Banana leaves have many uses in the Islands (and in all traditional cultures where banana plants grow), though here's one you may not yet have considered: a natural, locally & readily available, biodegradable weed barrier for sheet mulching.
In urban and suburban Honolulu, cardboard is a readily available waste product that can easily be upcycled as a biodegradable weed barrier for sheet mulch gardenbeds and paths, though in remote Hana there is nowhere near the amount of waste cardboard available for us permaculturists!
There is, however, and abundance of banana plants (which love the chocolatey-volcanic soils and moisture), and therefore an abundance of banana leaves...
...which brings us to the point of this post:
(an excerpt from Rick Coleman's essay 'The Role of Permaculture in Sustainable Aid')
If you are going to introduce a new technology / technique / tool, these are some things to consider:
- Can you use materials that are inexpnsive or free, that are easily accessible and safe?
- Will it have a tangible positive effect on the community (as well as the aid organization)?
- Most importantly is it able to be repeated (if you build a grand-darble-dooble-funky and leave it, can anyone build a new one?)..
- How can the technology be integrated to solve other problems or be connected to other elements (in the system) and therefore become more productive?
... which, of course, now leaves us with the question:
- What else could we use banana leaves for?
While we ponder that one, here's another example of a locally appropriate material being deployed for use in a sheet mulch garden being built in the drylands of Mexico: