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This blog was written by Dana Dumpangol, a Youth Environment Living Labs (YELL) Intern.

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If you’re bananas for change, jom read more here!
From Banana Waste to Eco-Wonders
Persevering through Challenges
Winning Social Entrepreneurship: Inspiring Aspirations

From Banana Waste to Eco-Wonders

Figure 1: Banana wastes collected by Borneo Fertilyst (Left) and D’ Banana Craft (Right)

© Borneo Fertilyst & D’ Banana Craft

“Ada banyak faktor yang mendorong –  dari segi income, dari segi peluang yang ada kerana raw material dia sangat senang dan boleh dikatakan free…”

Fazly (28) on the motivation for starting their social enterprise. (1)

In a world where agricultural waste is a pressing issue, we meet Borneo Fertilyst and D’ Banana Craft, who are taking on the challenge of reducing banana waste, each with their own unique approach.

Three brothers from Tuaran, Sabah,  Fazly (28), Fauzi (23), and Fahmi (19) are no strangers to plantations disposing banana waste into drains or burning them. They were keen to experiment with opportunities to transform them into something valuable, which could benefit the environment, their community and local businesses. 

Fazly, who works in the hospitality industry saw the consequent unemployment  COVID-19 has caused in his community. However, while many are unemployed, their families have banana farms and Fazly notes, “banana farms could be used for more than just harvesting and selling the fruit.”. 

After doing further research, the three brothers founded D’ Banana Craft.  The project aimed to turn banana waste into paper packaging products such as boxes and even handicrafts. Their locally-produced packaging prototypes were well received by the community and garnered support from local businesses, who otherwise pay higher costs when importing packaging products.

Figure 2: Fahmi in the process of making handicrafts
© D’ Banana Craft
Figure 3: D’Banana Crafts’ packaging prototypes including boxes, paper bags and frames.
© D’ Banana

“Kami start dengan rancangan yang berjangka pendek dulu. Dari rancangan jangka pendek ke jangka panjang”

Bella (31) on the strategy for her social enterprise. (2)

On the other side of Sabah, in Kota Marudu, Bella (31) had a similar idea. Walking through the local market, she noticed the abundance of banana peels discarded by pisang goreng1 vendors, inspiring the birth of Borneo Fertilyst. Bella and her team members, Ayu (21) and Hasrimie (27) took the opportunity to produce natural fertilizers from the banana peel that they collected from pisang goreng vendors.  Over a span of 3 months, they collected 900 kg of banana peel and transformed it into 360 litres of liquid fertilizer they promoted as Microbella and 600 kg of natural bokashi promoted as Bokashi Bella Tech.

In addition to their products, Bella and her team aspires to introduce organic agriculture to the local community. Many young people in rural districts like Kota Marudu often leave the kampung2 to find better job prospects in urban areas. Bella and her team conduct workshops to transfer knowledge and build capacity among locals aspiring to start their own venture into the organic fertilizer business. Bella hopes it encourages them to stay and thrive in their communities. To date, Borneo Fertilyst has managed to employ 5 individuals in her community, consisting of young parents and young adults from low-income households.

“Sebab itu kami harap sangat kita punya usaha untuk masuk kampung bagi pendedahan kepada belia untuk attract diorang kembali kepada pertanian.”

Bella (31) on encouraging youths to stay and work in the community. (3)

Persevering through Challenges

Figure 4: Borneo Fertilyst Team in action, creating Bokashi Bella Tech
© Borneo Fertilyst
Figure 5: CraftWorkshop conducted in Gerai Bunga, in Pekan Kota Marudu to teach about composting to aspiring individuals.
© Borneo Fertilyst

“Cabaran kami sekarang tiada kenderaan kalau mau pergi buat itu projek, mau pergi ambil itu batang pisang… pasal lumpur kan kebun pisang”

Fauzi (23) on their struggles with transportation. (4)

Both D’ Banana Craft and Borneo Fertilyst are providing solutions to social and environmental issues, and their journeys are not without challenges. According to Fazly of D’ Banana Craft, “the lack of tourists due to the pandemic meant fewer people buying our crafts” with his brothers further noting that they have faced transportation difficulties and difficulty in drying banana waste during the monsoon season. Similarly, Bella and her team at Borneo Fertilyst faced challenges during the monsoon season and floods that damaged their solid fertilizer.

Inspiring Aspirations

Despite facing challenges, Borneo Fertilyst emerged as the first-place winner, while D’Banana Craft is a notable consolation prize winner in the Social Entrepreneurship for Rural Youths (SERY) programme introduced by the Ministry of Youth and Sports. Borneo Fertilyst and D’ Banana Craft not only strive to make a positive impact in their communities but also aim to expand their reach and improve the quality of their products. Bella expresses their aspirations for the growth and success of the organization. They hope to create job opportunities and raise awareness about organic farming. Through collaborative workshops with the Kota Marudu community, their goal is to unlock the potential of the circular economy approach for agri-waste within each village, empowering individuals to improve their livelihoods.

Fazly acknowledges the challenges they face in terms of product quality, cost, and equipment. They express the need for support through training and courses to enhance their skills and knowledge. Fazly hopes that their product can enter the local market within two years and potentially attract investors. They have a long-term vision of achieving mass production but recognize the financial implications of acquiring expensive machinery.

Figure 6: Team Borneo Fertilyst: Proud winners of SERY, nabbing the first prize.

© Borneo Fertilyst

Figure 7: Fazly showing YB Adam Adli, Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports, one of their packing products.

© D’ Banana Craft

To learn more, check out Borneo Fertilyst’s Facebook page or reach D’ Banana Craft at +017 833 0626. By supporting these passionate entrepreneurs, we can all contribute to a more sustainable and equitable future.

Huge thanks to Borneo Fertilyst and D’Banana Craft for taking the time to tell their stories!

Left to right: Siti Subailah Binti Suod, Hasrimie Bin Zamri and Siti Nur Syatia binti Hajat@Suod

© Borneo Fertilyst

Left to right: Adam Fahmi bin Gordah, Fazly bin Gordah and Fauzi bin Gordah

© D’ Banana Craft

Did you find this read a-PEEL-ing? More exciting local stories can be found in Part 3: Young Entrepreneurs Driving Change!


Social Entrepreneurship Rural Youth (SERY) Programme: 

SERY is a six-month start-up programme led by the Ministry of Youth and Sports that supports young people in rural communities in social entrepreneurship as a means of livelihood and community development. Through this programme, YELL partnered to seed-fund the project ideas that ranged from combatting wastage, preserving their land and educating their communities on sustainable practices.

Footnote:

  • 1Pisang Goreng: Fried banana fritters
  • 2Kampung: Village

Quotes (in English)

  • (1) “There are many factors that drive it (the motivation) – in terms of income, in terms of the available opportunities because its raw material is very easy and can be considered free…” – Fazly
  • (2) “We started with short-term plans first. From short-term plans to long-term plans.” – Bella 
  • (3) “That’s why we really hope to have our efforts to enter the villages for exposure to the youth to attract them back to agriculture.” –  Bella 
  • (4) “Our current challenge is that we don’t have transportation to go and work on that project, to go and collect those banana stems… since the area of banana plantation is muddy.” – Fauzi