We make a range of products from fibre extracted from harvested banana tree trunks. Every year, large quantities of trunks are thrown away. We extract the fibre from these trunks using a natural, gentle and chemical-free method. We mainly use the trunks of trees grown around Kegalle, which is a small town an hour and a half from the ancient city of Kandy in west-central Sri Lanka.
Our brand name, Musaco, is a combination of ‘musa’, which is a native species of banana famous in the Kegalle region, and ‘co’, which means ‘fibrous tree trunk.’
In 2013, a Japanese foundation started supporting the production of banana fibre handicrafts in the Kegalle area to generate incomes for vulnerable people. The Musaco concept was created by French strategy designer Dorothée Etienne in 2015. Musaco has also benefitted from the support of Ms. Mieko Murai, a Japanese partner. In December 2019, Musaco opened a small handicrafts shop in Kegalle. However, due to the prolonged corona, the shop closed in November 2020.
Musaco is a not-for-profit workers’ cooperative. It has seven core staff, plus about 25 members who spin and weave the thread. Some of Musaco’s producers have disabilities, while others have family members with disabilities. Working together closely, everyone plays their part in lovingly crafting Musaco’s upcycled products.
How we make MUSACO handicrafts
Step 1 :
Looking for unwanted banana tree trunks
Members of our production team start by asking friends and neighbours if they have any unwanted banana tree trunks on their property. Sometimes members of the team hear about tree trunks available some way off, so they rent a truck for the day and head to the site to pick them up. Once they locate the tree, they cut it down with a machete. The trunk of a banana tree contains a lot of water, which makes it very heavy, so cutting it down is hard work!
Step 2 :
Extracting the fibre from the trunk
Once the tree has been cut down, it is taken to Musaco’s fibre-extraction machine. Because the trunk contains a lot of water, it will rot if left unattended to, so it’s important to extract the fibre as soon as possible. First, the outer bark of the trunk is removed and it is cut lengthwise into long, thin pieces. These are pushed through the machine one by one and then pulled back the way they came. Et voilà! Banana fibre!
Step 3 :
Washing and drying the fibre
One by one, the bundles of fibre are washed in water and then draped over a rope and dried in the sun. You have to be careful not to let the fibre dry out too much or it will break. You also have to be careful not to let the fibre get damp or it will go mouldy.
Step 4 :
Making banana fibre thread
Once the bundles of fibre are dry, they are taken indoors and put into storage. Our production team spins the fibre into top quality thread by hand, which is a time-consuming process. One of the most difficult aspects of making thread from banana fibre is ensuring that the knots are all of the same thickness. Musaco’s thread varies in thickness from 0.5mm to 8mm.
Step 5 :
The production process
Once the thread has been spun, it’s ready to be turned into a beautiful Musaco product. Crocheting can be done with thread 0.5 mm to 1 mm thick, but making such fine thread is expensive because it requires both time and skill. You need a lot of thread to make more densely stitched products, and inevitably this too increases the price. We like to give our customers reasonably priced products, so we combine fine threadwork with other stitching and fabric making methods. We also try to strike a balance between fair prices and a reasonable workload for members of the production team.
MUSACO production team
Musaco was registered as a business in Kegalle on January 10th, 2019 and is currently in the process of registering with the Sri Lankan Ministry of Industry.
Business name : MUSACO
Business registration number : K/KG/004722 >> Business registration certificate
Operation manager : Murai Mieko
Sri Lanka office : No.60, Rockhill Watta, Kegalle, Sri Lanka
Phone number : Sri Lanka : +94 76 939 9658
Mail address : firstname.lastname@example.org
Sales URL : http://musaco-srilanka.com , Facebook : Musaco.Sri Lanka / Instagram : musaco.sri
What the members of our production team say about Musaco
“We’ve been making banana-fibre handicraft products with the help of experts like Dorothée from France and Mieko from Japan since our first meeting in 2014 . The project started as a way of supporting people with disabilities. While we continue to support people with disabilities, we also want to support the other members of our production team so they can earn enough money to live their lives in dignity. In December 2019, we were able to launch MUSACO as a business. We’re committed to delivering high-quality, handmade MUSACO products to each of you one by one.”
“I joined the kitchen garden project to support people with disabilities in 2012 and the banana fibre project in 2014. Making handicrafts from banana fibre takes a lot of time because everything has to be done by hand. I know the members of the MUSACO team enjoy making the products and if we can crack the international market, everything will be great. My son has a disability. He’s involved in the vegetable garden. We’re both really happy because making MUSACO products is a lot of fun. We’re proud to offer them to you.”
“Initially, I got technical training to make handicrafts out of flax, but then a friend told me about Musaco’s banana-fibre handicraft-making programme. Their products looked great, so I decided to get involved straight away. I enjoy making handicrafts with the other members of the team every day. And it’s a big help financially too. I feel committed to Musaco’s mission and want to carry on making products for them.”
“One day six years ago, I went to clean the temple in Shiyambalapitiya, and saw some people being trained to make banana fibre handicrafts. It looked interesting, so I got involved. I learned various techniques during the workshop, and now I can make beautiful products. Now that MUSACO has a shop, working with the other members has become more fun . I feel more positive about things! The starting point for the project was supporting people with disabilities and that’s what we’ll carry on doing.”
“I got interested because my mother was making things out of banana fibre. I thought that the lack of a local market would be a big problem, but as we’ve started tapping into the international market, my job has become more interesting. Making new products is a lot of fun and my income is good too. Having a break from everyday life and working with the other members of the team has been really rewarding. With the money I earn working for MUSACO, I can afford to study. Recently I started going to classes in marketing. What I have learned there will be very useful for MUSACO. All the MUSACO products we make are eco-friendly, and we put a lot of thought into them!”
“I’ve been making banana fibre products with MUSACO since March 2020. I’ve been able to create new handicrafts, and it’s given me some breathing room, mentally speaking. On top of that, my family is really pleased with the money I’m making. I’m really grateful for the chance to work as part of a team. In the future, I’d like to get involved in developing new products, accounting transparency, and introducing local people to our products. I hope that as many people as possible get to appreciate MUSACO’s products. I’d like to get involved in training people with disabilities too. I want to help them, even if it’s only a little bit.”
“I first heard about Musaco from an acquaintance and soon decided to get involved. I'm a newcomer, so I still have a lot to learn, but I enjoy making products with the other members of the team. I make a good income, so it’s been a help moneywise too. I’d like to get involved in promoting our products. I’m looking forward to the challenge of making new banana fibre products too.”
We offer banana fibre handicrafts training around Sri Lanka
Musaco can provide training in banana-fibre handicrafts production to anywhere in Sri Lanka (subject to certain limitations). Twice a month, we also conduct on-site training at local facilities for people with disabilities. For details, please get in touch via the ‘Contact Us’ page of this site.