Q&A: Creating an African Bamboo Industry as Large as China’s

Hans Friederich at a Chinese bamboo plantation. Photo Courtesy

By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri
ACCRA, Dec 5 2018 (IPS)

The bamboo industry in China currently comprises up to 10
million people who make a living out of production of the grass.
But while the Asian nation has significant resources of bamboo —
three million hectares of plantation and three million hectares of
natural forests — the continent of Africa is recorded to have an
estimated three and a half million hectares of plantations,
excluding conservation areas.

This means that there is a possibility of creating a similar
size industry in Africa, according to International Network for
Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) director general Dr. Hans Friederich.

“In China, where the industry is developed, we have eight to
10 million people who make a living out of bamboo. They grow
bamboo, manufacture things out of bamboo and sell bamboo poles.
That has given them a livelihood and a way to build a local economy
to create a future for themselves and their children,” he tells

INBAR is the only international organisation championing the
development of environmentally sustainable bamboo and rattan. It
has 44 member states — 43 of which are in the global south —
with the secretariat headquarters based in China, and with regional
offices in India, Ghana, Ethiopia, and Ecuador. Over the years, the
multilateral development organisation has trained up to 25,000
people across the value chain – from farmers and foresters to
entrepreneurs and policymakers.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Africa is estimated to have three and a half million hectares of
bamboo. While China has about six million hectares of natural
forests, almost double the size of Africa’s, experts say there is
potential for developing the industry on the continent. Credit:
Desmond Brown/IPS

Inter Press Service (IPS): What has been INBAR’s Role
in the South-South Cooperation agenda?

Dr. Hans Friederich (DHF): In fact, a lot of our work over the
last 21 years is to link our headquarters in China with our
regional offices and our members around the world to help develop
policies, put in place appropriate legislation and regulations to
build capacity, train local people, provide information, and carry
out real field research to test new approaches to manage resources
in the most efficient way.

I think we [have been] able to help our members more effectively
and do more in the way of training and capacity building. I also
hope we can develop bamboo and rattan as vehicles for sustainable
development with our member countries around the world, especially
in the Global South.

IPS: What are the prospects for Africa’s bamboo and
rattan industry?

DHF: The recorded statistics
say that Africa has about three and half million hectares of
bamboo, which excludes conservation [areas].

So, if I were to make a guess, Africa has as much bamboo as
China [excluding China’s natural forests] and that means
theoretically, we should have the possibility of creating an
industry as large as China’s in Africa. That means an industry of
30 billion dollars per a year employing 10 million people.

IPS: How is INBAR helping to develop such a huge
potential in Africa?

DHF: The returns we are seeing in China may not happen overnight
in Africa, China has had 30 to 40 years to develop this

But what we are doing is working with our members in Africa to
kick off the bamboo value chain to start businesses and help
members make the most out of these plants.

IPS: Working with countries from the global south means
replication of best practices and knowledge sharing among member
states. Are there any good examples worth mentioning?

DHF: China is the world’s leading country when it comes to the
production and management of bamboo so we have a lot to learn from
China. Fortunately China has the financial resources that makes it
easy to share that information and knowledge with our members
…Looking at land management activities in Ghana, as an example, I
think bamboo can really help in restoring lands that have been
damaged through illegal mining activities.

Maybe that is actually where we can learn from other African
countries because we are already looking at how bamboo can help
with the restoration of degraded lands in Ethiopia.

Also, when we had a training workshop in Cameroon last year and
we looked at architecture, we brought an architect from Peru who
shared his experience of working with bamboo in Latin America,
which was quite applicable to Cameroon. So we are using experience
from different parts of the world to help others develop what they
think is important.

IPS: What is the most important thing in the development
of the bamboo and rattan value chain for an African country like

DHF: There are a number of things that we can do. One area that
Ghana is already working on with regards to bamboo and rattan, is
furniture production. I know that there is fantastic work being
done with skills development.

The value chain of furniture production is an area where Ghana
already has a lot to offer. But if we can improve quality, if we
can make the furniture more interesting for consumers, through
skills training [of artisans], then that is an area where we can
really help.

IPS: Which other opportunity can Ghana look at exploring
in the area of Bamboo and Rattan value chain?

DHF: Another area of opportunity is to use bamboo as a source of
charcoal for household energy. People depend on charcoal,
especially in rural areas in Ghana, but most of the charcoal comes
from often illegally-cut trees.

Instead of cutting trees we can simply harvest bamboo and make
charcoal from this, which is a legally produced source.

The great thing about Bamboo is that it re-grows the following
growing season after harvesting, so it is a very sustainable source
of charcoal production.

IPS: What does the future look like for

DHF: Two months ago Beijing hosted the China Africa Forum and we
were very, very pleased to have read that the draft programme of
work actually includes the development of Africa’s bamboo
industry. There is a paragraph that says China and Africa will work
together to establish an African training centre.

We understand this will most likely be in Ethiopia and it will
happen hopefully in the coming years.

Another thing is that China and Africa will work closely
together to develop the bamboo and rattan industry. They will also
develop specific activities on how to use bamboo for land
restoration and climate change mitigation and to see how bamboo can
help with livelihood development in Africa in partnership with

This is a very exciting development, a new window of opportunity
has opened for us to work together to develop bamboo and rattan in

The post
Q&A: Creating an African Bamboo Industry as Large as
appeared first on Inter Press Service.


IPS correspondent Jamila Akweley Okertchiri interviews DR. HANS
FRIEDERICH, Director General of the International Network for
Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR)

The post
Q&A: Creating an African Bamboo Industry as Large as
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Q&A: Creating an African Bamboo Industry as Large as China’s