Bamboo – helping countries achieve Land Degradation Neutrality

As the World observes 2015’s World Day to Combat Desertification on 17th June, INBAR asks countries and other development partners to consider including bamboo in their sustainable land management strategies to reduce malnutrition and poverty.

According to FAO, about one ninth of the World’s population are undernourished, including a quarter of those in sub-Saharan Africa, whilst Asia has the highest numbers of undernourished. With the World’s population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, agricultural production must increase by about 70%, globally and 100% in developing countries in the next 35 years.


Better use of the world’s crop-able land will be essential. 52% of the land currently used for agriculture is moderately or severely affected by land degradation whilst competition for water resources could cause a global 18% reduction in the availability of water for agriculture by 2050. Countries need to take steps immediately to start to address these and many other related land degradation problems, and the staggering magnitude of the investment in change needed means that options must be evaluated and implemented soon, in order for longer-term benefits to develop and accrue over the next 35 years.


Bamboo is one resource that can help restore degraded lands rapidly. It has been shown to be an excellent pioneer crop on heavily degraded soils in India where it has been used to restore 85, 000 ha of land in a project based around the city of Allahabad. It grows well under very poor conditions and establishes rapidly, forming a permanent, green canopy over the soil in just a few years, and can then be intercropped in appropriate agroforestry systems. In the project bamboo was integrated into a multitude of cropping systems that include leguminous trees such as Moringa, and a range of fruit trees, vegetables, fodder crops and medicinal plants. Each year, bamboo added 6-8 inches of humus to the soil and has helped raise the water table from below 40 m in 1997 to 15 – 18m today; the region is self sufficient in water, now. Bamboo has increased the carbon content of the soil from zero to 0.7 – 0.9 t/ha due to leaf fall, and the pH of the soil has fallen from 10 – 11 to 6-7 and continues to acidify (read more here).


Image above – 2-3m of top soil was harvested to make bricks on thousands of hectares in Allahabad, India.


Bamboo is a strategic forest resource that can be grown on peripheral and non-cropping land, so bring real, added, benefits to a farm or homestead. Bamboo has had an essential direct role in food production for millennia in many parts of the world, from livestock containers and baskets to silkworm trays, and from fishing boats to floating vegetable gardens, as well as agricultural infrastructure such as buildings and bridges, treadle pumps and latterly biogas generators. Bamboos not only supply poles that can be used to make products for sale, but their leaves can be used as livestock and fish fodder, as well as continually providing a thick soil mulch to further enhance soil nutrient content and structure.


The shoots of many bamboos are edible and are a nutritious vegetable. Recently, the inclusion of bamboo fibres in processed foods has been shown to increase their roughage and nutrient content.


Planting bamboos on riverbanks is a widely-used means of stabilizing watercourses in many countries, where bamboos are often integrated components of bio-diverse landscapes. There is growing interest in how bamboos can be used to remove impurities and pollutants from water courses, and their use as a feedstock in electricity generation is being explored.


Bamboo is also an alternative to agriculture and forestry crops for a range of uses – it is a source of biofuel that doesn’t need to be grown on agricultural land, so its use won’t affect agricultural productivity. It is a substitute for timber that is sustainably harvested and maintains its green cover over the soil at all times and so preserves the environmental balance.


Nations and the international development community will soon look towards implementing and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in the post-2015 development agenda. Bamboo can help countries achieve the aims of their Sustainable Land Management strategies and reach Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN). As the UNCCD notes: “Halting and reversing the current trends in land degradation and desertification through sustainable land management (SLM) is not only achievable but is the logical, cost-effective next step for national and international development agendas”.


The potential for bamboo to contribute to reaching LDN is considerable. INBAR calls upon countries, international agencies and other development partners to help realize this potential by incorporating bamboo appropriately into their Sustainable Land Management strategies, programmes and schemes.



Note to editors: INBAR was provisionally accredited to the UNCCD as an intergovernmental observer organization in February 2015, pending formal approval at UNCCD COP 12 in October.

Building consensus for rattan development in Asia

Haikou, Hainan, China, 9 June 2015. Earlier this month, experts and practitioners from eight nations met to share experiences and ideas of using rattan for development, and define a series of steps to boost the rattan sector in Asia.

Rattan grows in many ASEAN nations where it has been used locally for millennia, and is still widely used to produce furniture for export, which remains popular in both producing and the more affluent countries of the world. As one of the most important Non-Timber Forest Products it adds value to forests and is a strategic forest resource that can be sustainably managed and used to help achieve greener development.

Rattans are spiny, climbing palm trees that grow in the tropical and subtropical forests of Asia and Africa, distributed from the nations of West Africa to the western pacific Islands. Rattan is colloquially known as cane, and has been a source for the cane furniture industry for centuries. It is collected from the wild, mostly in the forests of Southeast Asia, but also in central and west Africa, and is one of the most valuable non-timber forest resources in the areas in which it grows. It provides sustainable incomes to many forest dwellers, providing reliable livelihoods to those who have few alternatives. Although rattan is widely used for furniture, it is also used for matting and handicrafts as well as cordage. Figures of the number of people involved in the world’s rattan sector vary from tens of thousands to millions, but it is known that most work in small or medium sized businesses.

