Women in Igembe region of Meru County have carved a niche for themselves selling banana leaves along the streets of Maua town in Igembe South sub-county.
They move along the busy roads in the town as well as near miraa stores sitting alongside their neat stacks of banana leaves waiting for their customers.
Banana leaves in the area have gone beyond being used as fodder for livestock but also a trading commodity.
The commodity is in high demand in the area due to miraa business. The leaves and threads made from banana stocks are used to wrap miraa to prevent it from drying before reaching various markets.
Speaking to one of the miraa traders Amos Gitonga said that the green leaves used to wrap miraa are essential for maintaining its quality and keeping the substance as fresh as possible.
Emily Kamami, one of the banana leaves sellers along Maua –Meru highway maintained that the booming business has helped her to educate her two children both now in secondary school.
She noted that she normally packs the leaves into bunches of ten leaves which are traded at Sh50 per bunch.
Monica Karema, 54, said that she has been in the business for the past 15 years and the hustle has been able to pay for her rent and offset other bills. She however revealed that during their childhood using banana leaves was an integral part in the Meru culture as they were used for various purposes.
“During important functions like ruracio (payment of dowry) and even in initiation ceremonies the leaves were used as a foil or lid to cover foods,” Karema said.
She added that many people could only serve their meals in a banana leaf as it could accommodate large quantities of food due to its size. “We used small leaves for serving breakfast and supper while the larger ones for lunch,” she noted.
Karema further maintained that leaves were easy and economical in terms of cleaning since one could just sprinkle water on the leaf and wipe it in a few seconds.
Banana leaves were also friendly to the environment compared to plastic plates due to their biodegradable nature, said the trader.
By Kamanja Maeria