Bamboo, the fast-growing grass plant, could be an important tool for restoring degraded lands around the world, according to a statement made at a UN meeting on land restoration.
The comments were made at the seventeenth session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC 17) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which is being held in Georgetown, Guyana.
Speaking on behalf of the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR), a network of over 40 bamboo-producing and consuming countries and an Observer to the UNCCD, Pablo Jacome described bamboo as “green gold” that many countries can use to restore their degraded landscapes and reverse desertification.
“With 5 million hectares more bamboo, the UNCCD could go a long way to achieving its 2030 targets.”
According to Jacome, “Bamboo truly is a wonder plant.” He described bamboo’s extensive root system, which helps to bind soil, and the plant’s ability to thrive on problem soils and sleep slopes, as properties which make the plant “a perfect nature-based tool to reduce erosion and reverse land degradation.”
Bamboo covers over 30 million hectares of land across Africa, Asia and South America. One of the fastest growing plants in the world, bamboo is technically a grass plant, and has been part of intercropping farming systems for thousands of years.
According to Jacome, many countries are already using bamboo. In China, bamboo has been an important part of the country’s ‘Green to Grain’ programme, with bamboo forest cover increasing from 3 to 6 million hectares since the 1980s; in Ethiopia, the government is using bamboo
As well as restoring degraded land, bamboo has the additional benefit of creating income for rural communities. In the Indian study, using bamboo to help restore agricultural soil fertility, and as a source of charcoal, helped raise all families above the poverty line. And in Chishui, China, selling bamboo poles to local industries raised farmers’ income by over 2000 RMB a year, and has created a lucrative bamboo tourism industry in the region.
So important is this plant to the tropical world that, in 2014, INBAR Member countries signed up to reforest 5 million hectares of degraded land with bamboo. “We are taking this seriously”, Jacome says. “With 5 million hectares more bamboo, the UNCCD could go a long way to achieving its 2030 targets.”
Although there are many examples of governments, civil society, and the private sector are using bamboo, Jacome says more work needs to be done. “What we need to see is bamboo initiatives scaling up and receiving investment.”
Bamboo has enjoyed an increase in status both within and outside the UN. Speaking in 2018, the Deputy Executive Secretary of the UNCCD, Pradeep Monga, supported the use of bamboo in land restoration programmes, saying: “Where it can grow, we must use bamboo, because it has multiple benefits: for our climate, for biodiversity, and for land restoration.” Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, has said that bamboo can make an “important difference” to the fight against climate change. And Achim Steiner, Executive of the UN Development Programme, is a vocal support of bamboo as “a nature-based way to create jobs, to reduce poverty, and to generate and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.” Heads of state from Cameroon, China, Colombia, Ecuador and Madagascar have all praised bamboo, and committed to use the plant in their respective national plans and strategies.
About the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR)
INBAR is an intergovernmental organisation made up of 44 Member states for the promotion of sustainable development using bamboo and rattan. It was the first intergovernmental organisation to be based in China and remains the only one in the world dedicated to bamboo and rattan.
Almost all of INBAR’s 44 Members are developing countries with bamboo and/or rattan resources. INBAR works across its Member states to promote these plants’ use for a range of sustainable development objectives, including: poverty alleviation, climate change mitigation, land restoration, earthquake-resilient construction and low-carbon product creation.