Afra Moda: Biodegradable Diapers Made from Coconut Fiber

Filed Under: EARTH News
Date: July 25th, 2023

Ana Kelle (’25, Brazil) says that if you walk through the streets of some Brazilian towns, it’s easy to find piles of husks from coconuts that people consume on a daily basis. Although many people may not know it, this organic waste is full of properties that can add value to the growing of coconuts.

Even before Ana started at EARTH, she wanted to create a project that would provide a tangible solution to the socio-environmental problems of Brazil and the world. Some time after beginning her studies at EARTH, she joined her classmates Francis Mtofu (’25, Malawi), Rosa Rodezno (’24, Honduras), and Jacob Deng (’25, South Sudan) to create Afra Moda, a venture focused on making disposable diapers from coconut fiber. Jacob and Francis are Mastercard Foundation Scholars.

The team began working toward competing in the Hult Prize, an annual global competition that challenges young people to propose solutions to humanity’s most pressing issues. This year, the competition encouraged youth to create social ventures in the textile and fashion industry. Ana, Francis, Rosa, and Jacob were selected to present their project at the Hult Prize Summit in Monterrey, Mexico on June 23-24, 2023.

Over two days, these EARTH students attended various events on innovation, technology, and sustainability, and also had the opportunity to make a four-minute pitch on their business proposal. While the team didn’t advance in the competition, they said the experience was an invaluable opportunity to receive feedback, learn about other projects, and refine their proposal.

So, what is Afra Moda all about?

According to the team’s research, 92% of disposable diapers used worldwide end up in landfills. A generic diaper takes 450 years to decompose, while a biodegradable diaper made from coconut fiber lasts less than 12 years. And because of the nature of the material, it can return to the soil as compost. Afra Moda offers an innovative idea of using an uncommon material to make a comfortable and sustainable design for everyday diapers. The team also proposes creating a source of employment for single mothers to work in production.

Afra Moda received extensive support from EARTH faculty to develop the prototype design, make a financial plan, and create a competitive presentation in English. During their business planning, they successfully applied the learning they had gained from the University’s academic curriculum. For now, the team strives to further develop Afra Moda by participating in other competitions that fund innovative and sustainable ideas.

Ana described her commitment to this project: “At EARTH, we train as change agents and feel responsible for positively transforming the world. I want to significantly impact my community and country, so I believe in this project. The process hasn’t been easy, but we are happy with the results. We’ve learned a lot, and we know we’ll continue to grow.”

At EARTH, we are proud of the team’s determination and believe in the power of their actions.