International Bamboo and Rattan Organization

International Bamboo and Rattan Organization

Bamboo for Construction and Livelihoods in Bhutan




Bamboo for Sustainable Construction and Rural Value Chain Development in Bhutan: A Pilot Project

Bhutan is currently experiencing increased construction productivity, which has in turn contributed to a shrinking supply of timber. These shortages, combined with rising prices, have pushed many people to switch to unsustainable housing alternatives such as concrete.

To address this issue, this project promoted the usage of bamboo as sustainable construction material. Through the project, bamboo management training was carried out. Bamboo plantations were set up. Training on bamboo construction was provided. Rural value chains were established which should enable the continued sustainable supply of bamboo raw material and the building of sustainable bamboo housing, while also providing an important income generating opportunity for rural communities.

The project produced an INBAR Working Paper, which can be read here, on the feasibility of bamboo construction in Bhutan. The study made several important findings, including:

1. Bamboo already plays a crucial role in formal and informal rural economies;

2. Bamboo resources are often under stress from over-consumption, particularly in project areas with more bamboo coverage;

3. Although there are challenges with social acceptance of bamboo as a construction material, new construction systems and treatment technology address some of the main concerns, namely, durability and labour intensiveness;

4. Good legislative frameworks for community-based management of bamboo exist, but implementation is hindered by weak coordination, monitoring and evaluating mechanisms.

The study also made five main recommendations to guide future development:

1. Target construction markets for bamboo building components rather than houses;

2. Continue to collect more data on the mechanical properties of local bamboo species and improve design protocols;

3. Develop an official guideline for building with bamboo in Bhutan;

4. Develop an accurate inventory of all bamboo species and set up a National Bamboo Resource Management and Development Plan;

5. Improve bamboo sector planning and coordination to fully implement existing policy frameworks.