The Nigerian Bamboo Metaphor

Published on 14th September 2015

Bamboos originated in China around 3000 – 4000 BC probably in the Zhetjiang provincial areas. Bamboo is technically a grass belonging to the Graminacea Family, however, most foresters like to classify it with timber wood which to all intents is a disservice to this wonder grass. It has been confirmed that Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on planet earth, with some cultivars growing at 0.8 meters in one single day and can yield up to 110MT of biomass per hectare per year.

Bamboos are widely distributed in Southern and middle belt states of Nigeria with Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Edo, Delta, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross Rivers, Abia,  Ebonyi, Enugu, Anambra and Imo states as being the most endowed with at least 10% preponderance index. Spread over contiguous areas these are followed by Lagos, Ekiti,  Bayelsa, Kogi, Kwara, Nassarawa and Benue States, with 6.0% - 8.0% preponderance index. Pockets of Bamboo clusters are present in Niger, Taraba, and plateau States as well as FCT with a preponderance index of 3 – 5% of total native vegetation. Occurrence of Bamboo clumps are sprinkled in all other Nigerian States with less than 3%  preponderance index. Uses of bamboo  all over the country is to scaffolding and building materials, handicrafts, fencing, yam stakes and barbeque meat skewers. Thus we have an uncoordinated, crude and primitive market with virtually non – existence MVA manufactured value addition.

Whereas, Bamboo has assumed the status of a veritable commercial commodity in other countries of congruent climatological parameters. Again, wood shortages are imminent in a short while as total forest areas of Nigeria which stood at 10% of the country’s land area in 1996 is now less than 4%. Forest Enumerators reported that the total usable volume of wood down to 30cm cutting diameter in the reserved forest areas of Nigeria was 2940m3 in 2010. However, when these figures are now juxtaposed with total wood demand projection of over 495.0m3 in 2020, it is evident that Nigeria has to look for alternative wood substitutes.

There are over 70 genera and 1200 species of Bamboos all over the world they ranged from small grasses called arundo or rattan / came to giants of 40m in height with a 30cm girth. 19 taxa have been accorded priority while 18 taxa had been marked as important. Most of these have variable industrial utilization potentials which has been harnessed in China contributing more than US$8.0 billion annually to foreign exchange earnings.

Nigeria continues to import primary and secondary timber wood and wood products of plywood, hardboards, particle boards, floor and wall panels from western Europe which in the first quarter of 2014 costs the nation about 40.0 million Euros. This development has made a number of industries to close shop.

Bamboo is a superior alternative to forest  timber in so many ways that it is astonishing why there are  no organized bamboo cultivation, production, processing and marketing in Nigeria. Regardless that the Nigerian climate is most favorable to the optimal cultivation of bamboo, no records nor study has been reported on the occurrence, distribution, availability, utilization and marketing of Bamboos in Nigeria. The increasing realization of the roles of bamboo in climate change Mitigation, Adaptation and Development (MAD) has made Bamboo to be a preferred alternative to forest wood timber. In line with the extant situation in the country, the Bamboo based investments required for optimal growth include ply bamboo, mat curtain bamboo, chipboards, wall / floor tiles, laminated strips, construction industries, interior decoys, furniture, toothpicks, skewers, vehicle upholstery, electronic c panels etc. in which these are over 150 applications  and  the world bamboo market stands at about US$32.0 billion today.

 INBAR - Intermediate Network for Bamboo and Rattan had posited that this will double by 2020. Globally, bamboo is now being employed for rural livelihoods development shelterbelt desertification control, reforestation of prone areas, and alleviation of social / environmental problems.

In view of the increasing popularity of bamboo in the industrial sector and its role in the MAD challenge to reduce the role of wood in industrial production process in Sri Lanka, approximately 24 million dollars is being invested in bamboo processing in collaboration with UNIDO, Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. The aim of the Sri Lanka Project is to plant 10,000 hectares of bamboo by 2019 in order to generate 150,000 tons of dry bamboo annually. This is expected to create 10,000 direct and indirect employment opportunities. The interest in bamboo development and processing has spread across Asia, Europe and the United States of America.

Considering the great potential of the bamboo industry, the Philippine government promulgated Executive Order (EO) No.879 on 14th May, 2010, to prioritize bamboo production, processing and market access to local bamboo resources. By this, the Philippine bamboo project is expected to promote bamboo industry development and to direct government’s initiative aimed at using bamboo for a minimum of 25% of the desks and other furniture requirement of public elementary and secondary schools, fixtures and construction works sponsored by government. In the USA, the idea of growing bamboo for profit has been at play for nearly a century with test plots of bamboo successfully established in Alabama in 1994. Although the project was not optimally pursued in view of the unstable supply of bamboo from Asia, the race for truly renewable resources and search for solution to climatic change problems have led to renewed interest in bamboo development in the United States. Another major incentive for bamboo development in the USA is the spread in demand across multiple industries, coupled with diminishing timber resources.

