BAMBOO FARMING CHANGING LIVES IN ETHIOPIA
By Paul Ndiho
Nearly 70% of Africa’s bamboo forests grow in Ethiopia, but much of it is commercially untouched. However, start-up companies like African Bamboo, a forestry, wood, and bio-energy company based in Addis Ababa, has come up with innovative ways to tap into Ethiopia’s natural resource.
If you asked the average person on the street to name a country that they associated with the bamboo plant, it’s unlikely you would hear many answers other than Ethiopia.
But the country is rich in bamboo, with 2.47 million acres of it untapped, but due to widespread deforestation, the government has taken drastic steps to promote sustainable harvests and green industries like African Bamboo are strategically placing themselves to tap into this growing industry. Khalid Duri is the General Manager.
“If you look at Asia, bamboo is a huge industry, $120 billion, if you look at Africa, it is negligible, almost $0. So we are trying to be a pioneer or to lead the industry using innovative applications for bamboo, practically for industrial and commercial purposes.”
Duri says industries such as African Bamboo are taking steps in managing, cultivating and using Ethiopian bamboo species to help mitigate rapid deforestation in the country by creating alternative “wood” sources and sustainable business opportunities.
“At least 6,000 farmers (in Ethiopia) they would earn, in total, in aggregate a-million-and-a-half Euro annually. Individually, their income would rise from just below a dollar to above two dollars.”
Bamboo is potentially an ideal source of local, sustainable purpose-engineered building materials for growing cities not only in Ethiopia but across Africa.
“The end product is the bamboo-based panel board for, that panel can be used for outdoor decking or indoors as well as wall siding, for applications with marinas, gardens and swimming pools and the like.”
Khalid Duri was one of the few African innovators competing for more than a million dollars in investment at the recently concluded AG Innovation Investment Summit organized by USAID. The event brought together more than 50 agricultural technology innovators, and investors to present, asses, and invest in game-changing technologies that will help small farmers improve their productivity and competitiveness. Event organizer Dr. Ku McMahan.
“We’re looking if they have a strong team, if they have a good organizational structure, a plan for scale, organization, and the finances prepared and a long-term vision of how they’re going to achieve that. And most importantly, that they have the local connections, and the interactions for their partnerships to make their whole organization move forward, to achieve the results that they’re climbing to have.”
Industry analysts say bamboo trade will also benefit from its greater sustainability than rival materials such as timber. Bamboo is the fastest-growing plant in the world, capable of growing almost one meter a day so that stocks can be rapidly regenerated.
Bamboo is extremely versatile. The profit potential has become even greater as environmentalists link bamboo with climate change mitigation, and the possibility of increased income through carbon credits.
So far 18 African countries with natural bamboo have joined International Network for Bamboo and Rattan or INBAR, which is assisting them with bamboo information, technology transfer, capacity building and policy formulation.