Ethiopia: The po­ten­tial of bam­boo as a strate­gic crop

Africa Renewal - - Africa Watch: Burundi -

Withabout 1 mil­lion hectares of in­dige­nous bam­boo, Ethiopia is the big­gest bam­boo grower in Africa. It is home to 67% of all African bam­boo.

The coun­try has two species— Yusha­nia alpina, planted and man­aged by farm­ers in the high­lands, and Oxy­tenan­thera abyssinica, which grows nat­u­rally in the low­lands.

De­spite the size of its nat­u­ral bam­boo for­est, Ethiopia has only re­cently started to tap its po­ten­tial and is now ea­ger to em­brace bam­boo tech­nolo­gies and knowl­edge trans­fer, mostly from IN­BAR and a range of Chi­nese ex­perts.

“Bam­boo should be con­sid­ered the most im­por­tant, fast-grow­ing, strate­gic in­ter­ven­tion for af­foresta­tion and de­for­esta­tion in the moun­tain­ous and de­graded ar­eas of the coun­try,” said Ethiopia’s state min­is­ter for agriculture, Ato Sileshi Ge­tahun, at a re­cent event.

In Ethiopia bam­boo is be­ing used for pro­tect­ing wa­ter­sheds, for in­ter­crop­ping, to cre­ate shade for other crops, as a wind­break and as a nat­u­ral mulch to pro­vide drought pro­tec­tion. Peo­ple also use it for fuel, fenc­ing and fur­ni­ture, and some­times bam­boo shoots are used for food and an­i­mal fod­der.

How­ever, bam­boo value-ad­di­tion in the coun­try is still rel­a­tively small, hence lim­ited ex­port earn­ings.

The coun­try has three fac­to­ries and the sec­tor em­ploys more than 1,000 peo­ple.

Ghanacur­rently has about 400,000 hectares of bam­boo, a mostly nat­u­ral stand in the western re­gion. Some ex­otic species have been in­tro­duced into Ghana, in­clud­ing the thick-walled Beema bam­boo from In­dia, and the near-solid Oxy­tenan­thera abyssinica from Ethiopia. These two are par­tic­u­larly use­ful for biomass en­ergy and are well adapted to drier ar­eas.

Ac­cord­ing to Michael Kwaku, di­rec­tor of IN­BAR (In­ter­na­tional Net­work for Bam­boo and Rat­tan) Ghana, 18 species of ex­otic bam­boo were first in­tro­duced into the coun­try from Hawaii in 2004 by the Ghana­ian branch of the Bam­boo and Rat­tan De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme (BARADEP), as part of a project with the Op­por­tu­ni­ties In­dus­tri­al­iza­tion Cen­tre. The project was also ex­tended to neigh­bour­ing Togo.

BARADEP-Ghana dis­trib­uted the species to some in­sti­tu­tions and non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions, which prop­a­gated them and mon­i­tored their growth con­di­tions and adapt­abil­ity in Ghana. It aims to pro­vide ad­e­quate plant­ing ma­te­ri­als for pri­vate and com­mer­cial bam­boo plan­ta­tion de­vel­op­ers in Ghana.

“Un­til re­cently, bam­boo was a non­com­mer­cial open-ac­cess re­source in Ghana. Over the past few years, the use­ful­ness of bam­boo and its com­mer­cial value is be­ing ap­pre­ci­ated. Com­mer­cial ex­ploita­tion has be­gun for such prod­ucts like bam­boo bi­cy­cles, bam­boo char­coal, fur­ni­ture, bam­boo boards and build­ing sup­port poles,” Mr. Kwaku told Africa Re­newal. Bam­boo is also be­ing used to re­store de­graded min­ing ar­eas.

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