20 May, 2019 – INBAR has published a translation of Ecuador’s National Bamboo Strategy. The original document, written in Spanish, was compiled by INBAR, the Ecuadorian Ministry for Agriculture and Livestock, and the Bamboo Sectoral Table, a committee of experts.
Ecuador, an INBAR Member State since 1999 and a nation rich in bamboo resources, recently published the 2018-2022 National Bamboo Strategy Guidelines for a Green and Inclusive Development, which aims to put bamboo front and centre in its efforts for equitable and sustainable development.
Bamboo has long been a part of Ecuadorian landscapes and culture, used by many groups across the country since time immemorial. The team found 46 species of bamboo present in Ecuador in varying quantities, which are particularly abundant in the coastal regions. It is estimated that bamboo covers about 600,000 hectares, or 2%, of Ecuador’s land.These different species of bamboo are found both in natural forests (alone and among other species) and as plantations. Bamboo plants develop spontaneously between crops, in riverbanks or mountainsides, mixing with the typical vegetation and crops planted in each area. Only around 15,000 hectares, are being cultivated for use at this time.
Bamboo is a versatile resource which provides a wide range of ecosystem services. In light of its abundance, and the multifaceted economic and environmental benefits of its cultivation, Ecuador has followed China in developing a national bamboo strategy, to realise the full potential for this plant.
Ecuador’s National Bamboo Strategy is directly linked to seven of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as well as Ecuador’s National Plan, which includes goals for improving access to housing, increasing employment, pursuing inclusive economic growth, and improving rural food security and standards of living. It is also strongly tied to the ‘Reverdecer Ecuador’ (Greening Ecuador) programme.
The Strategy focuses on bamboo not only because it is abundant in Ecuador, as the above drone footage shows, and is already responsible for 12% of employment in the agricultural sector, but also because there is a large potential for bamboo in domestic and foreign markets. The report finds that the total potential domestic demand surpasses 103 million canes a year. Though Ecuador is not yet a major bamboo exporter the document outlines that it could cover some of the demand from European and other Latin American countries by providing a minimum of 3 million canes annually. In total this would still mean fewer than 80,000 hectares of bamboo forests would need to be cultivated to meet the demand. Yet, Ecuador currently is not producing bamboo and bamboo products at this rate.
Although Ecuador has the resources, the report states that “what is missing is development of the production chain”, as well as “finding niches in the international market that demand specialised products with high added value.” The plan aims to address these problems through the pursuit of four strategic objectives, each of which have their own proposed goals and action plans.
- Increasing bamboo trade
The first objective is to revitalise the bamboo production chain through promoting bamboo and expanding trade channels. The promotion of bamboo specifically includes raising awareness about the economic and ecological benefits of the sector, as well as making information regarding finance, certification and market behaviour more accessible. To expand trade channels, the Strategy advises increasing the production of bamboo, with ambitious goals. By 2022, Ecuador aims to double domestic demand, quadruple foreign demand, and double the volume of value-added products in the market.
- Improving bamboo management
The Strategy’s second objective is to improve the sustainable management of bamboo resources. This goal is the one most concerned with ecosystem services, aiming for sustainable cultivation in order to conserve biodiversity, decrease deforestation rates and mitigate the effects of climate change. To ensure cultivation is sustainable, the plans aim to aid foresters in creating management plans and considering technical criteria such as age and size when harvesting canes.
- Developing bamboo’s role in other industries
Bamboo’s wide-ranging benefits are the focus of the third objective which aims to develop bamboo’s role in other industries including: construction, tourism, and energy. In order to achieve this, the Strategy recommends improving technical agricultural assistance, access to credit and financial services, and developing trade and certification services.
- Better bamboo governance
The fourth and final objective of the Strategy is to ameliorate the governance of the bamboo sector, through improving both the institutional structure and the articulation of the sector’s policies. This begins with better understanding of which actors are involved, what their roles are and what their relationships are within the bamboo sector.
The Strategy’s ambitious objectives involve domestic and international actors across a wide range of activities and at all levels of the sector. As such, the plan also outlines an “actor map” which identifies not only the key actors and their roles, but also the requirements they have in order for the Strategy to be successful. These actors include foresters, producers, traders, service providers, ministries, universities and international organisations, and consumers. The objective goes further to specify improving coordination between both public and private actors, as well as establishing actor agreements and promoting strategic alliances.
Its Strategy may have been published in 2018, but Ecuador’s bamboo sector has been undergoing steady development for several years now. Ecuador has several ongoing initiatives involving bamboo such as the recently announced social housing programme “Homes for All”, and the development of high value-added products. Another project is the post-2016 earthquake reconstruction efforts, which were supported by INBAR and China through a training workshop on earthquake-resilient housing. In June 2017, Ecuador’s Ministry of Agriculture published a new technical guide for bamboo management and cutting: an important guide, which should improve the management of national bamboo forests and plantations. In the same year, Ecuador also included Caña Guadua bamboo in its National Standard for Construction. And since the start of 2019, Ecuador has been part of INBAR’s bilateral project, ‘Sustainable Bamboo for Ecuador and Peru’, which aims to develop the countries’ bamboo sectors.
The National Bamboo Strategy represents a pivotal step on Ecuador’s road to an equitable and sustainable future. As the document states:
“The future of the bamboo sector is definitely promising. It requires political decision, business involvement, and public commitment to undertake the actions related to the strategic direction formulated in the National Bamboo Strategy 2018-2022.”
Ecuador’s 2018-2022 National Bamboo Strategy can be read here.
The report is part of an INBAR series, which is helping to share knowledge between our network of Member States. The first in this series, ‘China Bamboo Industry Plans at National and Provincial Levels’ can be read here.
For more information about the INBAR-led project, ‘Sustainable Bamboo for Ecuador and Peru’, please read here.
Article written by Eilif Ronning