African Bamboo: Vast Reserves, Untapped Green Gold

African bamboo reserves can boost green economy, thrust continent into global $60 billion bamboo trade

KUMASI, Ghana (AFKI) — Bamboo is more than just sustenance for giant pandas and gorillas. The abundant reserves of African bamboo can help the continent build a green economy and join the global $60 billion bamboo trade. Bamboo can also help the continent address its deforestation problem.

According to Hans Friederich, director-general of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), Africa’s growth in bamboo has “great opportunity.”

“The continent has vast reserves of largely untapped bamboo that, if properly managed, could benefit rural communities and promote green economic development,” Friederich said.

Bamboo is used to make watches, bikes, scaffolding, chopsticks, flooring, furniture, building and roofing materials, paper, textiles and many other items.

Apart from the plant’s ability to grow nearly one meter a day, it is a sustainable resource and can provide an environmentally sound way to alleviate poverty, while addressing the continents deforestation problem due to increased industrialization.

Deforestation is haunting the African continent as industrial growth paves over public commons and puts more acres into private hands.

According to the Environmental News Network, a web-based resource, Africa loses forest cover equal to the size of Switzerland every year, or approximately 26,000 square miles.

“African Bamboo can be harnessed to reverse land degradation, slow deforestation, combat climate change through carbon sequestration, and boost rural livelihoods through the creation of jobs and income,” added Friederich.

Of African bamboo forests, Ethiopia leads other African nations, including Ghana, Liberia, Kenya, Malawi, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo, and Uganda.

Two-thirds of the world’s bamboo forest is found in the horn of Africa nation where the industry has grown from making toothpicks to flooring and curtains.

In Ghana, the plant is becoming popular in making locally manufactured bicycles.

Despite it clear benefit and huge potential, many African countries still do not have “Practical policies at the local, national and regional level,” Friederich said.

In some ways, the challenge in Africa is not to introduce bamboo, but to persuade people and governments that it has commercial uses.

“We’ve taken policymakers from Africa to China and India where bamboo used in everyday life — and there’s still very poor adoption,” Dr. Chin Ong, a retired professor of environmental science at the University of Nottingham in England, who was formerly a senior scientist at the World Agroforestry Center in Nairobi, told The New York Times.

African Insider.

See more at http://www.inbar.int/2013/09/inbar-makes-strides-in-highly-renewable-energy-in-africa

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