On this International Day of Forests, INBAR celebrates the many ways in which bamboo and rattan can contribute to the health of forest resources. Forests are an irreplaceable source of energy, livelihoods and habitation, and act as invaluable carbon ‘sinks’ to help mitigate the effects of climate change. It is increasingly important that we harness and maintain these resources to meet the challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century.
Bamboo and rattan can complement the many services that our forests provide, and help reduce pressure on existing forest resources.
An alternative fuel source
Continued global usage of woody biomass is putting increased strain on slow-growing forest resources: in sub-Saharan Africa, using wood as fuel is the major cause of regional deforestation.
Bamboo can provide an alternative, locally grown energy source for many communities in the Global South. Like wood, bamboo can be burned, processed into chips or pellets for use in biogas systems, or carbonised into charcoal to provide energy. It is also a fast-growing and easily renewable resource. Managed bamboo forests could provide a long-term and sustainable source of raw materials for bio-energy that do not cause deforestation.
Providing an alternative livelihoods source
Farmers and foresters who can regularly harvest raw materials and fuel from bamboo stands are under less pressure to unsustainably exploit forests – especially if the bamboo is close to home. Strong, flexible and versatile, the plant lends itself to the production of over 10,000 different products, providing an opportunity for rural communities to participate in a growing global sector worth some US$60 billion every year.
Improving soil health and reversing land degradation
Bamboo’s rapid growth and strong root systems make bamboo a powerful soil protection tool. Estimates show that a single bamboo plant can bind up to 6m3 of soil. Countries across the world are increasingly recognising the relevance of bamboo for reversing land degradation.
In Bonn in September 2011 the ‘Bonn Challenge’ was launched, with a target to restore 150 million ha of degraded and deforested lands by 2020. In 2014, 40 INBAR Member States agreed to a statement to use bamboo to support the Bonn Challenge: pledging to restore 5 million hectares of land by 2030, using bamboo.
Bamboo and rattan are essential components of biodiverse landscapes in the regions in which they grow. They provide a direct source of nutrition and shelter for many primates, and the main source of nutrition for species including the Mountain Gorilla, Bale Monkey, Greater Bamboo Lemur and Giant Panda. More information on INBAR’s work on biodiversity can be found here.
A more valuable carbon sink
Bamboo-led afforestation provides a significant ‘carbon gain,’ given its high sequestration rates. Substantial amounts of carbon are stored in the bamboo forests of China, the world’s largest, and the total will increase as planned afforestation programmes expand. The plant is now recognised in carbon offset programmes in China. INBAR is very active in promoting bamboo and rattan’s important role in climate change mitigation.