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Feb 10, 2023

The Bright Side of Banana Fibers

Buena Vista Village is a small farming community located on the banks of the Mopan River in the Cayo District. The village primarily produces citrus and bananas, but now, the women of Buena Vista Village are creating a trade of their own. The up-and-coming artisans are weaving a name for themselves with their exquisite tapestries made from banana fibers. In tonight’s “On the Bright Side” Sabreena Daly takes us to the Belize Banana Fibers base, where they transform agricultural waste into valuable home decor.  


Sabreena Daly, Reporting

Each item in this room has one thing in common- banana fibers. What you are looking at are the final products produced from this waste material. Retiree Jerri Dennis settled in Belize and saw the potential of an untapped market. Through an extensive process, they transform banana stocks that farmers dispose of, producing this end result. Belize Banana Fibers is also a business that supports women in different communities.


Jerri Dennis

Jerri Dennis, Founder, Belize Banana Fibers

It started about two years ago, but the pandemic had hit. My friend sent me a video it showed people in India making products from banana fibers. The very next day, I saw it on my Facebook feed and I showed it to my friends. I was just gung hoe. We went down south and learned how to weave and if this was a feasible project. We started researching the machines and how they work and decided which one we wanted to order.”


But, they could not afford the machine that would generate fibers from banana stocks. Instead, they got innovative and created their own.


Jerri Dennis

During this process we said, well, we’re going to have to make one. Mr. Chulin, our farm manager said, I can do it. Unbeknownst to us, he was a mechanical engineer and had been studying that. So, we went out and got the steel and honed down what the machine would be, the specs of it, and he made the machine.”


Humberto Chulin

Humberto Chulin, Co-founder, Belize Banana Fibers 

We had different machines that we were looking at. They wanted this and this but the studies that they were making and that I was making, I told them, this will be the perfect one. They had their one and said you may want to do it this way but I said, this will be the perfect one. So, we stuck with this one.”


After manually separating the layers from each stock, the machine breaks them down into strips. The extraction also rids the stock of additional roughage which is then turned into compost. For Belize Banana Fibers, everything has a use.


Humberto Chulin

“So, when we put it over here, we run the machine and see.”



“So, this is what will be making beautiful pieces like that we see there. And the next step is boiling it to take out the microorganisms and then you hang it on the line.”

Jerri Dennis

The banana stocks are biodegradable and they’re waste; so, we’re using waste essentially. From our project here, we produce waste again which goes into compost, it goes into all kinds of things. They’ve started studies just within the last two years that reveal the waste that comes after the fiber is pulled out, that waste can clean up oceans, it can take the lead out of water and the juice from it is also good for medicinal purposes. There are so many projects that can spin off from this one. We began educating ourselves on how to process the fiber; it’s not an easy thing. You’d think it’s just run it through, hang it and dry it, then, you can use it. Well, that’s not the case. We had to learn how to process it further and get all the microorganisms out of it so it can last a long time because deterioration won’t happen.”


The next stage is the boiling process, after which they are dried.



“This is the final stage. The fibers are laid out to be dried on lines like curtains. After drying, they will be distributed to women in different communities who have taken on the artisan trade.”

Jerri Dennis

We educated ourselves on how to make products. It’s all over the internet. We’re internet schooled. We started making our own products and now we teach it. We started going to villages and we teach. Ladies there they make these products and put their own creativity to it because we only teach the basics. So, we take the fiber to them. We give it to them; we don’t charge them for it. And then when they have their products made, we go and pick them up and pay them right then. Our end goal is to put income into these families. The women can work at home with their children; they can see their husbands, and their households. They can work and make these products and we pick them up.”


For Julia Hernandez transitioning from a seasonal seamstress to a full-time weaver started with the pandemic. Now at her home in the village, she and her friends settle on a veranda to do their day’s work, weaving with their little ones right at their side. Julia says this is her newfound profession.

Julia Hernandez

 Julia Hernandez, Weaver, Belize Banana Fibers

When school was closed we didn’t have work because we couldn’t do uniforms. We didn’t have a job because of Covid. It was a problem. The sewing stopped because children were not going to school. Then I got this opportunity to start to work. It’s a nice job opportunity because we don’t have to spend our time selling it on the road, or house to house or even the shops. She brings the fiber and then she buys the products.”


Looking on the Bright Side, I’m Sabreena Daly.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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