Ethiopia: The potential of bamboo as a strategic crop
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.