GFAR blog

Bamboo: A strategic resource for countries to reduce the effects of climate change


As the global development community shifts to the post-2015 agenda and looks for ways to help rural communities adapt to the worsening effects of climate change, it may be neglecting a critical resource in the struggle to secure a more sustainable future – bamboo.

This oversight is a major obstacle to bamboo’s wider recognition and one of the reasons we at the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) are attending the Global Forum for Agricultural Research (GFAR) – raising the profile of this strategic resource and positioning it as an important complement to climate change mitigation strategies.

Bamboo is a vast untapped development resource currently under-utilized in countries across the world’s tropical and sub-tropical regions – despite its many advantages. Studies are increasingly finding that bamboo has an important role to play in sequestering carbon in forest ecosystems. An estimated 727 million tonnes of carbon are stored in the China’s bamboo forests, for instance, and are now recognized in the country’s carbon offset programs.

Its use as a bio-fuel for cooking and heating, and as a generator of electricity, means that pressure can also be taken off other forest resources, avoiding deforestation and thus the release of previously sequestered carbon into the atmosphere.

The various species of bamboo are excellent choices for restoring degraded landscapes – currently covering one quarter of the earth’s surface, according to a 2011 study by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Because bamboo is hardy, can grow on problem soils, and its many species are adapted to a wide range of environments in and near the tropics, the plant can be used to help restore the fertility and productivity of much of this degraded land.

Witness the benefits of a bamboo-led land restoration scheme initiated by INBAR in Allahabad, India, where brick-making activities had degraded an area stretching across 4000 hectares of previously productive land. The initiative resulted in a 10 percent increase in farmer incomes; an additional 15-20 centimeters of humus added to soil each year; and a new source of fuel for local communities – bamboo now fuels 80 percent of the area’s cooking stoves. Being aware of the efficiency of the best pellet stove systems, it was a natural move to make bamboo pellets.

Communities like those in Allahabad which include bamboo in their strategies for adapting to climate change could also benefit from the resilience derived from the plant’s fast growth and ability to recover quickly from extreme weather events. In communities along the coasts of Ecuador and Peru it is providing affordable, sustainable, and disaster-resistant housing – helping to address the region’s housing shortage, currently standing at 2.5 million units.

Community resilience is further strengthened by the many livelihood options that bamboo provides. Strong, flexible and versatile, bamboo lends itself to over 1000 products – everything from paper and pulp to furniture and building materials. Production could help rural communities benefit from a growing global sector worth an estimated 60 billion USD per year.

While we do not propose bamboo as a ‘silver bullet solution’ to solve the problems of environmental degradation and climate change, we do strongly believe that it is an excellent complement to the mix of environmental and ecosystem services being promoted for green economy development.

This role, however, cannot be realized until bamboo is given a place at the table.

An INBAR Policy Synthesis Report on the role that bamboo can play helping countries to reduce the effects of climate change can be found here.

Blog by: Jack Durrell, the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR)
Picture courtesy: INBAR

This blogpost is part of a series introducing GFAR stakeholders attending the upcoming GFAR Constituent Assembly.

The GFAR Constituent Assembly is held on 24-26 August 2015 in Bangkok, Thailand.

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