The raffia fiber is obtained from the raffia (raphia) palm tree, which grows in tropical regions and locally it called ‘gajeh’ or woven grass as the common name. The raffia palm (Raphia farinifera) is made of long leaves that can attain 60ft (18m), which makes it the palm tree with the largest branches.
The Raffia farmers go deep into the island to harvest the raffia palm. They strip and dry the freshly cut pale green strand and sun dry them. The dried raffia fibers then turn beige in color to yield the natural colored raffia we all know.The raffia strands are then brought into warehouses, where they are sorted and separated into different qualities of raffia, according to their color, texture, fiber length and width.
All these processes from the raffia harvesting, to the dying and packing are done manually by the local people.
The raffia fiber is soft, pliable, strong, durable, easy to dye and making it an excellent material for weaving baskets, hats, mats and rugs. In the old days, tt is also widely used for agricultural purposes to tie vegetables, plants in vineyards, flowers and floral arrangements. Crafters also fancy the raffia fiber for making doll hair, ribbons, Hawaiian skirts (hula skirts), table skirts and much more.