1500 participants from almost 70 countries, over 20 Ministers and high-level policymakers, 80 side sessions, and three large plenaries – the first Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress has proven beyond doubt that bamboo and rattan are critical tools for the future.
From day one, it was clear that the Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress (June 25-27, Beijing) was going to be important. For the opening summit on Monday, China’s Premier Li Keqiang, President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, President Lenín Moreno of Ecuador, José Graziano da Silva, Director of the Foo and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and Achim Steiner, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, all submitted messages of support – praising bamboo and rattan’s role in creating jobs, supporting rural development and helping with national climate change mitigation strategies.
Throughout the next few days, internationally recognised figures – such as Gunter Pauli, spokesperson for sustainability, and John Hardy, creator of the famous bamboo Green School in Bali – took to the stage to share their experiences of using bamboo and rattan, and the urgency of converting to more sustainable materials. There were many themes at the Congress – bamboo construction, poverty alleviation, land restoration and climate change, to name a few – but throughout all the 77 side sessions, one message kept coming through: bamboo and rattan are already part of the global conversation.
The Congress saw the launch of several new projects, and the call to extend existing ones. Importantly, INBAR launched a new inter-Africa project, covering Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana and Madgascar. Supported in part by the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the project aims to spread technologies and policies that will help develop the bamboo and rattan sectors in these countries. Speaking in plenary on Monday, Paul van der Logt from the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs also committed his support to a new phase of the Dutch-Sino-East Africa project – a trilateral project which is currently working across Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. As well as this, INBAR committed itself to work with partners on a number of new biodiversity-related initiatives, including a valuation of the eco-tourism potential of Uganda’s bamboo forests, which are a habitat for mountain gorillas, and a planning workshop for the new Giant Panda National Park in China.
The Global Assessment of Bamboo and Rattan for green development, GABAR, was running a training workshop alongside the Congress, to help INBAR Member states develop international methodologies for assessing bamboo stocks and carbon storage potential. Participants on the training course presented at BARC, and their final methodologies will mean that bamboo is counted in the FAO’s upcoming Forest Resource Assessment 2020. As Hans Friederich, Director General of INBAR, noted in his closing remarks for the Congress, the GABAR workshop “is literally putting bamboo on the map.”
A number of sessions discussed INBAR’s work in Africa, and on Wednesday INBAR also announced its newest member: the Central African Republic. The Republic is the 44th country to join the INBAR family, and the 19th Member state in Africa. INBAR also committed to launch a new Regional Office for Central Africa, in Yaoundé, Cameroon, to better coordinate its work in this bamboo- and rattan-rich region.
In a report released last year, INBAR estimated that it had trained around 20,000 people in bamboo and rattan management and use. Training is a key part of INBAR’s work, and at the Congress session on capacity-building, participants committed to establish a global network of training facilities. Upcoming training centres may include bases in Fiji and Ghana, and a China-Africa training centre in Ethiopia.
The first Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress was an important step forward for sustainable development. Bamboo and rattan are strategic, but often overlooked, plants which can help create jobs, restore land and protect biodiversity in some of the poorest and most vulnerable parts of the world. At this Congress, people from across governments, the private sector, research organisations and Universities came together to discuss these uses, and put together new partnerships, policies and programmes to resolve challenges.
Hans Friederich summed up the spirit of the Congress well in his closing address to all participants on Wednesday:
“In my opening speech to you all on Monday, I said that I did not want this Congress to be ‘just a talking shop’ – and I am delighted to report that this has absolutely not been the case. We have heard from experts on climate change and biodiversity; from policy makers; from business leaders; from home-grown entrepreneurs; from researchers, about the possibilities of bamboo and rattan. Bamboo and rattan are no longer ‘poor man’s timber’ – they are truly ‘green gold’, and their applications for sustainable development and environmental protection go hand-in-hand with their industrial applications and use by the private sector. It is my fervent hope that, over the next few years, we can continue these discussions and work across different sectors to promote these plants’ development.”