INBAR’s side event showed how bamboo is already being used for forest conservation and job creation across Africa, Asia and Latin America – and how it can be scaled up.
On 29 April, INBAR hosted a side event at the 16th Session of the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF 16). Speakers at the event, which was themed ‘From policy to action: forest and economic revival with bamboo’, discussed bamboo’s potential for forest and landscape restoration, and as a tool for livelihoods and poverty reduction.
Bamboo is a widespread grass plant, covering up to 50 million hectares of land around the world. In his keynote video message at the event, INBAR Deputy Director Professor Lu Wenming described how bamboo could contribute to two thematic priorities of UNFF 16: enhancing the economic, social and environmental benefits from forests, and reversing the loss of forest cover. According to Professor Lu, INBAR is actively promoting bamboo as an important part of land restoration programmes: “In the next few years, INBAR will conduct more than 450 training courses which will benefit more than 29,500 farmers across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and support the establishment of around 20,000 hectares of new bamboo plantations.”
Following this keynote speech, experts described specific examples from Africa, Asia and Latin America, where bamboo is being used to protect and restore forests or as a sustainable alternative to timber.
As the speakers showed, bamboo can be a sustainable source of fibre with many applications. In his presentation, Dr. Fei Benhua, Executive Deputy Director General of the International Centre for Bamboo and Rattan, introduced some of the latest product innovations and bamboo industrial value chains in Asia. He gave examples of bamboo’s uses in architecture, decoration, furniture, papermaking, packaging, transportation, medicine, food, textiles and the chemical industry.
The second speaker, Mr. Adane Berhe, focused on one product in particular: bamboo charcoal. As the CEO of Adal Industrial Plc, an Ethiopian company that creates a range of bamboo products, Mr. Berhe explained how bamboo charcoal can help reduce deforestation for timber fuel, and provide a source of income. His own factory, outside Addis Ababa, employs more than 100 staff and has expanded to produce a wide range of goods. Mr. Berhe concluded that he thinks bamboo can play a large role in African countries’ work for forest conservation and poverty alleviation.
As well as charcoal, bamboo can also be a low-carbon source of durable products, including housing. Latin American countries have a long history of building with bamboo, as Mr. Esteban Torres, from the non-governmental organisation Fundación SOMOS Ecuador, explained. In his presentation, Mr. Torres introduced some of the buildings which have been made with bamboo across Latin America, and how bamboo housing can be a real and scalable alternative to emissions-intensive construction materials, such as PVC and concrete.
As the speakers agreed, although bamboo is not a tree, it should not be overlooked as a valuable part of forests, and a critical part of sustainable forest management and restoration initiatives. The key, as the event title made clear, is to promote supportive policies and practical work, to raise awareness and incentivise take-up of bamboo. Over the next few years, INBAR will continue to promote bamboo’s applications for the UNFF Global Forest Goals, through its programme work and partnerships with UNFF, the UN Decade for Ecosystems Restoration, Global Landscapes Forum, CGIAR’s Forests, Trees and Agroforestry Programme, and other global initiatives.