Blog #6: Can Bamboo Encourage Development in Africa?

Bamboo Vision. Photo by Oktomi Jaya on Unsplash.

Is bamboo the crop that Africa needs for its development needs?

It may be. However, before can we capitalize of the wonderful properties of the bamboo plant, there are several misconceptions (or lies) about the local market that need to be combated.

MISCONCEPTIONS DEBUNKED

Lie #1: Imported building materials are the best.

Lie #2: People no longer want to farm.

Truth #1: We need to develop local materials and techniques locally. Imported materials are often overly expensive, hard to source, subject to long transportation time, and do not benefit the local economy as much as locally sourced material. Africa doesn’t have to be a captive, consumer market only. We can also produce materials for other market’s consumption.

Truth #2: In most African countries, there are high rates of unemployment, especially among the youth. Many of them are open to farming opportunities. Growing, treating, and utilizing bamboo can give many sustainable incomes and improve the standard of living. We can grow local materials, and then build local capacity for curing them for building material, which can then source local construction projects or can also be exported to other countries. Bamboo is a prime candidate which allows for multi-industry involvement and thus can promote economic empowerment.

BAMBOO PLANTING REQUIREMENTS

The requirements for bamboo largely include:

  • ample land in warm location
  • humid conditions
  • generous irrigation during growing season, depending on rainfall,
  • fertilizer – both organic fertilizer, mulch
  • yearly thinning to discourage competition from weeds, like vines and grasses.

INDUSTRY APPLICATIONS

  • Agriculture: Harvesting bamboo poles for curing for furniture companies. Bamboo leaves and chopped bamboo plants can feed livestock and create fodder for goats, cows, sheep and chicken. Bamboo poles can also be used for holding food storage, building animal shelters like barns, chicken coops and animal pens.
  • Food & Cooking: Sourcing edible bamboo shoots as a food item in various cuisines, as well as sourcing restaurants. Also, in rural areas, bamboo can be used to build outdoor kitchens, and charred bamboo can be used for biofuel for outdoor cooking in place of traditional firewood, which reduces the risk of deforestation.
  • Manufacturing: Drying, curing, and treating bamboo poles for use as material for a myriad of uses.
  • Interior Design: Treated bamboo can be used to build furniture items such as tables, chairs, beds, etc.
  • Arts & Crafts: Bamboo can be employed as material for endless options in craft work including wind chimes, weaving rugs, making paper and fabric goods.
  • Construction: Treated bamboo can be used to build furniture, as fencing materials, and other structural uses like for temporary building site purposes like material storage, formwork, sheds, ladders, and scaffolding. Furthermore, companies like BamCore are developing sustainable bamboo technology for wood framing, roofing, and flooring material. (I will blog about this in the future and link it here.)
  • Transportation: Bamboo has also been used to build bicycles, as exemplified by the Ghanaian company, Bamboo Bikes, headed by young entrepreneur, Winnifred Selby.
  • Landscaping: Live bamboo plants can be sold for gardening and landscaping needs, building sheds, and to other farms for farming.
  • Local Market & Exports: Locally, kiosks and outdoor marketplace stalls. Sourcing fresh or cured bamboo raw materials and finished products, locally and exporting them abroad as well.

CONCLUSION

Thus, there is an opportunity for Africans to capitalize, literally, on the wonderful qualities of the bamboo plant themselves locally. This enables people to be employed in growing, harvesting, treating, and working with bamboo as a finished product. It also generates opportunities across multiple industries and markets.

SOURCES

  1. Bamboo Farming USA. Why Bamboo. http://www.bamboofarmingusa.com/how-to-plant/#page-content. Retrieved on January 9, 2020.
  2. Bamboo Farming USA. Planting Bamboo. http://www.bamboofarmingusa.com/how-to-plant/#page-content. Retrieved on January 9, 2020.
  3. Bamcore. Bamboo Commentaries and White Papers. http://bamcore.com/bamboo-info/bamcore-commentaries-and-white-papers/.Retrieved on January 6, 2020.

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