In Nigeria, the current patterns of development in the forest industry which rely solely on diminishing forest resources have been observed to be indefensible. A number of studies have reported the timber resources in the country to be dwindling in availability. There is therefore need to search for more sustainable, climate friendly alternatives that have potentials for alleviating the social and environmental problems the world is currently facing. Despite the high utilization potentials of bamboo in the wood products sector, the forest industry in timber resources.

For Nigeria to enter into bamboo based prosperity, it is thus imperative that concerted efforts be made by the Government at federal, state and local levels to concertize plans that will encourage investments in the Bamboo sectors. A Nigerian Bamboo Development Strategy / Action plans very similar to the procedures that brought in cassava prominence from 8 million metric tones in 1995 to 40 million metric tonnes per annum in 2014. A bamboo development policy framework that will tto configure a reliable road map should be a giant step in the right direction. Furthermore.

The establishment of a Bamboo Industrial Development Council, BIDC made up of stakeholders from both government, private investors, NGOs, CSO’s and Funding organizations will accelerate development of bamboo investments in line with other parts of the world. There are successful models all over the world to choose from. The case study of the EABP – the East African Bamboo (Development) Program as it concerns Ethiopia is worth mentioning. The EABP had succeeded in planting over 10.0 million hectares of bamboo thereby just within  8 years of existence,  employing over 400,000 citizens year on year. This is very remarkable and Nigeria can replicate such action plans with good chances of successes.

The EABP, – East African Bamboo Project,  Funded by the CPC, executed by UNIDO, supervised by INBAR and implemented by MoARD, MoTI, and FeMSEDA  is a highly successful program by all standards. The scheme was able to move Bamboo from its insignificant levels in January 2006 to an economic $3.2 billion per annum bamboo engine today. It has led towards the exploitation of bamboo’s vital role in poverty eradication (wealth creation), and providing gainful employment to  East Africans in form of plantation size of diverse Bamboo species representing 67% of African Bamboo resources and 8% of world totals. Regardless of Ethiopia’s  lack of modern skills, and technology, the country (with no oil resources) developed bamboo as an alternative “cash oil resources” as a platform to stimulate growth, wealth and development. This is what BDN wants to replicate in Nigeria today.

Bamboo is fast becoming a very important industrial raw material globally as a result of its multiplicity of uses. The development of bamboo in Nigeria cannot be fast tracked as the forest policy under which it currently operates does not give primacy to its development.  Factors that will promote development of bamboo will include a well-articulated bamboo policy that will  lay down guidelines for its schematic development.  The pattern of development advocated will also assist most developing tropical countries that have experienced serious deforestation of their national forests, but still have a measure bamboo resources.    
Development of bamboo in tropical countries has a lot of advantages. Among these is the development of the wood products sector of the different economies, reduction in the rate of deforestation and expansion in employment opportunities coupled with skills acquisition.  It is obvious that with increase in marketing outlets, and market forces, arable farmers will be stimulated to grow bamboo on private farms, gradually, core bamboo farmers will emerge and thence processing, and market finalizations. This was how cassava became what it is today.

To further fast track implementation of these processes, an NGO – named BDN, - Bamboo Development Network, has been inaugurated to assist the Federal Government in practical implementation schedules. The BDN is composed of private investors, businessmen, academics, agronomists and administrators with vast knowledge of diverse disciplines ready to work for the successful implementation of a Nigerian Bamboo Development Strategy/ Action plans within the Framework of global argumentations. With our newly affianced thematic partners, the BDN is now further composed to employ bamboo for more fulfillment and progression to bring the potential of bamboo to a more elevated exposure - to protect natural resources and the environment, to ensure sustainable utilization, to promote new cultivation of bamboo for new investments, as well as promote traditional uses locally and for Nigeria’s economic development.

The BDN has global Anchor and Institutional partners in China, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Thailand, S’Africa, Brazil, EU and South America.

If you are interested in joining bamboo forces or investing in  a bamboo based  industry, please call Mr. Bamboo on 08033560576, e: <> in full confidence 
By Yomi Ige
Executive Director, BDN, - Bamboo Development Network
Agronomist & Consultant
Ibadan. Nigeria.

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