Rwanda: Local Varsity Researcher on Turning Banana Stems, Buds Into Food, Paper Products

Leonard Macumu, a researcher at the Institut Catholique de Kabgayi (ICK) is spearheading a pioneering project that strengthens the banana plantation value chain.

By harnessing the capabilities of banana stems and buds, the scientist and his team who operate at ICK’s incubation centre are turning the tropical fruit into natural banana beer, edible vegetables, and even sustainable paper products.

Speaking to The New Times during the Higher Education Council (HEC)’s exhibition of innovative projects developed by university students on May 10, Macumu revealed that with their innovative approach, the team embarked on research to explore the vast possibilities hidden within banana plantations.

Their journey began with a ‘simple’ realisation that “every part of the banana plant holds tremendous potential waiting to be unlocked.”

As they delved into the banana plantation in Muhanga District, their research took them on a transformative path, unveiling the value that could be derived from seemingly ordinary components.

Macumu mentioned that ‘Iyukunda’, the banana beer they produce, is entirely natural, as they only use sorghum as an additional ingredient. Moreover, their banana stems are utilised to create materials such as envelopes, boxes, and other paper products.

As part of their project, they have developed a machine to aid in banana beer production, and another to transform banana pseudo-stems into paper.

Regarding the unique nature of their banana beer, Macumu explained that it is completely natural given that they refrain from adding any chemical products, including water, and prioritise meticulous hygiene during the brewing process.

“We store the beer naturally without relying on any chemical preservatives, ensuring its longevity without compromising quality,” he explained.

One of the challenges they encountered was finding suitable packaging for their products. However, Macumu said they have successfully resolved this issue and are now ready to bring their products to the market.

Regarding the envelopes made from banana stems, Macumu said they are exploring business opportunities to monetize this aspect. He highlighted that their eco-friendly products contribute to addressing some of the challenges faced by the people of Rwanda, particularly in terms of packaging and environmental conservation.