A review of the potential of rattan for development, conducted a couple of years ago for INBAR, stated:

“Rattan is a unique light, strong and durable product with a “tropical” feel, derived from climbing palms. Global demand for rattan products remains strong. New designs for rattan furniture and basketry products continue to appeal to modern consumers.

The rattan sector employs around 4 million people worldwide, many of whom are poor, forest dwelling families living in tropical forests of Southeast Asia and Africa. The sector is estimated to generate global revenue of $10.5 billion annually.

Several factors inhibit the sector from reaching its full potential as a pro-poor value chain. Most of the raw material is still harvested from tropical forests without much management. As a result, rattan resources are quickly diminishing in several source countries. On the other hand, there is a growing demand for certified rattan products, produced in a way that does not damage forests and creates income benefits to poor rural households. Successful pilots of certified rattan are starting to emerge.

The main challenge is to replace the old, depletive production systems with sustainable rattan production, in gardens and community-managed forests. Adding value through certification, innovative designs, value chain development and cleaner processing technologies could lift 7 million rural households out of poverty.

To make this happen, a combination is needed of local actions and international networking. Local producers need to build partnerships with international buyers to establish verifiable, sustainable and eco-friendly production systems. The industry needs to develop cleaner and fairer production systems that pay primary producers a fair compensation for adapting sustainable production systems. Governments in both consumer and producer countries need to adjust trade policies to realize the potential of the rattan sector for fair trade based on product certification” (note: the opinions expressed are those of the authors).

With a view to boosting the rattan sector in Asia, INBAR and its partners organized a consultation seminar in early June to share the latest musings on the state of the rattan sector and on how it’s growth can best be fostered to provide benefits to countries. Organised in conjunction with China’s International Centre for Bamboo and Rattan (ICBR), one of the world’s leading research institutes on the subject, the seminar brought together policymakers, practitioners, technical support experts and researchers in Hainan Island, once at the forefront of China’s burgeoning rattan sector, but now suffering, as are many parts of the rattan world, from overexploitation of rattan resources and the lack of an appropriate investment framework.

The participants raised a wide range of valuable topics that were to inform discussions later in the day. Representatives from three rattan development projects in the region shared their project’s different approaches to rattan-based development, each very successful in its own way:

Luu Thi Binh (Vietnam) and Outhai Vongsa (Lao PDR) of ADB’s Biodiversity Conservation Corridors project noted that Rattan is a strategic NTFP to improve livelihoods and protect forests in their project area in Vietnam and Laos. In Vietnam the project has taken a successful small business approach by offering micro loans of a few hundred USD each to villagers in each commune under the project’s “Community Development Fund” to support rattan enterprises, as well as providing help with business development plans. In Laos, the communities are being helped to promote sale of edible rattan shoots which fetch good process in the local markets, and supplying semi-processed rattan canes to local processors to earn incomes as part of an integrated commercial crop-use strategy.

Tam Le Viet, manager of WWF Mekong’s  bamboo, rattan and Acacia project explained how the value chain approach taken in the project has brought significant benefits to the communities already. The project is moving from a rattan supply chain that involves harvesters, raw rattan sellers, processors and markers towards sustainability and promote green business partnership. The project has enabled community groups and CoC SMEs to be the first ever FSC certified for rattan, and 40 SMEs are now selling to Europe.  Over 200 SMEs have access to cleaner production guidelines, and eight have banded together to form the new Rattan Association of Cambodia (

Philippe Lyssens of SNV’s EU-Switch funded PROSPECT Indonesia project “Promotion of Sustainable and Clean Rattan Production: Voluntary adoption of sustainable standards”, said that consumers in affluent (usually western) markets now want to know the “how” of production of the items they purchase. Consumers are becoming more demanding on price and the origin of the products, and the major retailers, such as Ikea and Walmart, require suppliers to fulfil minimum requirements for sustainable production in terms of the environment, and social and working conditions. The project works with producers to help them understand these requirements and to make the changes necessary to meet them, with the longer term aim of helping the rattan industry in Indonesia adopt a series of minimum production and workers standards.

Representatives of two of the largest rattan companies in China gave a private sector perspective:

Andy Chan Sik Cheong of Hello Hobby Rattan Co noted that a lack of stability in the upstream parts of the industry has also created a lack of confidence in the downstream parts, an as a result investors are unwilling to invest in the downstream industry to develop new production technologies due to supply instability. The rattan furniture market has begun to shrink due to high costs despite the large potential market and the success of the rattan industry as a whole will require more than the efforts of one or two innovative companies – Mr Chan proposed a national organization as one means of supporting the development of the Chinese rattan industry.

Wu Shaohong of Hainan Sino Rattan Technology Co.,Ltd. explained how the serious lack of raw materials available on the Island are hampering efforts to grow the sector there. Long-term destructive harvesting, plus the deteriorating of the eco-environment, has depleted the rattan resources, but demand for rattan products is increasing – the price of raw rattan has doubled in the past ten years.  Ninety five percent of all rattan used here is imported, but current (young) stocks could supply over half of this if left to mature suitably. In Hainan, rattan management and harvesting can yield over 12, 000 USD per hectare in incomes, particularly to the poor forest dwellers who live with rattan. He suggested raising awareness of the importance of rattan development with decision makers at all levels, producing and implementing a rattan development plan, better linking producers to village collectors and primary processors, and even establishing a Rattan Industry Park to provide focus and technical and marketing support.

