Bamboo is a strategic resource that helps communities mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation is helping communities in China’s Guizhou Province maximize the plant’s many ‘climate-smart’ benefits.
Chishui, a poor county located along the Yangtze River in the remote and mountainous northwest of Guizhou Province, is a key focus of China’s national poverty alleviation program. It is also a target of the national largest ecological conservation and land restoration programme – the Yangtze River Shelter Forest Programme – due to its ecological importance and high-vulnerability to soil erosion.
Rising temperatures, increasingly unpredictable rainfall, and extreme weather events over the past three decades also pose a continuing threat to Chishui’s – and China’s – biodiversity and development. The Yangtze River Basin, in particular, can expect warmer and drier conditions, increasing the vulnerability of its ecosystems and damaging the region’s agricultural productivity.
Fortunately, Chishui has a powerful ally to help protect itself against the impacts of climate change. That ally is bamboo, which offers many ‘climate-smart’ benefits for local communities – not least its ability to sequester carbon at rates comparable to – or even better – than many tree species. Despite this potential, however, the county’s efforts to raise bamboo productivity are held back by the limited knowledge and capacity of local communities.
Recognizing that improved capacity could help expand bamboo forests and tackle China’s new climate reality, INBAR is working alongside local forestry bureaus and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation to explore how communities can more effectively harness bamboo.
The initiative has introduced practical climate-smart land management activities on three pilot sites totaling 10 hectares: 6.7 hectares have been reserved for bamboo culm production, and 3.3 hectares for bamboo shoots. Participating farmers have seen significant increases in productivity: from 10.8 t/ha to 18.73 t/ha for bamboo culms; and from 2070 kg/ha to 5025 kg/ha for bamboo shoots. On the 6.7 hectares reserved for bamboo culms, increased production translates to 20.27 tons of sequestered carbon.
There are also important socio-economic impacts since local communities are able to harvest the bamboo and tap into growing markets for sustainable products. Farmers’ incomes have increased by between 600 yuan/ha for bamboo culms and 8,895 yuan/ha for bamboo shoots.
If the project is replicated and scaled-out across an additional 63,000 hectares of the county’s productive bamboo forests, it is estimated that this could generate 140 million yuan /year, capture up to 213,000 tons of carbon, and mitigate 780,000 tons of CO2 greenhouse gas emissions.
Communities also gain from the plant’s rapid establishment and growth, which allows frequent harvesting, limits exposure to disaster, and reverses land degradation – bamboo thrives on problem soils and steep slopes that are unsuitable for other crops, it is an effective windbreak, and its sturdy rhizomes and roots regulate water flows and prevent erosion.
In order to build on initial impacts and ensure communities continue to benefit from productive bamboo growth, a climate change vulnerability assessment of bamboo forest ecosystems was conducted, helping to identify improved policies and landscape planning and management in the context of climate change.
If implemented, communities in Guizhou – and beyond – have a resilient and strategic resource to shield them from the negative impacts of climate change and help them fight back.
For more information read the INBAR Report ‘Bamboo for Climate-smart Landscapes in Chishui, Guizhou province.’