27 Year Old Young Ugandan Create Job for Young People through Recycling Banana Fibres
Muhammed Dimma Mawejje. A 27-year-old, recycles banana fibres to create jobs for young people I Uganda. At Mawejje Creations and Eco Crafts, Harvetmoney during an interview with him noted that Mawejje employs seven youth directly and about 30 women indirectly. They make and sell different products from banana fibre. He has also skilled 180 youth and so far, recycled over 2,100kg of banana waste. Within two years, he has grown the social enterprise from sh500,000 to sh37m and in the process scooped local and global awards
In 2013, Mawejje acquired craft skills from a neighbour who was making necklaces, earrings and bracelets out of paper. He had even sold a few pieces abroad through a friend he met in Kasangati. He made a profit of sh150,000, but did not take the business far.
Around that time, he got a bursary to Texfad Vocational Centre in Mukono, where he was trained to recycle banana fibres.
The course was six months.
“The course cost sh50, 000,” he says adding that, “We would come up with innovations and work with tutors to develop them.”
Mawejje developed a passion for banana fibres. He realised this was the business he wanted to be known for. It had a virgin market.
“I invested a lot of time researching about banana fibres,” he says.
He adds that he realized that from the fibres one can make a wide range of products including clothes, jewellery and from the banana stems, one can get thread and paper, among others.
With this, he also saw his dream of starting a company come to life.
He birthed Mawejje Creations and opened a Facebook page. Sadly, in the process of registering it, he was conned sh1m. But he did not give up until he had it registered.
“I launched it in 2018 as a social enterprise. I wanted to boost the livelihood of banana growers and youth,” he says.
Meanwhile, for months, before he graduated, he would produce jewellery. The school would sell them and give him commission which he survived on.
In 2018, Mawejje got a scholarship to the Social Innovation Academy (SINA) in Mpigi where he spent 12 months.
“At SINA I still focused on adding value to banana fibres but was hesitant to share the idea with my tutors,” he shares.
However, his tutor Ibrahim Kigozi, fell in love with his idea and connected Mawejje to a women’s organization; Sawa world. They were looking for youths with eco-friendly ideas to compete for What’s Your Solution 2018 award. He scooped the award worth sh2.5million.
Consequently, he also attended the Business summit 2018, in Cairo courtesy of the Egyptian government.
This was a big push to Mawejje. When he returned after a week, he was determined to take his innovation a notch higher.
“I focused more on marketing my company while researching on bark cloth, material performance and durability,” he shares.
He also needed an office. His dad offered him space at home (in Kasangati) and a friend donated to him a laptop. He started operations.
“I started producing wall clocks and jewellery on a small scale; participated in different competitions and won awards,” he elaborates.
“I started with sh500,000; 50% savings and 50% donations from friends and family,” he says. He has grown it to a worth of sh37m.
However, all was going as planned, but COVID-19 hit Uganda, leading to a lockdown in March 2020.
“I organised a fundraising online and raised $150 for materials,” he says. He needed a boost to increase production.
By the time the lockdown was lifted, Mawejje had already started serious production of wall clocks. He sold them for sh50,000 and consequently started youth’s skills training with in his community. He has so far trained 160 youths to recycle banana fibres under his annual programme; BAFETE 2019 (Banana Fiber Extraction Training Editions). It equips women and youths with extraction and hand craft skills for free.
“I am working on a business incubation programme to help youths start businesses in banana fibres,” he shares.
At his workshop, Mawejje works with seven youths who earn commission on items sold and over 30 women who collect banana fibres.
He has diversified into other ventures including Fabrium designs that make bags and belts and in future, clothes and shoes from banana fibre. Last year, he started Eco craft Uganda, an arm of Mawejje Creations that delivers his products and crafts of other youth around the country.
In one month, Mawejje produces about 30 wall clocks, 1,000 pairs of earrings and 100 pen holders. They also produce tablemats and card holders.
The price depends on the product, but they range between sh2,000 and sh100,000.
He sells to households, crafts shops, restaurants and tourists.
Mawejje relies on recommendations, social media marketing and friends who live abroad.
“I pay sh50, 000 for power because we use lighting all day when we are working,” he says.
He also pays sh300, 000 in rent monthly.
Mawejje buys a kilo of fibres at sh1,000-sh2,000.
On average, the workers take home about sh100,000 each per month.
“We are still growing and anticipate being far in next three years,” he says.
Risks involved in the business
When they get the fibre; they sort and grade that which can be used. They use knives and this takes time and comes with cuts. They have recently started using sandpaper.
“I have no control over materials. Fibre can be damaged during transportation and handling,” he says adding that this leads to losses. Mawejje has learnt to treat it with liquid soap and water to ensure durability.
Mawejje faces a challenge of thriving in a competitive market yet his production is limited because they use hands which are tiresome. He is saving to buy machines. He needs a decorticator machine at about sh15m.
“Our other challenge is inadequate capital. He needs more funds to buy materials and machinery to come up with different products.
“It’s also not easy to market our products since many people are less informed about banana fibre innovations and value addition,” he says.
Mawejje envisions being as well-established social entrepreneur and investor supervising hundreds of women who will be running social business that transform banana fibres into fabrics. He adds that the world has embraced banana fibre as suitable material for fashion industry.
Mawejje also looks at recycling over three tonnes of banana fibres annually. “Being that we use hands, we have so far managed to recycle 20,000kg of banana fibres a year,” he explains.
“I strive to improve lives. I will continue to use different media platforms to share insights on how to make it in entrepreneurship even without funding,” he explains.
What you need to start this business
Mawejje says passion is important as this will guide the entrepreneur along the right trajectory. One also needs training and research on banana fibres; how they are prepared, the products, target market and how to get there.
This article originally appeared on harvestmoney.co.ug and is published here for educational purpose