Some of the world’s most respected rattan researchers and innovators shared ideas from the research and innovation perspectives:

Prof Yang Shumin of ICBR explained the latest research into the anatomy and the physical and mechanical properties of the rattans of China. Calamus manan is one of the strongest canes – denser canes have more desirable mechanical properties. Many of the commercially used rattan have high variability in their properties, and this means that structural properties are also variable – not a desirable trait. She also introduced her work on rattan carbon-based materials for energy storage, electromagnetic shielding, eco-ceramic materials and high conductivity polymer composites.

Abie Abdillah of Indonesia’s Rattan Innovation Centre, PIRNAS, highlighted the variability in properties and quality of the raw rattan materials available in Indonesia, and called for more standardization, noting that determination of quality of poles was currently based only on their morphology and consequently not as ideal as it could be. He also noted that supply and marketing chains of rattan need to be improved, and that current designs find it hard to compete in the international markets. He explained that one of the reasons PIRNAS was established was to start to address these problems and find innovative solutions to them. PIRNAS brochure here.

Dr. Li Rongsheng of China’s Tropical Forestry Research Institute said that China’s rattan industry is valued at about 1bn USD per year, of which 100 – 200 million USD comes from exports. Cane production has fallen to almost nothing these days from over 10, 000 tonnes per year in 1960, and about 5000 in 1980, with Hainan supplying over 90% of the nation’s locally-grown rattan canes throughout – almost all smaller diameter canes for webbing and light framing. In 2014, over 25,000 tonnes of cane were imported to supply the industry, following a continuing decline after a peak of 63, 000 tonnes in 2003 – these are mostly larger diameter canes for furniture frames. He noted that more and more species in China are overharvested and threatened and need protection status, and that much more and better managed rattan plantations are needed to meet national demand.

In his overview of the state of China’s rattan resources, Zhou Lijun of China’s State Forestry Administration explained that there were 46 species of rattan in three genera in China, with about 20,000ha of managed rattan in 2000, though that figure has declined in the intervening years and in fact, these days it’s not clear how much rattan China has. Additionally, the costs of harvesting rattan are high, and the benefits derived from it are limited especially compared to a few decades ago. Rattan development policies in China’s 13th five year plan aim to provide leadership and commitment at high levels to promote rattan, though subsidies for replanting rattan have proven difficult to implement thus far. New technologies under development include cultivation of thornless varieties, growing on degraded lands and improved harvesting techniques.


The seminar produced the following summary conclusions/recommendations:
1. We need to have an inventory of the resource base, as we do not know where bamboo resources are, what species exist, what opportunities there are.
2. We need to develop a reliable supply of rattan for the global market.  This has two aspects: one the one hand we may identify natural resources in existing supply countries, and one the other hand we should promote the planting of new supplies.
3. The market for bamboo products consists of traditional furniture and handicrafts.  Designs improvement will broaden this market.  But there is also a new market opening up with potentially high-value new products.
4. Consumers in Europe and USA are demanding sustainably produced products, and want to know how “green” the production process is.  We will need to think about certification or verification of the production methods, and we need to set clear standards for products.
5. This means introducing sustainable management practices, cleaner production systems and better marketing arrangements through cooperatives or associations.  Training and capacity building is needed, but also awareness-raising.
6. The effects of national policies on the rattan sector are variable and often un-monitored. Reviews of the effects national policies both at national and international levels would help inform and quantify for governments how they are helping, and if not, provide a basis for policy reform to support rattan business development.
7. A sustainable rattan industry will require healthy natural forests, as most rattans are collected from the natural forest.
8. Internationally, clear and more Harmonised System codes would help us monitor and promote international trade in rattan.
9. Collaboration between ASEAN nations would be good, and more regular meetings like this seminar would help.  An INBAR Regional rattan project is supported, as long as it builds on, and is linked to, on-going initiatives by ADB, WWF, SNV, and others.  We should also liaise with ASEAN Secretariat and China-ASEAN Centre.



Why not switch to bamboo and rattan?

Today, on World Environment Day 2015, INBAR asks:

Would you consider making a switch to bamboo and rattan the next time you have the chance?


The theme of this year’s Day is “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care”. The United Nations Environment Programme notes that the world is now consuming at a rate of 1.5 planet’s worth of resources per year. If this continues, by 2030 we’ll need two planets to supply our needs – this is an inevitable consequence of increasing prosperity and urbanisation.

But bamboo and rattan can help. Both of these strategic forest resources are renewable, and can help us live more sustainably, reducing the pressures on our diminishing forests. They are excellent substitutes for some uses of wood, and using them instead of trees means more forests and more sustainable consumption. Look at laminated bamboo flooring, which architects are specifying in attractive designs for homes and offices, or kitchen chopping boards, furniture, and a growing range of engineered and industrial products. Bamboo in particular grows rapidly and regrows once cut. As only a portion of its poles are harvested each year, the forest stays intact, as does its ability to absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere. Rattans have long been used to produce furniture and new designs are emerging to catch the eye of consumers in affluent countries.

