Make no-cost banana and plantain rope

Post-harvest activities


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Leaf sheaths from the stems of banana or plantain plants can be separated and split to produce strong, no-cost cord which has many uses on the farm.

Information on this subject area was requested from participants in Cameroon, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Nigeria, Paraguay, and Philippines.

The item:
Do you ever need rope or twine to stake plants or to tie something together but find that you don’t have any to use? If you grow bananas or plantain, then there’s an easy way to make some cord that won’t cost any money. You can use the stringy fibres from banana plants to make your own rope—rope that’s very strong and has many uses.

If you don’t already use the stringy fibres from banana plants for this purpose, what I’m going to tell you about now may be useful to you. It applies to both plantain and banana plants.

While I’m talking, I’ll refer to the trunk of the banana plant as the stem. As you know, this stem is formed of a central stem on the inside, and leaf sheaths on the outside. We’ll call them leaf sections.

To get the fibres from the banana tree for making rope, it’s best to wait until after the fruit is harvested, then cut the stem into log-shaped pieces. The length of these log-shaped pieces should be the same length you want for your rope.

Now you have your lengths of banana stem cut into pieces like logs. The next step is to peel the leaf sections off the stem, one by one. Depending on the thickness of the tree, you may get up to 20 leaf sections from one log.

After you have separated all the leaf sections from the banana stems, spread them in the sun to dry. You should do this as soon as possible to prevent insects from getting into the leaf sections and damaging them. Leave the sections in the sun for about a day, or until you can see that they are well-dried. If the leaf sections get too dry and are brittle when you want to use them, you can simply wet them to soften them up.

You are now ready to split them into several narrower sections. The width of the narrow sections will depend upon how strong you want the rope or cord to be. You can use your fingers or a knife to tear off strips the size you want. They could be 3 or 4 cm (1 or 2 inches) wide, or wider or narrower. It really depends on how thick and strong you need the rope to be. You might be using these strips as they are, or you might twist or braid several of them together for greater strength.

Now you have the many lengths of banana leaf cord or rope of the width and length you want. If they’re not long enough, simply tie several sections together.

It’s also possible to use the outer leaf sections of the stem to make rope while the banana plant is still standing and bearing fruit. This is because the outer pieces of the stem dry out and die even while the rest of the tree is still healthy. You can pull one or two of these outer leaf sections off the stem without affecting the life of the plant. It will still stay healthy and produce fruit.

After you’ve separated one or two of these leaf sheath sections from the stem, use the same method I’ve just described to make your rope.

If you need a thicker, stronger rope, you can either tear off wider strips of the leaf sections or you can twist, weave, or braid several strips together. For a longer rope, simply tie several shorter sections together.

Just think of all the uses you could find for rope like this. It can be used to tie bundles together or for tying garden plants to stakes so they won’t fall over in wind or heavy rain, or simply because the crop is too heavy. In Nigeria, for example, people use this kind of cord to tie their yam plants to stakes for support, or to tie yams against vertical poles in storage.

You might want to make up some extra rope when you’re harvesting your bananas and put it aside in case you need it later.

So, the next time you have a need for some rope, out in the field, in the yard, or around your home, look to the banana or plantain tree as a reliable source of good strong rope.

Serving Agriculture, the Basic Industry, this is ____.

Information sources

1. DCFRN participant Stanislas Ugo Dike, Stanfield Library, Ejemekwuru P.A., Imo State, Nigeria.

2. DCFRN participant Osuji Chukwu Stan, extension worker and director of library services, K.M.M. Gardens Farm, Umuoda P.A. Mbaise, Imo State, Nigeria.

3. DCFRN participant Thomas O. Asovuerhie, agricultural superintendent, Delta Glass Co., Ughelli, Bendel State, Nigeria.

4. DCFRN participant Michael Mboh, Provincial Department of Agriculture, Bamenda, Cameroon.