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Mapping bamboo forest resources in East Africa

News
19Jul

Lack of information about bamboo resources – their distribution, varieties and characteristics – has long prevented many countries from making more use of this strategic plant.

The Global Land Cover Mapping project aims to address these knowledge gaps. Land cover mapping uses the latest remote sensing technology to build a comprehensive, worldwide inventory of bamboo resources. It is led by INBAR, in partnership with researchers from the Center for Earth System Science at Tsinghua University, and forms an important starting point for the Global Assessment of Bamboo and Rattan (GABAR): an initiative established in 2016 to create a robust evidence base to support decision making about bamboo and rattan.

Unlike traditional assessments of bamboo stocks, which are often based on assumptions about local growing conditions or out-of-date information, the Land Cover Mapping project uses GIS technology to pinpoint exactly where bamboo is growing. Results are then uploaded to an online portal, where they can be easily accessed, shared and added to by local researchers and practitioners on an ongoing basis. The result is a platform which provides comprehensive, reliable information about bamboo stocks.

Currently, the project is creating national assessments for Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, in partnership with the Dutch-Sino project on East Africa. At present, East Africa’s bamboo sector remains largely untapped, despite the region having sub-Saharan Africa’s largest natural bamboo forests and accounting for around 3-4% of the world’s total known bamboo coverage. A better understanding of bamboo stocks is very much needed if these INBAR member states are to transform their bamboo sectors.

As of early 2017, INBAR and Tsinghua University are working to map data in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. in partnership with the INBAR-led Dutch-Sino project on East African bamboo development.  They are also training staff and practitioners from national forestry services, environment ministries and research institutes in how to use the Mapping portal to collect, share and analyse data effectively to inform decision making.

The data and experiences gathered through land cover mapping in East Africa form an important first step in GABAR’s aim for accurate, global mapping of bamboo resources.

Pictured: INBAR staff alongside some of the participants in land mapping training, East Africa.