For energy, bamboo biomass is taking its place alongside other renewable plant-based fuel sources. Bamboo charcoal is an alternative to wood charcoal in Ethiopia and Ghana, and is being produced and sold by many small producers there. Bamboo has huge potential as a feedstock for electricity generation – a new area currently under technical evaluation.

Producing bamboo incense sticks in Tripura, India

Bamboo and rattan already contribute significantly to food security in the areas where they grow. They have been widely used in agriculture and fisheries for millennia, as implements, and storage and carrying baskets, and even as boats and fish cages. Now interest is growing in the use of bamboo leaves as animal fodder. This perennial and low-cost source of fodder is used by some communities but has potential to serve many more. For people, the shoots of many bamboos and rattans are edible, and they are the source of a number of ingredients in medicine.

Degraded lands are being revitalised with bamboo in many locations. These plants establish rapidly and help restore degraded lands quickly, providing a source of softwood for decades after, protecting the soil from erosion and absorbing carbon. Rattans are climbing plants and need trees to climb up – at a recent INBAR consultation on rattan with experts from eight countries, we heard that their presence in the tropical rainforests of Asia and Africa is an indicator of healthy biodiversity in the forests – that “healthy rattans need healthy forests”. And rattans bring income directly to forest dwelling communities, especially as they maintain the forest to reap the benefits of healthy rattan – a win-win for people and the local habitat.

Round bamboo splits dry in the sun prior to being made into window blinds, Huangshan, China

If you were wondering how you might switch to bamboo and rattan and how they can strengthen biodiversity and help protect the planet, we hope we have given you some new clues! Starting on World Environment Day 2015, why not consider buying bamboo and rattan products the next time you go shopping. Many countries are recognising the value of these plants and including them in sustainable development and green economy plans. As consumers, we can support this movement by giving the many modern and useful bamboo and rattan products a try.


Boosting Asia’s rattan sector:

This week, practitioners, business people and researchers from eight countries meet to define next steps to boost the rattan sector in Asia.

Rattan experts, forest policy makers, business people and researchers meet in Hainan, China this week in an effort to boost rattan development, investment and trade in the region. They aim to craft a plan that will stimulate rattan business and investment –  and ultimately benefit several million people living in forest communities in Southeast Asia who work with rattan every day.

Rattan grows in many ASEAN nations where it has been used locally for millennia, and is still widely used to produce furniture for export, which is popular in both producing and the more affluent countries of the world. As one of the most important Non-Timber Forest Products, rattan adds value to forests and is a strategic forest resource that countries can use as a component of their green economy plans.

Rattan collectors are often poor, forest-dwelling families. Yet, many products made from rattan are beautiful design pieces, and the global market value is of the order of $5 Billion. Innovation in design helps keep the market fresh, with young designers using rattan to create modern, functional designs. This progress charts a healthy future for rattan products.

But difficulties remain. The nature and magnitude of the resource base remains uncertain, as rattan is not often included in forestry assessments, and harvesting is sometimes unregulated, adding to the lack of clarity about the availability of raw rattan. Importing countries, mainly European nations and the US, have introduced regulations and rules that require raw materials to originate from sustainable sources, requiring better knowledge and management of its source by the exporting nations.

In many locations, proper evaluation of rattan stocks has not been conducted, and there is a limited understanding of the resource base available for development work, and hence no basis for future planning. As rattan takes at least ten years from planting to harvest, and possibly much more, the investment needed to plant rattans gives only long-term returns, and is often not attractive to investors for whom other, shorter-term, opportunities exist – favourable financing availability may help with this. There is also limited understanding of the effectiveness and potential of rattan-related policies to support sectoral growth, and surprisingly given the importance of the sector, a relatively limited number of proven successful instances of community development with rattan in the past, though many are in progress today. Product design and innovation is also thought to be critical to pushing the sector’s development.

Strategic development of the rattan sector has the potential to lift several million people in the regional out of poverty. To do this requires adding value to raw rattan through improved pro-poor value chains and cleaner processing technologies, while maintaining a healthy rattan resource base. Growing demand for innovative products also means that the private sector will play a greater role in driving rattan-based development, providing new investment that will link poor producer communities with markets.
National agencies in many nations of ASEAN are working to improve rattan-based development, as are a number of international organizations – the Asian Development Bank is working in Cambodia, WWF in the Mekong region, and SNV in Indonesia, all very successfully. Representatives from all these projects are presenting the results and the issues that they face. Project and innovation work in China has long attempted to address the lack of availability of raw rattan, and the need for innovation to drive market growth, and researchers and businesspeople are sharing their results and ideas, too.


Experts at the meeting include project managers from rattan projects in Indonesia (SNV), Laos and Vietnam (ADB), as well as WWF’s Mekong programme, researchers from China (Chinese Academy of Forestry, International Centre for Bamboo and Rattan), policy makers from China (State Forestry Administration, Hainan Forestry Bureau), government forestry officials from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste and China, as well as INBAR.


Global Assessment of Bamboo and Rattan

Special event at UNFF11

Today, at UNFFF11, the benefits of bamboo and rattan for sustainable forestry are being discussed at a special event hosted by INBAR.

