Bamboo — a highly versatile giant green grass that grows chiefly in the tropics — has recently become known as the ‘wonder plant’ by agronomists and architects. According to INBAR, “Bamboo and rattan can help millions of poor rural and urban producers lift themselves out of poverty and thrive.”
The Association of International Research reports that the international trade of bamboo and rattan products amounted to $2.5 billion in 2013 and is predicted to continue rising. Bamboo provides low-cost green housing and infrastructure, as well as a wide range of biofuels.
Aside from the low cost and maintenance of bamboo, environmentalists have linked the plant to climate change mitigation, which would earn companies increased income through carbon credits, says journalist Zipporah Musau.
This highly productive plant is extremely effective in sequestering carbon, taking in twice as much carbon dioxide as trees and meeting all the necessary criteria for countries’ sustainable development goals.
The bio-energy provided by bamboo opens the gateway for sub-Saharan African homes to use the green grass instead of firewood or charcoal, which promotes the discontinuation of deforestation, land degradation and indoor pollution.
As the population in Africa continues to grow, the massive harvesting of firewood and charcoal will be unable to sustain the continent, thus opening the gateway for bamboo.
INBAR’s general director asserts that “bamboo will be a strong pillar of Africa’s future green economy. It will help reduce poverty and protect the environment, and provide a practical and rapid solution for some of the natural resource and poverty challenges facing many African countries today.”
The wonder plant grows incredibly fast, which makes it easy for farmers to harvest and market the plant. Bamboo can be sold commercially to construct furniture, roofing, fencing, floor tiles, walls, ceiling and many other building materials.
Other uses of bamboo for sustainable development can be found in the paper and pulp industry. Bamboo can be converted into newsprint, toilet paper and cardboard, saving Africa’s forests in the process.
Domestically, bamboo can be used to make baskets, canoes, fishing kits, bicycles, fences, toothpicks, school desks, pencils and rulers, etc.
Bamboo farming has the potential to create thousands of jobs due to intensive labor. Zipporah Musau notes that Bamboo plants are typically planted, maintained and harvested by hand, taking up to eight years to mature. In Ghana, about 1,500 people were employed when a commercial project recently began.
INBAR notes that the challenge that accompanies the expansion of the bamboo market is the lack of finances and the absence of a national policy and strategy program to develop and use bamboo resources. However, as awareness of the “miracle plant” grows, so too does the potential of bamboo for sustainable development in emerging markets.
– Megan Hadley