In Ethiopia, at a small industrial site 10 km from Addis Ababa, machines made in Asia are flattening, slicing, shaving and polishing lengths of hollow bamboo piled up on the factory floor. The end use will range from flooring planks to woven matting and from roofing to toothpicks, these latter for export to Sudan and the Middle East.
In a room 25 women use nimble fingers to feed slivers of bamboo into machines that coat the fine pieces with a mix of charcoal and bamboo sawdust combined with bonding gum. These are incense sticks, whose ends will be dyed deep pink before they are dipped in perfume and sold at local markets.
Adal Industrial plc, one of three bamboo processing companies in Ethiopia, buys raw materials from farmers before collecting and storing them in warehouses ready for processing. The factory employs 180 staff, 80 per cent of them women.
In the yard outside the factory, bamboo offcuts and sawdust are fired for 12 hours in large kilns. The resulting matter is then crushed before being poured into Indian-made machines to make charcoal briquettes, which are sold locally and in the Middle East. Adal produces bamboo production waste into some 22 tonnes of bamboo charcoal briquettes per month, that many households in Addis use every day for cooking – this is charcoal that would have otherwise come from cutting trees and the diminishing hectares of national forest resources.
“Nothing is wasted here. We use 100 per cent of every piece of bamboo,” says General Manager Adane Berhe.“Our motto is: save the forest, save the environment and save the Earth.”