The Sisal Plant
Sisal is the common name for Agave Sisalana. It can be found in most areas of Swaziland, as it is an invasive exotic weed. Very similar to other agave species in appearance such as the type used to make tequila. Sisal is tradionally used to make rope, twine and baskets.
STEPS TO HARVESTING:
ONE - Harvest
Women venture out whilst gathering firewood for their homes, farming or looking after cattle. They then spot clumps of the weed growing. Young leaves are cut, and harvested from the plant. Tintsaba uses the younger leaves as the colour of the fiber is a bright cream, which is beneficial when we dye. 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 tools used) the flesh of the succulent leaves are scrapped away to reveal the strong internal fibers. Once the fibers are bare, the sisal is then laid out to dry in the sun on mats. After a day or two the fibers are dry (depending on the season).
THREE - Packing and purchasing
The dried fibers are then bundled, the women then go through and make sure the fibers are clean from the flesh. Tintsaba will then visit the various harvesting groups to buy the raw sisal.
• Uses no chemicals to harvest, only a little water
• Swaziland views the plant as an invasive weed and damages the natural ecology of the land
• Abundant supply, which can be found in local communities, so women can earn an income from home