Third World Countries Rise Above Poverty with Bamboo

by Stacey Irwin on January 27, 2010 · 5 comments

in Bamboo's Worldwide Impact

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“If you give a man a fish, he will have a single meal. If you teach him how to fish, he will eat all his life.”

This simple quote inspires a world of economic revolution in which government agencies and non-profits are looking to do more than just apply a band-aid to the world poverty problem. Many are hoping to win the war on poverty by  focusing on creating wealth rather than relying on foreign aid, by improving the access that many have to resources and trade lines.

Often called the poor man’s timber, bamboo is becoming an integral part of helping millions worldwide escape poverty.  With the second largest concentration of bamboo forests in the world, India is reaching out for their piece of the pie of the $7.5 billion global bamboo market while at the same time, using the resource to empower low-income and isolated rural areas to gain economic independence.   While India has the 4th largest fastest-growing economy, it also has one of the largest concentrations of people living below the international poverty line, and the World Bank has cited the need for rural development to help narrow that gap.

In 2008, the United Nations launched a four-year project designed to boost India’s role as a world leader in the cane and bamboo industry while also contributing to environmental enhancement and rural development of the country.  Working closely with The Cane and Bamboo Technology Centre, the project aims to create stronger partnerships between farmers and producers and extending supply chains for the rural areas.

Cat _Trib_352The Indian Government has formed its own coalition for Bamboo promotion, the National Mission on Bamboo Applications with the goal of creating a  foundation to enlarge the bamboo sector and supporting the efforts of the Indian government to increase employment and economic opportunity.  The “thrust” areas which have the greatest focus include:

Wood substitutes and composites – their main focus is developing and validating technologies as they promote this application to existing companies.

Construction & Structural Applications – As structural engineering advances, they are finding new and innovative uses for the lightweight and durable bamboo in their designs.

Agro-processing – Bamboo shoots are considered a delicacy in Asia and the council is working to improve harvesting and marketing techniques to encourage small farmers in this market.

Machinery and Process Technologies – As they increase the demand for bamboo products through their promotions, the NMBA recognizes that supply must keep up.  To that end, they are developing a range of low-cost but more efficient tools and machinery for the bamboo farmers to utilize.

Propagation & Cultivation – To sustain a large production program, they are working hard to ensure that bamboo seeds and cultivation materials are available consistently and at a high quality.

Bamboo for energy – In their commitment to working towards a greener India, the government is turning to bamboo as an energy source to replace fossil fuels.  The mission is focused on researching gasifiers using bamboo and bamboo waste as a means to generate electricity and thermal energy.

Industrial Products – With its versatility, even bamboo “waste” is a resource.  The NMBA is testing technologies to bring bamboo charcoal to the mass market.

Along with these focuses, the NMBA is also working to educate and preserve.  They have declared several National Bamboo Preserves where harvesting and cultivation will be closely monitored, and recently, they established the Bamboo Information Centre to teach the public about the farming methods and the many applications and uses of bamboo.

To see first-hand how the government is working to encourage the growth of bamboo use in the textile industry, watch this incredible video on the cluster of workshops of handmade bamboo rug-making.

know_home4In the private sector, two entrepreneurs, Aruna Kappagantula and Prashant Linga, formed Bamboo House India, an organization that promotes the utilization of bamboo for sustainable incomes for rural communities as well as promoting the use of bamboo as a substitute to more mainstream materials such as wood and plastic.  Noting that there are 1500 documented uses of bamboo, Bamboo House India is working to increase access to the markets for rural farmers and artisans by setting up chains of bamboo showrooms for them to use as well as working to deregulate that hampers raw material harvesting.  If successful, the company estimates that they can help more than 5 million of their fellow citizens cross the poverty line.

India may well be the richest country in the world with this resource.  Bamboo is an efficient material for manufacturers to use, as a cut stalk can regenerate to full height within 4 months and newly planted bamboo grows quickly with no fertilizers needed.  As more countries take their environmental well-being into consideration, the wealth that comes with clean air is plentiful with a plant that can generate 35% more oxygen than an equivalent stand of hardwood trees.

As India struggled for freedom from the British Empire, Ghandi made his famous Salt Walk from Ahmedabad to Dandi with only the clothes on his back and his bamboo stave.  As India works to gain freedom from poverty, it’s encouraging to know that bamboo will continue to lead the way.

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Be sure to check out Bamboo’s Worldwide Impact section for more great articles and world news with bamboo.

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