THE idea to cultivate bamboo may sound strange and ridiculous in this country but the fact that deforestation is taking place at an alarming rate with unparalleled tree planting efforts; time has come for Tanzania to learn from other countries about alternative measures to mitigate effects of climate change.
Environmentalists throughout the world have proposed bamboo farming as an alternative way to offset carbon emission from the human population. Contrary to popular belief, bamboo is very durable and resilient. Although bamboo is flexible and lightweight, it has received hardness or strength, ratings higher than many hardwoods.
Scientists have observed that unlike traditional types of wood, bamboo can grow from cut stems and shoots and can grow over three feet in one day. But what is bamboo? Bamboo is technically a group of woody perennial evergreen plants. Simply put, bamboo is a tree-like grass.
It is considered extremely renewable because it is the fastest growing woody plant in the world. Some species have the ability to grow over 100 feet in a single growing season, which is about 3 feet per day. This fast growing behaviour provides many benefits to the environment.
During presentation in Dar es Salaam to mark the International Wood Day, the occasion that brought together representatives from 45 different countries, Dr Lou Yiping, Director of the Centre for China-Africa Agriculture & Forestry (CAFOR), said bamboo products have proved the best substitute to wood products in China.
Explaining the economic value of bamboo in China, Dr Yiping said In 2010, the total value of output of bamboo industry were about USD 15 billion. There are more than 6,500 bamboo shoots factories and bamboo processing enterprises in China. More than 4.5 million people are employed in bamboo industry.
The centre (CAFOR) is planned to act as an interface and communication platform for researchers and related stakeholders, such as the private sectors, in China and Africa to promote exchange, research and technology transfer in the fields of forestry and agriculture. CAFOR will have a particularly strong emphasis on both bamboo and tea resource research and development for environmental protection and poverty alleviation.
“Bamboo plants have the ability to grow rapidly on very small amounts of water when compared to plants like cotton or maize. In addition, the plants do not need synthetic fertilisers to thrive. Organic compost, a recycled product, has been proven to be the most effective way to cultivate bamboo plants,” Yiping explains.
Since bamboo regenerates so quickly, cutting it won’t affect its growing power. Unlike other types of woods, bamboo can easily and speedily be re-grown in a reasonably short period of time. There are thousands of species of bamboo that grow around the world. Bamboo can be treated and can also form a very hard, lightweight, but durable wood.
This durable wood works effectively for construction, architecture, decoration, furniture, fencing, hedges and more. It is further established that a bamboo plant can create over 400 per cent more biomass when compared to other trees that are used to create wood products, such as poplar, pine or maples.
Apart from environmental benefits, bamboo has the ability to make a wide range of products. People use bamboo for poles, thatch, rugs, flooring, clothing, plywood among others. Others use bamboo to turn their homes into tropical paradise. For example, due to its water resiliency, bamboo can be used in places where typical woods cannot such as bathrooms, outdoor, kitchens, etc. It was concluded that bamboo is tremendously resourceful.
It can be used for food, musical instruments, medicine, furniture, fishing rods and much, much more. In the United States, for example, bamboo is typically used for decorative purposes for home and garden. In fact what differentiate bamboo from other types of wood is its unique aesthetic, affordability, functionality and strong quality.
It is perhaps the most adaptable plant in the world. Bamboo is already extremely important in Asian culture, but it is rapidly gaining popularity in different parts of the world. If other countries have attached importance to cultivation of bamboo wood, why not Tanzania where deforestation has left large chunks of land bare?
Bamboo has a number of environmental benefits. It has been and will continue to be considered the “green” building and decorating material. The extremely rapid growth, sustainability and natural regeneration properties of bamboo are what primarily responsible for bamboo being considered the “green” material.
Another convenience factor is, unlike many other hardwood products, bamboo flooring needs no finish work and is factory pre-finished with a laminate varnish. Bamboo fencing or applying bamboo poles to a pre-existing fence is an affordable and eye pleasing way to really spruce up any area.
From scientists we learn about the economic value in cultivation of bamboo. Though it may take time for the idea to sink into people’s minds, at least we now know that bamboo has a myriad of both economic and environmental advantages. The growing global population continues to exert more pressure on the use of wood products as change of climate continues to cut deep.
It is therefore recommended for the country to give a second thought on the need to cultivate bamboo, especially in areas left bare following years of systematic cut down of trees. Other countries have made progress in that aspect many years ago.
They have seen the importance of serious engagement in massive cultivation of bamboo. Bamboo flooring, for example, has gained popularity over the past 20 years. It is a superior alternative to many other hardwood floor options. It is cheaper, better looking and good for our planet.