Bamboo and rattan figure in many rural households. Photo by Aulia Erlangga for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)

New global initiative helps countries harness bamboo and rattan

Bamboo and rattan bring a wealth of practical options, but countries are not tapping into the many economic-environmental benefits of these strategic forest resources. A new global initiative will address this, providing a knowledge base of practical information, tools and policy guidance designed to help countries meet their sustainable development goals and develop green economies.  

Ahead of next week’s World Forestry Congress (WFC), as the world’s leading forestry experts convene to discuss sustainable development strategies and solutions to the continued depletion of the world’s forests, there are two strategic resources that many experts and policymakers may not have previously considered – bamboo and rattan.

Bamboo and rattan are powerful ‘strategic forest resources.’ Our experience working with INBAR’s 41 member states demonstrates that they can bring jobs and income to millions of people in rural areas, mitigate the effects of climate change, and reverse land degradation and deforestation. But today, the ability to tap the full economic and environmental potential of bamboo and rattan continues to elude many countries.

This is a lost opportunity – the result of a lack of coordination between bamboo and rattan experts and agencies, poor access to technical knowledge, and a dearth of new evidence that countries can use to generate economic growth with these resources.

To realize their full potential as development tools requires: a better understanding of how much bamboo and rattan exists in the world and where it is located; the agro-ecological characteristics and water and nutrient requirements of different species; and the options for the propagation and creation of new bamboo plantations.

To fill these knowledge gaps, a new global initiative has been created to provide practical information, tools and policy guidance designed for countries and development partners to include bamboo and rattan in their green development plans. The new GABAR (Global Assessment of Bamboo and Rattan) initiative, to be launched at WFC, is a partnership of INBAR, its 41 member countries and a range of national and international organizations.

It will make new south-south links for better understanding the potential of bamboo and rattan, and provide rapid access to knowledge such as forest management practices, examples of bamboo and rattan value chains and business cases, studies and natural resource assessments, and input to policy issues – which countries must address to create a favorable investment climate to develop these sectors.

Evidence produced by GABAR will help inform strategies that target income generation and climate change resilience among rural communities. These include: the creation of businesses, local jobs and income to link rural communities to national markets and a global sector worth some $60 billion every year; providing a rapid solution for landscape restoration – given that bamboo can be harvested in three to six years; a cost-effective, climate-smart building material; and a source of energy and biogas – using bamboo as charcoal and to help power small-scale electricity generators that produce biogas for local electricity.

GABAR will bring more practical information to countries and development partners by synthesizing existing knowledge, conducting assessments to generate new information and fill knowledge gaps, and stimulating capacity building and learning.

It is planned as a $100 million initiative and we are encouraged to already have contributions totaling some $25 million. National inventories and assessments have been contributed by China, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Indonesia, Cameroon, Jamaica, Vietnam and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). This is the beginning of what we see as a new and innovative action for forest communities, people and countries.

GABAR will be launched on September 7 2015 at the World Forestry Congress, Durban, South Africa.

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