The panel discuss bamboo and rattan as strategic forest resources (l-r: H.E. Bebaorimisa, Madagascar; H.E. Pickersgill, Jamaica: Hans Friederich, INBAR; H.E. Zhang, China) 

The session looks at the potential of bamboo for improving the livelihoods of millions of people that live near forest ecosystems, for combating climate change and for meeting the challenges of deforestation and the need to regenerate degraded landscapes. While the benefits bamboo and rattan as ‘strategic forest resources’ for developing countries are acknowledged, much more needs to be understood and exchanged between countries to reap the maximum benefits from these plants to benefit people and forests. The special event is presenting INBAR’s Global Assessment of Bamboo and Rattan (GABAR), an initiative and platform that aims to increase this learning and exchange of information and knowledge on bamboo and rattan. Policy leaders from China, Kenya, and Ecuador are presenting case studies giving their perspectives on bamboo and rattan for development.

In his Keynote speech, the Hon. Zhang Yongli, Vice-minister of China’s State Forestry Administration is explaining that the Chinese government places great emphasis on conservation and restoration of forest resources, including bamboo and rattan. Between 2011 – 2014, over 6m hectares of land have been reforested every year. Bamboo plays an irreplaceable role in poverty alleviation, economic development and environmental protection. China will support GABAR and to global sustainable development with bamboo and rattan by sharing the results of China’s National Forest Inventory for inclusion.
In his Keynote speech, the Hon. Zhang Yongli, Vice-minister of China’s State Forestry Administration is noting that INBAR’s GABAR initiative provides a platform for collaboration across INBAR’s 40 member states and pledges that China will contribute to it. China has invested much in bamboo – the country’s total afforested area has grown steadily for the past 30 years, and this includes much more bamboo – bamboo can play an irreplaceable role in poverty alleviation, economic development and environmental protection.

In presenting INBAR’s new initiative to gather and share critical data on the state of bamboo and rattan resources and their use the world over, as a prelude to massive development with them, Hans Friederich, INBAR’s Director General is highlighting the global potential of bamboo for green development.  He is stressing how these two unique types of plants are helping improve forest management, protect the environment and bring new income to millions of people whose livelihoods depend on forest resources. To help expand the benefits they bring, INBAR will be working with its 40 member nations under the “Global Assessment of Bamboo and Rattan” initiative, otherwise known as “GABAR”, to create a knowledge base of practical information, tools and policy guidance that countries and development partner can use to guide investments in bamboo and rattan for green development the world over.

Above: Vice Minister of China’s State Forestry Administration, H.E. Zhang Yongli, seen with Hans Friederich, INBAR and H.E. Pickersgill, Jamaica, discusses China’s National Resource Inventory and how it can help contribute to greater adoption of the opportunities bamboo brings to development.

Emilio N. Mugo, Director of the Kenya Forest Service is sharing the opportunities for bamboo in Kenya, where national and international bamboo experts recently convened to provide a boost to the development of a national bamboo sector policy.    With 150, 000 ha of highland bamboo, and much lowland bamboo, as well as some introduced species, Kenya is one of the most bamboo-rich nations in Africa. Work in the country is demonstrating the potential of bamboo to substitute for tobacco, and bamboo buildings have been built for demonstration and inspiration. But much more can be done.

Carla Cardenas, Advisor of the Minister of Environment, Ecuador, is looking at the future of bamboo for landscape restoration, particularly in Ecuador. Jiang Chunqian, Director of the International Farm Forestry Training Centre at the Chinese Academy of Forestry, is discussing China’s current strategy and action plan for bamboo resource assessment, a new national initiative that aims to map and quantify the bamboos of China to better plan the nations bamboo development agenda. Other nations represented at the meeting include Bhutan, Cambodia, Ghana, India, Jamaica, Laos, Liberia, Madagascar, Nigeria, Panama and Viet Nam.



• H.E. Robert Pickersgill, Minister of Water, Land, Environment & Climate Change Jamaica, on behalf of the Chair of the INBAR Council: Welcome address.

• H.E. Zhang Yongli, Vice Minister, State Forestry Administration, China: keynote address.

• Hans Friederich, Director General, INBAR: The Global Assessment of Bamboo and Rattan.

• Emilio N. Mugo, Director, Kenya Forest Service: Opportunities for bamboo in Kenya.

• Carla Cardenas, Advisor of the Minister of Environment, Ecuador: The bamboo sector in Ecuador and the future of bamboo for landscape restoration.

 Jiang Chunqian, Director, International Farm Forestry Training Centre, Chinese Academy of Forestry: China’s strategy and action plan for bamboo resource assessment.

INBAR Statement @ UNFF11

INBAR @ UNFF11: A call to action to use bamboo as a ‘strategic forest resource’


On Behalf of its 40 Member States, INBAR was at UNFF 11 to stress the benefits that Bamboo and Rattan can bring to the post-2015 International Arrangement on Forests (IAF), and its potential to help improve the livelihoods of millions of people that depend on forest ecosystems for their livelihoods.


