The Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress opened on Monday 25 June, with a focus on South-South Cooperation.
Monday 25 June, Beijing, INBAR – On the first day of the Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress, a diverse group of people, including policy makers, entrepreneurs, development practitioners and two heads of state, called for the use of bamboo as a key tool in the circular economy.
The Bamboo and Rattan Congress is a three-day conference, hosted in Beijing, which acts as a platform to discuss the future of bamboo and rattan. Hosted by INBAR and China’s National Forest and Grasslands Administration, the Congress welcomed 1500 participants from China and abroad.
Participants registering on Monday were welcomed with the sight of a thirty-foot bamboo wind turbine blade, and a number of bamboo bicycles: both strong reminders of this plant’s potential as a durable material. Once registered, participants could look around a number of exhibitions featuring bamboo products from across China, as well as four Pavilions, featuring regional bamboo and rattan crafts from Africa, Asia, Latin America and China. Each Pavilion is built in the style of a regional bamboo house: from the African Pavilion sidama, common in Ethiopia, to the vaulted arches of South-East Asian bamboo constructions, and the classic two-storey build of the Latin American Pavilion. As the exhibition made clear, INBAR’s network of 43 Member states covers a huge range of bamboo and rattan cultures and industries.
The day began with an opening ceremony, featuring messages of support from a number of key figures. Zhang Jianlong, Administrator for the National Forestry and Grassland Administration, made opening remarks, stating the importance of bamboo and rattan in promoting South-South cooperation. Zhang then conveyed a welcome message from the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who highlighted that bamboo is embedded in China’s history and culture, and emphasised China’s willingness to promote sustainable development. Other high-levels speakers gave their support for INBAR’s work.
The event also featured video messages from two heads of state. The President of Ecuador, Lenín Moreno, praised the “decisive role” which bamboo can play, both “in the economy of countries and for the mitigation of climate change.” The President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, stated that bamboo “plays an essential role in rural people’s lives” and credits it with helping “reactivate rural areas” affected by the Colombia Peace Agreement. And Jose Graziano da Silva, Director General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, praised bamboo’s ability “as a sustainable bioenergy source, to support national efforts for climate-resiliency and lower emissions.”
Following the opening speeches, H.E. Ruben Flores, the Minister for Agriculture and Livestock for Ecuador, chaired a Ministerial Summit with contributions from a number of key Ministers, all of whom highlighted the business opportunities for bamboo and rattan as an important ‘side effect’ of its environmental and livelihood benefits.
In the afternoon, Dr. Friederich hosted a high-level dialogue with a number of personalities: Charlotte Salford, an Associate Vice-President at the International Fund for Agricultural Development, a long-term partner of INBAR’s; H.E. Cynthia Villar, a Philippines Senator and beneficiary of a previous INBAR bamboo training course; Dessima Williams, former UN Special Adviser for Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals; Francois Martel, Secretary General of the Pacific Island Development Forum; Paul van de Logt, a policymaker working at the intersection of food, water and sustainable resource use at the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Jenny Kim, Deputy Director General of Global Green Growth Institute; and Gunter Pauli, a well-known sustainability professional whose accolades include establishing the Zero Emissions Research Institute, and pioneering a number of innovative bamboo products.
The discussion focused on the potential of South-South Cooperation to promote the development and use of bamboo and rattan. As Salford raised, South-South Cooperation has already been a major mechanism which INBAR and IFAD have used in their two decades of work together. IFAD has recently launched a South-South Development Facility in China, in recognition of the country’s important role in sharing knowledge, expertise and resources with the Global South. Salford also raised the importance of the new IFAD-funded INBAR project, which will work to share Chinese bamboo expertise with Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana and Madagascar. With USD 2.5 million of IFAD funding, and another USD 2.8 million of in-kind financing, Salford believes the project is “poised to make a huge difference” to Sino-African cooperation with bamboo.
All panelists agreed that innovation was a key way to drive further development using bamboo and rattan. Gunter Pauli discussed bamboo diapers as a key example of circular economy innovation, and described bamboo as “a cellulose that is providing massive ecosystem services” – unlike a number of other natural fibres commonly used in clothing.
Jenny Kim focused on the importance of cities – a huge source of waste, emissions and resource consumption, where bamboo can make a huge difference. Bamboo products and affordable bamboo housing are two ways in which this grass plant can support ‘green’ cities while indirectly helping the rural areas from which bamboo is sourced.
If bamboo is so important, why is is not being used more? Panelists discussed a number of potential reasons. Paul van de Logt raised the importance of interesting the private sector, and connecting them to South-South cooperation. One key example of this is the ongoing, INBAR-led Dutch-Sino-East Africa project, which shares Chinese and Dutch bamboo industry expertise with the bamboo-rich countries of Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. According to Francois Martel and Cynthia Villar, training and capacity-building was also critical. Martel made a compelling case for opening a bamboo training centre which shares Chinese experience with Pacific Island States – many of which have bamboo, but currently do not use it for many things. Villar, meanwhile, stressed the importance of validating indigenous knowledge, and sharing the experiences of rural communities. Dessima Williams summarised the panel perfectly: “We all need a good dose of education for sustainable development and sustainable living.”
Hans closed the panel discussion with a way to do just this – by introducing the ‘Bamboo Yellow Pages’. This book, which was distributed to a number of participants, provides a long list of China-based bamboo industries for a wide range of services.
High-level dialogue finished, participants were free to attend a number of side sessions – some of the 70 sessions that will be taking place over BARC. On Monday, sessions included a discussion of bamboo and rattan’s potential as part of international initiatives such as ‘BRICS’ and the Belt and Road Initiative; their importance in the circular economy and ‘green’ cities; the role of Guadua bamboo in the Andean region; the development of the bamboo sector in India; and the value of higher forestry education.
A huge range of topics and a number of inspiring discussions. The urgency of bamboo and rattan’s use for sustainable development came through clearly on the first day of BARC, and can be summed up in this quote, from Gunter Pauli:
“The science is already there. We don’t have to convince people about bamboo. How is it possible that we remain stupid? Because this is a big deal. We need to take steps so the next generation say, ‘how is it possible our parents didn’t do this?’ We don’t have to educate them, we have to inspire them – and bamboo is an inspiring product.”
Coverage of the Congress is being provided by the International Institute for Sustainable Development. The English language newsletter for day 1 can be read here, or online at the website: http://enb.iisd.org/barc/2018/