Bamboo and rattan are astounding resources with unique potential to combat poverty and natural resources challenges. They grow locally to some of the world’s poorest communities in the tropics and subtropics, and have many uses, providing a vast range of sustainable products, livelihood options and ecosystem services. If wisely harnessed the potential of bamboo and rattan will be instrumental to preserving the environment and climate as well as the goals set by the UN-Sustainable Development Goals.
One organization on the fore front of using the potential of bamboo and rattan is the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR) which was founded in 1997. Over the years, INBAR has been making a real difference to the lives of millions of people and environments around the world, with achievements in areas such as: raising standards; promoting safe, resilient bamboo construction; restoring degraded land; capacity-building; and informing green policy and Sustainable Development Goal objectives. Capital sat down with Regional Program Manager, Selim Reza (PhD) for insights on the organisation’s work in Ethiopia. Excerpts;
Capital: Tell us about INBAR?
Selim Reza: International Bamboo and Rattan Organization /INBAR/ is an intergovernmental organization. Currently, there are 48 member countries and majority of the member countries are from the African countries. We have the head quarter in Beijing China and we have a few numbers of regional offices which are from the East Asian countries. We also have an office in Delhi India, and for Central African countries, we have an office in Cameroon. Furthermore, we have an office in Ecuador for Latin America while the East African office is here in Addis Ababa.
Basically we work with the government, private partners and entrepreneurs’, media people, (journalists), researchers, academicians and scientist. You can say that our work deals with scientific research for the future development. Moreover, we support technology transfer to the community so that they can uplift themselves in the bamboo sector.
Our main focus is in three major areas: The first is the Enterprise development or Enterprise and Industry support. Secondly, we also support land restoration and thirdly, climate change mitigation. So these are our three core areas as per the UN-SDG goals. Our support overall completes a few number of UN-SGD goals which are around 7 through bamboo activities.
With regards to the East African office in Addis Ababa, it was established in 2009 and we have a number of projects. We already are implementing projects which give us the encouragement and the confidence to work with the government. Initially, we have with the ministry of agriculture and the Ethiopian forest and climate change commission and we hope to work and collaborate with other government bodies in our projects.
For our facilitation and smooth operation of our activities we have one representative in the commission, who is a senior officer deployed and is working now. These are some of the examples of the dynamic group operations and also facilitation with the linkages within the INBAR as well as the commission.
Currently, we have two projects which are being implemented here in Ethiopia. One is being implemented in Amhara region funded by the IFL whilst the other project is East Africa, bamboo development program which is a phase 2 project, a progress from the first phase which was started in 2016 and completed in 2019.
We strongly believe that developmental projects are in line with the good work in terms of the policies and local capacity buildings to the local government ministries and community. As a result the second phase of the project was extended until December 2023. The project is supported by the Dutch ministry as well the government of China and we have several partners in the program as well.
Capital: Who are your partners?
Selim Reza: Ethiopian Environment, Forest and Climate Change Commission, Ethiopian Trade and Tourism Enterprise and several universities, are a great example of partners who we are doing some research with. Moreover, we collaborate with the Ethiopian Environments Policy Research Institution as well as private partners in the bamboo industry.
Within our working structure of activities, we have a few number of core activities as part of the project design. One is promoting the industrial bamboo value chain for the small enterprises as well as the industry. For the small enterprises we focus on capacity building, new design development, technology promotion and market promotions which we place emphasis on to strengthen the value chain.
Apart from capacity building and value chain development on the industry, we pay close attention to workers especially so that they can produce quality products and work in line with the company. We are also working with an outcome for the large scale land restoration and new area plantation for ‘Bamboo Plantation’ especially and nursery developments. To this end we are promoting large-scale, nurseries and also medium and small scale with different types. In addition to this, we are providing different kinds of training to the local community for the management and establishment of the nursery. We are also lining people in different departments, especially from the forest Department at EFCC in the agriculture Ministry, like development workers as well as the different experts.
We primarily provide the training so as to best train them as well as develop their capacity so that they can tackle their job head on. In conjunction to this, we also promote bamboo charcoal based activities for the clean energy program.
Capital: Kindly elaborate further about the bamboo charcoal.
Selim Reza: It is one of our new projects focusing on bamboo charcoal. Bamboo charcoal has no smoke and burns smoothly. The main benefit is that by using bamboo charcoal, we are not destroying the forest, since bamboo is a renewable resource. Bamboo charcoal is four times more porous than regular wood charcoal. That means – it is a lot more effective.
One of the best things about bamboo charcoal is that it produces significantly fewer pollutants compared to wood charcoals, making it an eco-friendly source of renewable energy.
The bamboo charcoal adsorbs odor and pollutant particles by trapping them while air or water flows through the pores, purifying the surrounding air or water in the process. Thus it can be used as a dehumidifier and deodorizer. This has made it popular with the women who are at the fore front of cooking in traditional kitchens.
With regards to this project, we are implementing it in Bahirdar with different model bamboo charcoal enterprises in collaboration with NGOs, community government and professional partners.
Capital: How are you planning to promote the bamboo sector for the future?
Selim Reza: We are working on activities to develop a bamboo curriculum to help industries get certified people and we are going to do it in stepwise levels like from level on to three using different courses. This will strengthen the future’s sector as well as its credibility and standard. In addition, we are also trialing and testing some of our product lines which are almost on shipment state for the high land and low land bamboo. Because Ethiopia has two bamboo kinds, the highland and the lowland, we can use both of the species to make different products as a result we are sending full containers of both bamboos to China. In turn the Chinese industries are working with the ICBR to desk nine products and will also give the report in the multi supply chain and multiple users of bamboo in the industry. We are further promoting the sector by doing research on the use of bamboo leaves in addition to working with entrepreneurs who are working on producing bamboo bio fertilizer.
Regarding the market promotion, we are having different industry visits and market promotions as well as investor meetings, but due to the pandemic we were not able to organize inter country meetings.
Similarly, we are working to develop a bamboo depot so as to simplify the supply chain with the farmers to industries.
We have done two researches of which one is the agro climatic journal regarding the bamboo sites while the other is on gender study document on how women can be empowered in the bamboo sector.
Capital: The government is planning to build a bamboo training center. What is INBAR’s participation on this?
Selim Reza: The project is part of the Chinese government’s contribution to which the Ethiopian government will provide land with construction set to commence very soon. INBAR will provide any type of support since we are in the line of partnership with the center since when it is fully complete we will move in the center.
Capital: What’s your thought on government’s support of the bamboo industries?
Selim Reza: I think the government has done positive steps necessary for the industry since it has already prepared its strategic action plan. The government designed the plan in such a way that it will enable the industry to get support by mobilizing resources from different funding agencies. Furthermore, with regards to bamboo transportation, government has also issued license and necessary permits. The Ethiopian Investment Commission /EIC/is also promoting bamboo activities which show the value of support for the industry. The government has also involvement in the clean leadership program and had targeted 10 percent in bamboo plantation and the government is currently achieving more than this, so it is safe to say that government has been part and parcel as a contributor to the sector.
Capital: What are the challenges that the bamboo industry in Ethiopia is facing?
Selim Reza: The major challenge for not only Ethiopia but the entire African countries is the lack of professionals and professionalism in the sector as well as the lack of institutes. Similarly in the market, people still have the notion and mindset that bamboo is the poor man’s invest. However there ought to be a shift in these challenges and we are working on giving out the right information so that society remains informed. We are also focusing and prioritizing professionalism and collaborative efforts of relevant institutions to curve out great products in the market.