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Bamboo’s potential in Africa

Stories
7Apr

Bamboo is attracting increasing interest as a strategic resource that can provide climate-smart solutions to millions of rural communities across Africa. Recent coverage by international media – including CNN – has raised the profile of this strategic resource. Decision makers and development planners need to take note.

To watch CNN’s report on bamboo’s potential, featuring INBAR’s work in Ethiopia click here.

Africa has huge reserves of largely untapped indigenous bamboo, and excellent conditions for growing cultivated species. With careful management, both natural and cultivated bamboo can prove valuable resources for sustainable rural development.

This strategic resource provides a practical and rapid solution for a number of natural resource and poverty challenges faced by African countries: it has proven its effectiveness for restoring damaged land and ecosystems, for combating climate change through carbon sequestration and avoiding deforestation, and boosting rural livelihoods – through job creation and income generation.

Although bamboo is not proposed as a ‘silver bullet’ solution to solve the problems of environmental degradation and climate change, it is an excellent complement to the mix of environmental and ecosystems services bring promoted for green economy development.

Increasing recognition – but more needed

International media, including CNN and ‘Africa Renewal,’ a UN magazine covering development issues in Africa, have recently featured the plant’s promise for green economic growth, and through the efforts of INBAR, this strategic resource is also being promoted at high-level international forums, including the UNFCCC.

However, the plant’s potential remains largely unrecognized and undervalued by African decision makers. Bamboo clearly has an image problem, and there is a lack of clear information and evidence documenting the economic and environmental benefits of bamboo.

Harnessing bamboo – for sustainable development

Harnessing bamboo effectively requires practical policies at the local, national and global level. This will help scale-up bamboo activities for economic and environmental development, and encourage private sector action and investment for business growth and job creation.

At the global level, a greater recognition of bamboo’s strong potential for climate change prevention is needed, as well as more clarity on bamboo’s status in international conventions and instruments to confirm its place as a strategic resource. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the COP 21 Paris Agreement now offer countries unique opportunities to harness bamboo for climate change mitigation/adaptation.

South-south partnerships

Much of the technology and know-how for bamboo development lies in Asia, where strong bamboo economies have been developed over decades or hundreds of years. The Asia-Africa exchange of expertise has started and needs to intensify, so that African countries can fully benefit from their bamboo resources. Some eight percent of the world’s bamboo resources are found in Africa.

Some African countries are already taking action. Ethiopia, Ghana, Rwanda and Nigeria have enacted legislation or even presidential decrees calling for the use of bamboo in specific cases and economic sectors. But, more still need to follow.