14 August 2020 ─ INBAR’s West Africa Regional Office in Ghana is training community bamboo harvesters in the country as part of activities to promote sustainable management and harvesting of Ghana’s bamboo resources under the Inter-Africa Bamboo Smallholder Development Programme. The training aims at equipping bamboo harvesters with the necessary knowledge and skills to ensure sustainable harvesting, as well as facilitating market linkages between harvesters and retailers to improve incomes.
Ghana’s bamboo is predominately distributed in the wild along the southern parts of the country. The harvesting and use of bamboo culms for furniture production and scaffolds for construction is a common sight in the country. In some rural fishing communities, bamboo culms are put together and used as rafts during fishing.
The growing demand for bamboo culms for various uses in the country has created viable business opportunities for harvesters and smallholder bamboo farm owners along the value chain. Unfortunately, most bamboo stands found in the wild are not managed and the approach applied by harvesters in extracting the resource, degrades and lowers the regenerating rate of new bamboo shoots. This situation is partly due to inadequate knowledge on sustainable bamboo harvesting and management on the part of harvesters. In some cases, both young and matured bamboo culms are harvested together resulting in the destruction of many bamboo clumps.
To ensure sustainable management and continuous bamboo resource availability, INBAR’s West Africa Regional Office in Ghana has started a technical training series for bamboo harvesters in rural communities on proper harvesting methods in the Ashanti, Eastern and Western regions of Ghana. The training is part of activities under the Inter-Africa Bamboo Smallholder Farmers Livelihood Development Programme supported by IFAD and is expected to reach about 1000 bamboo harvesters within bamboo hotspot communities in Ghana.
So far, 85 bamboo harvesters and bamboo farm owners have received training on:
⦁ Identification of matured bamboo culms;
⦁ Sustainable harvesting techniques;
⦁ Bamboo stand management,
⦁ Bamboo storage and safe transportation;
⦁ Formation of bamboo harvesters’ cooperatives.
Sustainable bamboo harvesting has great potential to create jobs for many young people and contribute to poverty alleviation in remote communities. Improving market access through the creation of linkages between bamboo farmers, harvesters and buyers is vital to the growing bamboo sector in Ghana. To support this effort, trainees were taken through basic marketing strategies and how to supply quality culms to meet the demands of different bamboo enterprises in major cities such as Accra, Tema, Kumasi, Takoradi, and Cape-Coast. These cities are major destinations of harvested bamboo from the rural areas.
Beneficiary trainees were also encouraged to form cooperatives to ensure natural bamboos stands are harvested sustainably. Formation of cooperatives within the resource landscape will check and discourage non-members from practising destructive and unsustainable harvesting. Another advantage is that such cooperatives can serve as bamboo advocacy groups within communities and also train other individuals willing to become harvesters. Operating as a cooperative would also enhance their market-pricing power to boost incomes.
Because many of these harvesters get their supplies from unmanaged bamboo stands growing in the wild, a critical area of interest and support from INBAR is to assist these harvesters to establish bamboo plantations to augment their supply sources. Under the Inter-Africa Bamboo Programme, bamboo seedlings have been raised to support degraded land restoration and plantation establishment activities. Discussions are currently ongoing with interested individuals and cooperatives to develop bamboo plantations to meet the raw material needs of the market.