Bamboo and rattan grow locally to some of the poorest communities in the tropical and subtropical belt. INBAR has worked across the world to promote bamboo and rattan’s use in environmentally sustainable rural development, and contributes to the UN’s first Sustainable Development Goal: the elimination of poverty.
Several things make bamboo and rattan a particularly important way to create or improve livelihoods, and reduce poverty:
- Bamboo and rattan have a multiple array of high-value end uses as commodities. Bamboo can be used to make products such as laminated plywood, flat-pack furniture and activated charcoal; rattan, meanwhile, is being used for furniture and potentially as a material in bone replacement. The huge variety of potential products gives producers a wide range of options, and increasing their flexibility in times of market stress.
- Bamboo and rattan have a long history of use in many societies. The processing of new products can build on existing skills and is more likely to be chosen by stakeholders than an entirely new technology.
- Bamboo’s lightweight and linear-splitting nature makes it comparatively easier to process than timber. This provides farmers, many of whom are women, with opportunities to engage in initial processing, and this increases their share in value addition.
- Rattan is a very important plant for many poor communities. Certain rural communities across Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam derive 50% of their cash income from rattan products.
- Bamboo can be grown on peripheral soil, can be intercropped, requires few inputs and grows very rapidly – making it an essentially ‘renewable’ resource.
Over 20 years, INBAR’s work in countries across the world has demonstrated how bamboo and rattan can generate new income streams and a better quality of life for rural people, through creation of small businesses, social enterprises, and women’s and community groups. Funding from IFAD alone has resulted in the creation of some 50 enterprises and cooperatives, and generated an estimated 250,000 jobs. These are approaches that can work for more than 50 bamboo resource countries across the world’s tropical and sub-tropical belts.