In a statement to the UNFF High-Level Segment in New York today, INBAR Director General Hans Friederich voiced the views of INBAR’s 40 member States on how bamboo and rattan can add real value to the IAF and many of the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.

As the world’s forest policy leaders met at the United Nations Forum on Forests in New York (UNFF 11) – to define the post-2015 IAF for the new Sustainable Development Goals – bamboo and rattan experts from many of the leading bamboo and rattan-growing nations, led by INBAR, were present to stress how these unique plants will protect forest resources, and bring new income to millions of people who rely on healthy forests for their livelihoods.

At UNFF 11, INBAR Member States are calling on countries and forest policy makers to specify bamboo and rattan in their action plans for sustainable forest development. They are explaining that these are powerful resources for green development and forest renewal that are too often undervalued and overlooked. Hans Friederich, INBAR’s Director General, explains how bamboo and rattan directly benefit the post-2015 IAF now being crafted: “In the new IAF, member countries are calling for the increased development of ‘all kinds of forests’. Here, non-timber forest products, especially bamboo and rattan, bring direct benefits to millions of people that depend on forest ecosystems and face a loss of livelihood from deforestation. Bamboo and rattan are a ‘strategic forest resource’ that countries can use to help combat climate change, reduce rural poverty and deforestation. They support many of the SDGs for forestry and livelihoods.”

INBAR’s Statement to the UNFF High-Level Segment on May 13 At UNFF 11, INBAR Member States are calling on countries and forest policy makers to specify bamboo and rattan in their action plans for sustainable forest development. Delivering the Statement on behalf of the Network’s 40 Member States, Director General Hans, Friederich highlighted the need for a better understanding of the extent of the world’s bamboo and rattan resources, and the benefits to all countries of better exchange of knowledge, evidence and science and technology on bamboo and rattan development. INBAR’s Global Assessment of Bamboo an Rattan is a new platform that will encourage progress in these areas.

An INBAR UNFF special event on GABAR featured a Ministerial Panel that led discussions on aspects the GABAR initiative. The session, which attracted wide attendance from UNFF delegates, was opened by Jamaica Minster of Water, Land, Environment & Climate Change, Robert Pickersgill, and featured a keynote address by Hon Zhang Yongli, Vice-Minister of the State Forestry Administration in China, who discussed China’s strategy and achievements in bamboo development and research, and the planned Chinese bamboo resource assessment, that will feed into the GABAR knowledge platform. Three country case studies were presented. Emilio N. Mugo, Director of the Kenya Forest Service, described opportunities for bamboo development in Kenya; Carla Cardenas, Advisor of the Minister of Environment in Ecuador, profiled the country’s bamboo sector and its strategy for the future of bamboo for landscape restoration; Jiang Chunqian, Director of the International Farm Forestry Training Centre at the Chinese Academy of Forestry detailed China’s strategy and action plan for its bamboo resource assessment. INBAR Director General, Hans Friederich gave details of the GABAR initiative and how it is progressing – toward the global launch event at the World Forestry Congress in Durban in September, with a number of activities and special sessions.


INBAR Statement to UNFF

Press release: Bamboo and rattan as strategic forest resources

Bamboo & Rattan: strategic resources for forestry

 Bamboo & Rattan  – strategic resources for sustainable forest development


Bamboo and rattan add new value to forests. Bamboo and Rattan create jobs and improve livelihoods for forest communities and populations. These two plants are also a formidable force for combating climate change, and they directly support several of the Sustainable Development Goals. These are some of the messages that INBAR is highlighting to partners at UNFF 11 –  the United Nations Forum on Forests, as it kicks-off this week in New York.

As the world’s forest and development communities meet at UNFF 11 to set future priorities and action plans for forest resources in the new Sustainable Development Goals, INBAR is there to the benefits of bamboo and rattan – strategic resources that bring livelihoods, and environmental benefits to the global forest community and its markets.


The benefits of bamboo and rattan are well known, but their full potential has not yet been tapped by many of the countries that have an abundance of these resources. INBAR and its 40 Member States stress that a better understanding of these ‘strategic forest resources’ is needed so they can directly benefit many countries’ sustainable development plans and green economy strategies


The direct beneficiaries of new bamboo economies are the millions of people now living in the world’s Least Developed Countries. In many locations, every day, bamboo and rattan are demonstrating how they create new jobs, boost household income in rural areas, help communities adapt to the pressures of climate change and help rapidly restore severely degraded lands. Yet today, many bamboo and rattan producing countries do not fully benefit from the many economic and environmental advantages that these plants offer. Bamboo alone has 10,000 recorded uses. With new innovations emerging every year, this list continues to grow.


INBAR’s inputs to UNFF complement the Forum’s discussions on the effectiveness of international arrangements on forests and the UNFF non-binding instrument on all types of forests, and how they can better contribute to a climate-smart future for all. INBAR is attending the meeting of Collaborative Partnership on Forests; INBAR Director General, Hans Friederich delivers a keynote presentation at a special session “Bamboo: A change agent for Livelihood and Climate Change” convened by India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests, TERI, and the Government of Madhya Pradesh on May 6. On May 13, INBAR participates in the UNFF High-Level Segment and will present a Statement on Bamboo and Rattan. An INBAR Special Session on May 14 discusses the Global Assessment of Bamboo and Rattan (GABAR): with case studies from Kenya, China and Ecuador. The session features a keynote by Hon.  Mr. Zhang Yongli, Vice Minister, State Forestry Administration of China.


