Sustainable and circular bioeconomy for food systems transformation

Bananas in Pakistan's Bioeconomy: Transforming Waste into Textiles


First steps toward design of new FAO-led GEF project underway

Building on the major Global Environment Facility (GEF) endorsement of FAO’s bioeconomy work, the “Bananas in Pakistan's Bioeconomy: Transforming Waste into Textile” project took its first steps toward implementation during a mission in Sindh Region this November. International colleagues from FAO headquarters and the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific joined FAO country office colleagues to kickstart an inception workshop, meet with key stakeholders and begin key data collection.

This exciting upcoming project plans to turn waste from the banana value chain into sustainable bio-based textiles. The project aims to contribute to a sustainable and circular bioeconomy, by proposing a sustainable alternative fibre to cotton by valorizing banana waste. Reintroducing this waste into the economy as a value-added product can reduce the chemical, water and greenhouse gas footprint in Pakistan, while providing an additional income stream for banana producers.  The project is part of the GEF Eliminating Hazardous Chemicals from Supply Chains integrated programme, which focuses specifically on the fashion and construction sectors. It aims to stimulate innovations in new materials, technologies, and practices; create markets and demand for such innovations; and embed the principle of “green by design”.

To capitalize on this bioeconomy opportunity, new knowledge and working modalities need to be fostered, including bringing together stakeholders that may not have previously engaged with one another. These include academia and research institutions, banana producers, and private sector counterparts in areas such as logistics, textile and fashion, as well as the government and regulatory actors, and finally the consumers. FAO has already begun this exciting work with the official launch of the inception workshop held 7 November in Karachi.

The inception workshop brought together key stakeholders, ranging from UN agencies, to banana farmers, textile companies, civil society, chambers of commerce and academia.

FAO representative Florence Rolle together with James Okoth, FAO head of Sindh Province, highlighted the importance of the project on the environment, innovation and ownership and benefits to all stakeholders in the value chain. 

The Government of Sindh's Director General of Agriculture Research, Mr. Noor Muhammad Baloch, specified that there is a huge opportunity to expand the usefulness of the banana value chain beyond the fruit market and that the additional income from fibre making is a welcome opportunity for farmers. In addition, several technical discussions and inputs were received during the workshop. Dr. Assad Faroq from the University of Faisalabad summarized the project succinctly: “Waste is not waste until we waste it”.

Beyond the inception workshop, the FAO mission included data gathering and key stakeholder consultations with textile mills, ginning facilities, banana farms, the Government of Sindh, and research institutions. All of this had the key goal of exploring how to build a sustainable and commercial value chain.

The project is in preparation phase and will now undergo pre-feasibility testing, data collection, cost-benefit analysis and finally validation with all stakeholders in April or May 2024. Once validated and approved (expected at the GEF’s June 2024 Council) the project will begin implementation. FAO will be actively engaging with national and international partners in the time leading up to this.

FAO welcomes inputs from stakeholders at both global and local level. Please reach out at: [email protected] 


Photo: Extracting banana fibre in Pakistan (© FAO, courtesy of Lindis Norlund)