that after extensive research she decided to get their own machine made. 

Jerri Meeker Dennis, CEO, Belize Banana Fibers: “We looked at all the machines that were out there and of course there’s none in Belize. There’s none in the U.S. It’s all eastern countries and so, we did find a machine that we thought we would order and they, for one reason or another, it couldn’t get here. So we were going to have one made. We’re friends with Chulin and he was here and he said, “Wait a minute. I can make this.” And he did. The very first run on it was just beautiful. God was with us. Very first run the fibre was beautiful so we knew from that point we could go ahead and develop the machine and then we had to learn how to work with the fibre. Right? So we start looking at what could be done with the fibre. How do we process it? And we’ve come up with a lot of knowledge.” 

Giovanna Moguel, Love FM News: Humberto Chulin is the mastermind behind this machine. He says it has significantly increased their productivity rate. In the past the pseudo stems were run over by a car tire in order to flatten it. Since then the business has blossomed and it now produces decorative items such as chairs, plant holders, and even handbags and footwear. 

Humberto Chulin, Mechanical Engineer, Belize Banana Fibers: “We started studying on how to make a machine so actually, I built one and that is one of the most ones we have right now and it is adjustable that we can bring it up and down as we are working. So if we have thicker material we can adjust it to that and we have been doing that for almost a year right now. We have been doing some classes in all areas. When we started we started in Benque. I grew up in Succotz and everything but eventually, it never ended the way we wanted it so then we moved to San Marcus right in P.G. We did a one hour there then we moved to Buena Vista, did a next workshop. We have been doing workshops all over the place here in San Ignacio, in Cayo.”

Giovanna Moguel, Love FM News: This business has not only birthed financial opportunities for Dennis but also the community. She explains that they have conducted several workshops to teach women about the trade. This effort is geared at enabling women to generate an income and become self-sustainable. The products made by the trainees are evaluated and if they’re of high quality, they purchase it and market it. 

Jerri Meeker Dennis, CEO, Belize Banana Fibers: “We give them the fibre. They make the product. We purchase it and then from that point we market it and we’re trying to develop our label right now and doing some marketing. Some of the resorts in Belize have been very helpful in keeping us alive. And we’ve branched out into making chairs, hanging light, lamps, shades. There’s really nothing we can’t do.”

Giovanna Moguel, Love FM News: Dennis says the Belize Banana Fiber has been in operation for a year. They have since conducted at least seven workshops throughout the country and they plan on conducting even more. Giovanna Moguel for Love News.