In response to a succession of ecological crises – the Yangtze floods (1998) and a severe drought in the Yellow River basin (1997) – in 1999 the Chinese government launched the world’s largest landscape restoration programme. The Conversion of Cropland into Forest Programme aimed to restore degraded farmland into forests and provide a number of ecosystem services, particularly soil and water conservation. By 2014, the Programme had invested some RMB 450 million, and involved more than 32 million farming households from around 2300 counties in 25 provinces.
One beneficiary area was Chishui, a municipality located in a remote and mountainous part of Guizhou Province. With the support of sustained government efforts, this region has an ocean of bamboo resources now. From protecting the soil and supporting climate change mitigation, the extraordinary bamboo has also helped the people of this region carve out economic opportunities. Dotted with a myriad range of enterprises that utilize bamboo for making a diverse range of products, bamboo has led to an improvement in lives and livelihoods in the area.
There are a many small and medium enterprises that create a particular bamboo product in Chishui. Focusing on creating bamboo flooring the Xinjin Bamboo flooring enterprise run by Mr. Yao Lianshu also develops a number of other products using round pole bamboo like dustbins and flower pots. Aiming primarily at the domestic market this enterprise is supported by a number of bamboo farmers within this region who supply the raw material for the products. The most popular items created by this unit are bamboo based school desks and toilet seat lids. Mr. Yao Lianshu said, “As we began to diversify our product line we decided to include bamboo toilet lids to our product mix. Much to our surprise, it was flying off the shelves as soon we launched it.”
Among the diverse bamboo enterprises in Chishui is also the Red Chishui Bamboo Shoot Processing enterprise, managed by Mr. Wang Debin the Chairman of this company. This unit utilizes 10 thousand raw shoots that have a production value of approximately 50-60 million RMB. The unit owns two bamboo forests in Chishui and Jiuzhi, Hejiang County of 200 hectares each. Employing around 500 people at the shoots processing factory, the unit also supports 2,000 farmers in the region through the bamboo forests. This value chain is an example of the people directly impacted by the bamboo sector and the economic opportunities that are created through it. The unit plans to support additional households by partnering other farmers to utilize the bamboo forests for other uses like poultry farming, growing edible fungus and mushrooms.
Tourism contributed to 26% of GDP of Chishui in the year 2015. Over 50 thousand local people are involved in the tourism sector here. Bamboo also supports the eco-tourism industry in Chishui and there are six well-known scenic spots that use bamboo. One of them is a bamboo-themed park while a second one is the national bamboo sea park. Spread over 11,200 hectares the bamboo sea park is a magnificent site. Setup in 1993 this park offers a picturesque view of the bamboo covered landscape. Employing over 100 people the park sees almost 200,000 visitors every year. Apart from this, there are a number of shops set up inside the park that sells locally created bamboo-based products including handicrafts, shoots, souvenirs, utensils, and juices. This national bamboo park is an outstanding example of how bamboo supports climate change mitigation and creates economic opportunities for the people of Chishui.
From small and medium bamboo based units to eco-tourism, the remarkable bamboo has become an essential part of the lives of the people in Chishui.