From poor man’s timber to green gold: a letter to China
To mark the occasion of the seventieth anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, INBAR reflects on the development of the country’s bamboo sector in recent years.
1 October 2019 – Every year on 1 October, China celebrates the anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. In 2019, on the 70th anniversary of the Republic, INBAR sent a letter to President Xi Jinping, to mark the occasion and reflect on the government’s support for bamboo sector development, at home and abroad.
In the letter, INBAR Director General Ali Mchumo marked “the important contribution” China has made to the use of bamboo and rattan for sustainable development around the world, and confirmed the organisation’s commitment to keep working with China to promote nature-based solutions.
In China, since the 1980s, government investment in the bamboo sector has resulted in significant socioeconomic and environmental benefits. From 1981 to 2019, the annual value of the bamboo sector increased from just USD 160 million to USD32 billion, generating almost 10 million formal jobs in the bamboo sector across the south of the country.
At a local county level, bamboo value chains have often played a major role in poverty alleviation and improving household incomes, particularly in remote, mountainous areas where other off-farm income opportunities are limited.
Meanwhile, at a global level, government support has helped create some of the most innovative products in the bamboo sector: from durable outdoor flooring and plywood, to wind turbine blades, shipping container flooring and drainage pipes.
Development of the bamboo market during this time has also had a major impact on reforestation and efforts to reverse land degradation, with bamboo forest cover increasing from 3 million to 6 million hectares during this same period. This has had tangible impacts for addressing climate change, as well as conserving soil and water. INBAR research has shown that areas restored from marginal agriculture to bamboo can have 25 per cent less water runoff and reduced soil erosion of 79 per cent.
INBAR was established in 1997, as an intergovernmental organisation made up of Member States from around the world. In the 22 years since then, INBAR’s headquarters have remained in China, and the organisation has worked closely with the Chinese government to promote sustainable development using bamboo and rattan, both within and outside the country. Recently, this includes an INBAR-led trilateral project, which shares bamboo market expertise from China and Europe across three countries in East Africa. China is also involved in INBAR’s work to raise awareness about bamboo and rattan: in 2017, the country submitted a proposal to have INBAR included as an Observer to the UNGA. And in 2018, INBAR co-hosted the Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress with China’s National Forestry and Grassland Administration in China. The Congress, which attracted over 1000 participants from 70 countries, created a number of impactful new projects and partnerships for the further development of the bamboo and rattan sector.