This multi-purpose plant can transform lives in Ethiopia, as INBAR’s new project is hoping to show.
Land degradation is a pervasive problem across Ethiopia. Reasons for this include rapid deforestation, loss of vegetation cover and an increasing demand for forest products such as firewood and wood charcoal. The failure to introduce sustainable land management jeapordises the rural poor, who are reliant on a sustainable supply of fertile land and forest resources, and is a significant barrier to helping Ethiopia achieve its Climate Resilient Green Economy strategy.
To be successful in Ethiopia, solving land degradation and deforestation requires finding a sustainable substitute for firewood and wood charcoal. Bamboo could be the solution. A fast-growing, renewable resource, bamboo can be used as charcoal and is used across the world to stabilize soil, control erosion and store carbon. Moreover, bamboo already grows in abundance in Ethiopia: the country has an estimated 1 million hectares of bamboo resources, with the potential to expand by another 2 million hectares.
Aside from its substantial environmental potential, bamboo provides considerable additional benefits. Economically, this multi-purpose plant is an important material for construction, fuelwood, food, fodder, fencing, furniture, household utensils and more. As such, it also provides an important source of income, through the selling of raw bamboo culms and processed bamboo products. Based on a comparison with China, the world leader in bamboo resources and use, bamboo could provide an estimated USD 5 billion annual income and employ 1.3 billion people – and yet, it is nowhere close to taking full advantage of this amazing resource.
INBAR is supplying technical support to the major project, ‘Bamboo for Sustainable Watershed Management and Livelihood Improvement: An Innovative Approach to Mitigate Land Degradation in Ethiopia’. The initiative is part of the ‘Sustainable Land Management Programme’ (SLMP II), which is implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ethiopia . Our support to this project compliments INBAR’s work on the Dutch-Sino-East Africa bamboo development programme, which is funded by the Government of the Netherlands. INBAR is also involved in an IFAD-funded project, South-South Knowledge Transfer Strategies, which works across Ethiopia, Tanzania and Madagascar.
The main objectives of INBAR’s support to SLMP II are to:
- Increase bamboo development to mitigate watershed degradation and improve the livelihood of farmers;
- Transfer knowledge, skills and technology for bamboo seedling production, propagation, plantation and utilisation in the target watersheds
As well as conserving soil and water, sustainably managed bamboo plantations should provide good opportunities for farmers in the watersheds (income source, firewood, charcoal, raw materials for construction, fence, furniture and handicraft, fodder and shoot for food etc.)
The project will have the following outputs:
- Five baseline study reports on bamboo resource base of the pilot watersheds
- Bamboo afforestation plans for the target watersheds
- 5 nurseries (1 for each watershed) will be established.
- 13 new bamboo species will be introduced to improve the national bamboo resource base
- Two million bamboo seedlings will be produced and distributed to beneficiaries
- 1000 hectares degraded land will be restored through bamboo afforestation
- 500 manuals will be produced on the production of bamboo seedlings, bamboo plantations, bamboo handicrafts and bamboo charcoal
- 15 training events will be organised in the five watersheds
- 2 study tours to China will be organised
- 3000 beneficiaries will be trained on bamboo seedling production, plantation, proper harvesting techniques, bamboo handicrafts and environmentally friendly charcoal production systems
As of July 2017, the project has created 7 bamboo nurseries, introduced 13 bamboo species, produced 1.2 million bamboo seedlings, trained 1279 trainees in five regions. The project team will plant 270 hectares of new bamboo plantation by the start of August.
Ethiopia is a Member of INBAR, and a former Chair of INBAR’s Council. H.E. Sileshi Getahun is former Ethiopian Minister of Livestock and Fisheries and is a Trustee on INBAR’s Board.