Africa: Sisal on the Ropes

Personally, I prefer one-inch sisal for the job. You get too many blisters on your hands from nylon.

That unsolicited testimonial comes from Rhodesia's retired hangman, Edward ("The Dropper") Milton, and it is in praise of the fiber extracted from a cactus-like plant that grows mostly in Africa and Latin America. Not everyone, however, feels the same affection for sisal. Though it is still used in rope, twine, potato sacks and carpets, sisal is being steadily replaced by nylon and other synthetics. Its last bastion is agricultural twine, which now accounts for 75% of world sisal production.

Though sisal-producing countries have managed...

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