If you are attending UNFF 11, INBAR will be delighted to meet you. Follow INBAR’s interactions at UNFF 11 here and on social media. Statements to UNFF and a press release will be posted in the coming days.


Shaping a role for bamboo in Kenya’s Vision 2030

In the leading bamboo-growing countries of the world, effective policies are the drivers of growth in the bamboo sector. Such policies provide platforms for action and collaboration by relevant national authorities and through that can foster investment and support for the development of the businesses that are the heart of any productive sector. In Kenya, the government has been mulling the possibilities of such an integrated policy for a while, one that by necessity includes not only the foresters and resource managers, but the financiers, the business people, those in branding and marketing, technical support agencies and innovators, and possibly even institutional users of bamboo products. The Workshop brought together people from many of these different sectors to reach a consensus on the development of an approved national bamboo sector plan, that will be a component of Kenya’s new National Forestry Programme. For it to be successful, the plan will need ownership by the Government, buy-in from civil society, academia and the private sector, and the support of the international community. The plan, when implemented, will help Kenya achieve it’s “Vision 2030” goals, in which it aims to become a middle income nation with a high quality of life for all Kenyans in 16 years time.

Ideas for the sector plan that were agreed include the promotion of bamboo trade – after all, unless products are monetarised the benefits often remain intangible – along with major roles for bamboo in the protection of watersheds and riparian areas, in which the Ministry of Environment takes the lead. Bamboo biomass gassifaction is known to have considerable potential especially in the Aberdares mountain range where bamboo is plentiful, and work has already commenced there at pilot sites. The role of bamboo in providing alternative and less health-damaging livelihoods for tobacco farmers has been proven, and will continue to be promoted. A trial tobacco”-to-bamboo” replacement project in the east of the country, has helped nearly half the households in its working area switch to bamboo, with excellent results, and within the context of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control through the Kenya Tobacco Control Act, 2007. INBAR, KEFRI and the Ministry of Environment agreed to produce a synthesis report of this work to ensure tobacco substitution with bamboo can be included into the plan.



Discussions summary

Dr. Alice Kaudia (below, left), Secretary of State, Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, chaired the meeting. She said  that bamboos form an integral part of indigeneous forests but are underutilized in landscape restoration, renewable energy, poverty alleviation and industrial development in Kenya, and there is still work to do to appropriately integrate sustainable forest management such as with bamboo into forestry regulations. She also noted the contribution that bamboo can play in achieving key national goals, such as Vision 2030.

INBAR’s Director General, Dr Hans Friederich (above, right), highlighted the potential that bamboo has to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and how bamboo can help many of the nations of Africa. Despite having 12% of the world’s bamboo resources, Africa accounts for just 1% of international trade, and INBAR intends to help the countries of Africa realise the full potential of their bamboos. This workshop is one such activity in that work programme, and he hoped that the discussions will come up with implementable solutions and ideas that will meet the approval of investors and donors planners and implementing agencies.

As the primary aim of the workshop was to contribute to the development of an integrated bamboo policy by the government of Kenya, the first session focused on the role of policy in bamboo-based development. Both KEFRI and the Kenya Forest Service presented a review of the current status of policy related to bamboo in Kenya. INBAR’s Oliver Frith presented lessons from China, where policy has been at the vanguard of bamboo sector development for more than 30 years.

Bamboo is widely known as a component of varied landscapes, and its role in landscape restoration is significant. In this session, the World Resources Institute presented their work on mapping of bamboo resources in Kenya, KEFRI and KFS presented the current state of bamboo planting material, and Dr Jacob Kibwage from Maseno University discussed the status and long term prospects of a trial bamboo replacement project for tobacco farmers in the country, one in which INBAR itself supplied technical assistance.

In the bamboo biomass session, INBAR’s Jayaraman Durai gave an overview of bamboo as an energy resource, Liam O’Meara of Bamboo Trading Company presented a private sector perspective, and Jens Claussen on Innovation Norway discussed developing public private partnerships in the bamboo biomass energy field.

Bamboo construction is well known. A few years ago INBAR worked with Maseno Univserity to build a bamboo building at the campus, using funding from IDRC and the university’s presentation took a look back to the work done, and looked forward to ho it could evolve and develop in the near future. Finally, Kenya’s Deputy Director of Housing, Mr Moses Gatana, presented the government’s plans for upgrading slums, and the potential bamboo holds to contribute to them.

In the industrial development session, INBAR’s Dr. I. Ramanuja Rao presented INBARs experience, the successes and the pitfalls, of developing successful, long term bamboo value chains, and Ole Bernt Froshaug of Waterstone Resource Fibre Kenya Ltd gave an industry perspective on industrial development of bamboo in Kenya. Waterstone is already planting bamboo plantations and producing bamboo furniture, and has started importing laminated bamboo from China to kick-start the market for what it hopes will become home-produced laminates. Phillipe Dinga, of AllOne Africa Ventures Ltd presented his perspective on social entrepreneurship as a means of sustainable financing for ecosystem restoration with bamboo.

