The social and economic benefits of bamboo forestry are steadily becoming more recognized around the globe. Already, trade organizations and government programs have been pushing for broad based utilization of the resource in certain areas of Asia and the Pacific, namely the Philippines and India. Now there are fresh indications of bamboo advocacy in another area where it is badly needed.
Togbe Akliku Ahorney II, the Environmental Officer for the Volta region of the nation of Ghana, recently issued a statement to the Ghana News Agency in which he insisted that local political parties must give due attention to environmental issues. Specifically, Ahorney emphasized the depletion of forest reserves throughout Ghana, recommending that the government focus on lesser known timber species as a way of preserving and recovering depleted forest resources.
Throughout West Africa, some ninety percent of the original forest land has been lost. The rate of deforestation for the continent as a whole is second only to South America and exceeds the global average by four times. Between 2000 and 2005, Africa lost over four million hectares of forest per year, or about ten million acres. Generally speaking, this awful trend is attributable to slash-and-burn techniques clearing way for agricultural land. Beyond that, the situation is made worse by a further lack of sustainable agricultural practices, such as efficient use of fertilizers, as well as by the virtual absence of local land rights and land management.
Naturally, this situation has consequences for local populations and the local ecology, and also for the rest of the globe. For instance, it has been show to contribute to lower levels of rainfall in the remaining African rainforests, which extends the consequent threats to resource scarcity beyond timber resources. Of course, this is still something that is needed by local populations, and it is mainly for that purpose that bamboo and other relatively unfamiliar timbers might step in. It only directly addresses a small selection of the causes behind this rampant deforestation, but it could be a meaningful step in the direction of broad-based reform. As ever, the presence of this sort of advocacy heralds the sort of awareness and conviction that can snowball into a greater trend of ecological sustainability.
Bamboo resources can play into more than just the fostering of political will, though. If bamboo proves popular as a timber, and potentially as a source of food or medicine, or a raw material for bamboo clothing and other goods, then bamboo agroforestry might well be an element of future improvements to African agricultural practices. That is, bamboo can be grown in close proximity with other crops, allowing for the existing demand for agricultural land to be satisfied at the same time that timber resources are replenished, and with them the greenhouse gas-reducing capabilities of the lost forest land.
That is no doubt the main consequence to the rest of the world of ongoing African deforestation. At the same time that the quantities of forest land on the surface of the Earth are going down at an alarming rate, the quantities of carbon dioxide in its atmosphere are going up in kind. The problem is serious enough just in light of industrial and vehicular pollution, so that the planet can’t afford to lose the precious carbon sinks provided its trees. But where this lose has already occurred, bamboo can do much to make up the difference, growing far faster than trees and producing roughly three times as much oxygen.
It is highly encouraging, then, to see the government of Ghana recognizing the value that bamboo can bring to their local ecology and their local economy. It speaks to the fact that growth in awareness of environmental issues, and more to the point their recognized solutions, is truly a global phenomenon. And the potential effects of implementing the recognized initiatives will prove to be global in equal measure.