On January 15th, 2019, HE Francisco Carlo Escobar Pedreschi, the first ever ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, visited INBAR HQ.
The visit involved a tour around INBAR’s Bamboo and Rattan Showroom followed by a discussion between INBAR Director General Dr. Hans Friederich, Ambassador Pedreschi and INBAR and embassy staff.
Panama has been a member of INBAR for 8 years, since 1 September 2010. However, since the country has only had diplomatic relations with INBAR’s host country of China since 2017, there has been only limited opportunities for the country’s focal point, the Ministry of Environment, to visit HQ and get to know our work. It was therefore a great honour to officially welcome HE Carlos Francisco Escobar to INBAR on the 15th January 2019, and to speak to him about how his country can fully benefit from membership and from its rich bamboo resources.
In Panama, as in many countries in Central America, some species of bamboo are native – 22 species, to be exact. But bamboo is scarcely used as an economic plant. Ambassador Pedreschi remembers that in his family farm, bamboo also grows:
“In fact, some of my family members have recently been talking about the possibility of growing bamboo on our land! Panama is receptive to bamboo.”
Although recent INBAR training sessions and the Caribbean International Bamboo Symposium have been attended by Panamanians, Ambassador Pedreschi admits that this is “just the start”: Awareness raising, training and education are the key to taking full advantage of what these plants have to offer.
A self-described “businessman” at heart and with many years of experience in the private sector under his belt, Ambassador Pedreschi has also served his country as Ambassador of Cuba and Canada. His businessman’s instinct tells him that bamboo could be a way for his country to increase trade and livelihoods whilst protecting the environment and meeting sustainability targets.
“Business objectives and environmental objectives don’t usually see eye to eye: But Bamboo is a win-win for a place like Panama, where we have land which which to develop such an industry.” He told us. “I say I’m a businessman, but business must go along with what is right for the planet, and right for humanity.”
Of course, right now, what is right for humanity is swift, decisive action on climate change and environmental problems. Pedreschi is posted in Beijing with his young children, and mentioned that even they are increasingly aware of and passionate about environmental problems – particularly global warming, as their favourite movie is Happy Feet 2, a heartwarming tale with a message about the melting ice caps. If our children want to make a difference, he told us, then surely we have a responsibility to do something.
Ambassador Pedreschi told INBAR that he is particularly interested in bamboo’s potential as a carbon sink, especially since Panama’s government has committed to a reforestation programme aiming to reach 1000000 hectares of reforested land. Bamboo, a fast growing grass that can grow even on the most degraded soils and can be harvested for income without destroying the root system, would be an ideal choice for at least part of this initiative, especially because it has also been shown to reduce soil erosion – a serious problem in nearly every country.
We are looking forward to working together with Ambassador Pedreschi now and in the future as we grow in our shared capacity to promote bamboo and rattan for sustainable development in Panama.