South-South learning on bamboo for income and resilience

A new partnership between INBAR, IFAD and the European Union shares experience between India, Ethiopia, Madagascar and Tanzania

In East and Southern Africa, a new programme has started, to stimulate South-South learning on innovative ways to use bamboo to improve the lives of rural communities. Experiences from India are now being tested and applied with Ethiopia, Madagascar and Tanzania. This a two-way flow of learning, with experience and expertise exchanged between Africa and the Subcontinent. It targets several thousand rural women, men and young people, aiming to bring them new income streams and restore degraded lands by increasing the land coverage of bamboo in villages in the project sites.

The South-South bamboo initiative is the next step in a long-term partnership between INBAR, IFAD, the UN agency charged with improving the situation of the world’s rural poor, and with significant support from the European Union. It promotes the use of bamboo as a strategic resource that countries can use in their food security and green development action plans.

The programme builds on past INBAR-IFAD work with communities in India, and this bamboo know-how is now being transferred to the three African countries. Learning from the African experience will benefit progress of India’s bamboo projects.  Activities will engage some 7,500 smallholder farmers, 12,500 women and nearly 2,000 young people in the three countries, who will directly benefit from the project through increased income, long-term restoration of their lands for productive use and diversification of their farming activities. There are four key action areas.

• Environmental management: Promote bamboo to reverse deforestation and reduce soil erosion, and protect riverbanks, backed by large-scale planting material production.
• Developing bamboo farming systems: Bamboo is being included in farming systems without competing for land used for food crops, meeting smallholder’s needs for income, fuel and fodder. This will increase the resilience of poor rural households.
• Household energy with bamboo charcoal: Models for ‘NGO-Community-Private Partnership’ (NCPP) enterprises are being tested for household-level production of charcoal from bamboo and waste biomass. Processing biomass for local energy use, power production and income generation are also being piloted.
• Diversifying livelihoods: Several enterprise and community business models used in India are being applied to allow communities to produce a range of bamboo commodities and products to help them progress beyond subsistence agriculture.

INBAR’s past bamboo livelihoods work has demonstrated a range of practices and innovations that are being applied in the new programme. IFAD and INBAR have worked together for more than 15 years serving partners and communities in South Asia, East and West Africa and South America, to use bamboo for micro and local enterprise creation, for rapid land restoration and for many other uses, including low-cost housing. The European Union has also been a long-term supporter of a number of INBAR bamboo livelihoods  projects in Africa and Asia.

We call bamboo a ‘strategic resource’ for rural development, says Hans Friederich, INBAR Director General. “We are referring to its many and varied properties that benefits communities. It is a perennial resource that withstands drought and fire; it can be harvested ‘on-demand’ for cash. Bamboo is also like wood, which enables rural communities to break into the wood products markets. It can also be used as biomass for use in local energy markets, to raise off-farm income from charcoal production. These are just some of the many benefits this plant can bring to rural communities across Africa.”

The bamboo livelihoods innovations being transferred through this programme can be scaled-up to benefit many more smallholders in bamboo resource countries in Africa and other countries. These lessons feed into INBAR’s Global Assessment on Bamboo and Rattan, the knowledge base and learning platform that makes available technical and policy know-how on how bamboo can improve the performance of development strategies and programmes.


Images from Madagascar by J.Durai/INBAR

Bamboo for a greener future in Kenya

Bamboos have been part of Kenya life for centuries. Highland Bamboo, Arundinaria alpina (Yushania alpina,  Oldeania alpine) is the only native species, growing on 150, 000 ha between 2290 m to 3360m asl in the Mt Kenya, Aberdares, Mt Elgon, Mau Forest and Cherangani Forest water Catchment areas, where it plays a critical role in regulation of water flow and soil erosion control. Clear-felling of bamboo up to the early 1980s resulted in the implementation of a ban on its harvesting from natural forests in 1982, one that remains in force today. However, in 2005 the new forest act did permit commercial plantations of bamboo, and the range of different bamboo species that were introduced in the 1980s and 90s, some with INBAR’s help, and each of which is useful for a suite of different uses, have started to realise their potential in commercial cultivation.

Bamboo resources also contribute to local livelihoods, with an estimated 3.2 million bamboo culms being used each year for fencing, construction, props in the flower industry (a major use), edible shoots, toothpicks and skewers, incense sticks, baskets and handicrafts.
The many investigations into the sector over recent years have identified barriers to development with bamboo, particularly lack of a national policy, the important role the bamboos play in regulating water flow downstream and hence the need not to clear cut them, the lack of institutional and technical support and financial attractiveness for investors,  and very poorly developed market awareness and access.

Reaping the benefits of investment in bamboo will require an integrated approach for sustainable rural development, linking environmental conservation with improvement of community livelihoods, access to business financing, skills and appropriate technologies, and an effective marketing system. To achieve this, an overarching supportive policy that provides a platform for stakeholders and a means of support for the sector will be needed. The current workshop aims to inform just such a policy.


Are you a bamboo business person in Kenya? What needs to be done to help your business? Do you grow bamboo in Kenya, or do you want to? How can Kenya best help develop a green economy with bamboo? Join the discussion below..