The plantain or banana is a fruit that can be cultivated in any part of the country. It is also the most consumed fruit by Sri Lankans. It commands respect in the marketplace.
Not only the fruit, but the peel of the plantain tree, flower and core of the stem are used to make edible dishes.
The plantain tree is in itself a mine of medicinal properties. Each part of the tree, such as the leaves, inflourescence and the core of the stem, is enriched with medicinal powers. In our country, we use the leaves of the plantain tree for wrapping food as an alternative to lunch packing paper. And we have a belief that hot meals eaten off a plaintain leaf adds to the flavour of the food. Moreover, it is said that it is good for our eyesight and enhances physical beauty.
When the core of the stem is used as curry (dish),the fibrous part of the stem is removed. This fibrous part was considered superfluous. However, the National Crafts Council (NCC), for the first time in Sri Lanka, has deemed the fibrous part of the plantain stem as an income generating source.
A special project has been initiated by the NCC to educate plantain tree farmers on how to eliminate the fibres from the stem and make elegant handicrafts from it. These fibres could be used in the preparation of handbags, mats, rugs, carpets and eye-catching ornaments.
Initially, the NCC chose Embilipitiya to kick off with the project. NCC sources said that plantain tree farmers were able to earn an additional income of Rs.5000 from one plantain tree through merely using its fibres productively in the making of handicrafts.
The NCC intends to spread the project to the other districts as well in time to come. "This kind of initiatives are vital to expand and uplift the handicraft industry of the country. On the one hand, we are converting discarded plaintain fibre into an income generating source.
"On the other hand, it opens up a number of self-employment opportunities for rural housewives," said NCC sources.