Building bamboo resilience in East Africa
COVID-19 has made bamboo sector development a more pressing concern in a number of INBAR’s project countries.
Of the many communities impacted by COVID-19, people living in rural areas have been hit particularly hard. In parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda – all countries which are part of INBAR’s ongoing Dutch-Sino-East Africa Bamboo Development Programme – farming activities have largely stopped or slowed down, and the lockdown-induced rural migration of people from cities has placed additional stress on families and resources.
In recent months, the INBAR Bamboo Development Programme team has been providing a range of activities in these areas, to create jobs and to build awareness about COVID-related health and hygiene.
In Kenya, INBAR staff have been organising outreach programmes to educate the rural community on health and sanitation measures, and to provide skill-based training to support income generation from bamboo products. These capacity-building sessions have so far trained 390 young people, and have included teaching on bamboo nursery establishment, bamboo furniture making, rural bamboo housing construction, bamboo briquettes creation, and sustainable bamboo plantation management.
The project team has undertaken similar initiatives in the Oromia region of Ethiopia, supporting rural communities to collect wild bamboo seedlings and manage bamboo forests. In Uganda, meanwhile, the team has focused on making bamboo furniture and bamboo beds.
A gazebo built in Kenya as part of the bamboo construction training programme.
East Africa has abundant bamboo resources, both native and introduced from abroad. According to resource assessments conducted by INBAR in 2018, Ethiopia has 1.5 million hectares of bamboo; Kenya and Uganda also boast 133,000 and 55,000 hectares respectively. Fast-growing and versatile, bamboo can be an important source of income, as a useful material for making handicrafts and furniture, as well as a source of household fuel, animal fodder and construction material. Including bamboo in agroforestry systems can stabilise soil, prevent water runoff and generate an additional product (bamboo shoots, or fodder for livestock). Despite its advantages, the bamboo sector is currently not very well established in East Africa, and lack of knowledge about sustainable management and harvesting techniques has reduced the quality of bamboo stocks.
As well as building skills to support income generation, these training initiatives conducted by the Bamboo Development Programme team have provided an unexpected extra benefit: trainees reported feeling more secure and in control of their livelihoods as a result of the training, and were more motivated.
INBAR has been implementing the Dutch-Sino-East Africa Bamboo Development Programme since April 2020, with financial support from the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and China’s National Forestry and Grassland Administration. The programme has been designed in tandem with the National Bamboo Strategies which have been created by Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.
For more information about the INBAR-led Dutch-Sino-East Africa Bamboo Development Programme, read here.
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