The Sisal Plant

Sisal is the common name for Agave Sisalana. It is very similar in appearance to other agave species such as the type used to make tequila. It can be found in most areas of eSwatini, and is regarded as an exotic and invasive weed. Sisal has always been used to make rope, twine, handcraft and stockades.


ONE - Harvest

Our sisal harvesting groups usually gather the sisal leaves while conducting other routine domestic duties such as; the gathering of firewood, farming, or looking after cattle. On discovering the sisal plant in the veld, the women will harvest the younger leaves. Young leaves are preferred because their fibres are a bright cream colour which takes the dye more efficiently. One leaf can be as long as 75cm in length and can hold 200 individual fibers.


TWO - Stripping and drying

The harvested leaves are then stripped. Using a little water and a sharp edge, (a rock, hoe or other farming implements), the flesh of these succulent leaves is scraped away to reveal the strong internal fibers. Once the fibers are bare, the sisal is then laid out to dry. Depending on the season, after a day or two, the fibers are dry. 

THREE - Packing and purchasing

The dried fibers are then bundled, and inspected for any residual flesh. Tintsaba will then visit the various harvesting groups to buy the raw sisal.

Sisal in Swaziland


• Organic

• Uses no chemicals to harvest, only a little water

• eSwatini views the plant as an invasive weed which damages the natural ecology of the land

• Abundant supply, which can be found in local communities, so women can earn an income from home

Road in rural Swaziland
Road in rural Swaziland

Winding road, climbing to one of our sisal producing women's groups in the south.

Sisal Plant
Sisal Plant

Leaves of the Sisal plant

Women weighing raw sisal
Women weighing raw sisal

The Siphofanine group, weighing their harvested sisal.

Raw Sisal fiber
Raw Sisal fiber

Close up of dried raw sisal, ready to be dyed.