Bamboo Blog

This one-stop blog spot is all things bamboo! Each month we will cover a topic that pertains to bamboo and provide an exclusive blog article written by our team that goes into detail on our topic. Throughout each month, other articles and content that pertain to the month's topic will be highlighted as well. Stay up to date on all things bamboo and check back in throughout the month.

Blog Topics for Upcoming Months

Bamboo for Disaster Risk Reduction & Resilience

The benefits that bamboo offers in vulnerable areas. As well as covering how bamboo helps in disaster situations and the roles bamboo plays in the reduction of risk.

Main contributor: Apsana Kafle





November 2020

Bamboo for Youth Empowerment  

Main Contributor:Sarah Stuttaford

Other Contributors: Apsana Kafle, Sara Hamann, Arthur Lindhjem

Youth Unemployment 

Bamboo Project

Numerous rural communities lack diversified employment opportunities, particularly for youth. These youth eligible for employment are individuals aged 15 to 24 who can participate in the workforce. If their town or village, however, lacks resources for a growing economy, they are forced to find other means to provide an income. If they have access to transportation, they may seek employment in an urban setting, leaving behind their community and perpetuating the cycle of an unsustainable economy. Young people may also consider becoming involved in criminal activities or gangs in an attempt to support their family with some form of income, becoming swept up in drugs and alcohol in the process.



Bamboo in the Economy

While youth are vulnerable to limited employment options, resources within their community that is used effectively can spur the creation of new jobs. One simple solution could be the cultivation of bamboo. As a fast-growing plant, bamboo reaches its climax growth within 60-90 days and after 4-6 years, the plant reaches maturity and can be harvested sustainably each year onwards. When bamboo is grown commercially, youth can be employed in the agricultural or trade sector. Commercial agriculture allows locals to engage with international business partners and expand the overall wealth of the community as more and more people are hired to contribute to the industry. Bamboo’s versatility can be transferred to the commercial industry as well. Goods can be created and sold such as furniture, bikes, or souvenirs for tourists. Youth who are unable to leave their homes due to familial responsibilities or are unable to perform laborious agricultural practices, therefore, can still secure a job, learning to make these bamboo products to be sold in markets from the comfort of their own room.

Youth Employment Opportunities Across the Globe

In Ghana, high youth unemployment has led many young people to turn to drugs and crime, but one growing business decided to offer them a different path. Ghana Bamboo Bikes is a company that uses local bamboo in the area to construct bikes, a high demand item as it increases the realm of travel for individuals. Locally grown bamboo has proven to be an easy and effective resource in bike construction as it does not need to be imported, and its versatility allows for the creation of all types of products. After a six-month training program, the employees are given a salary roughly equal to the national average. A secured income encourages the youth to stay in their town and support their family, allowing the community to grow.

The business now employs thirty-three youth and continues to grow, attracting international attention from potential global business partners.

Others have also recognized the economic opportunity bamboo offers, taking advantage of the resource to create profitable businesses. In the village of Katlama, located in India, some young people decided to create rather than find employment opportunities, forming Bamboo Enterprise United. Here, workshops are used to teach the townspeople how to transform bamboo into products that can be sold, providing people with an income. Due to militant activity, there were limited business opportunities for young people in the village. Originally bamboo had been constructed into weapons such as batons for the police, but once the corruption forced upon the village subsided,  Bamboo Enterprise United got to work. Now there are over one-hundred people participating in their business as they supply furniture and souvenirs to other parts of the country and abroad. Simply the placement of natural resources, like bamboo, allows for youth to take advantage of their surroundings and carry themselves out of unemployment.

In Bhutan, roughly 81% of the unemployed population is youth due to the country’s remote location. Because of the mountainous terrain, there is a lack of infrastructure and jobs. The cost of importing resources to create products would lead to a slow and unreliable business as supplies could become delayed because of unprecedented weather events or danger. Luckily, bamboo is locally grown in Bhutan, and its significance was recognized. The Generating Youth Employment and Community-Based Enterprise Development project focused on securing employment opportunities for youth while involving the economy in long term production. By investing in the necessary materials to start the business, the project could create a training center where experts would provide villagers with instructions on how to make products, some of these products being made from bamboo. By perfecting the quality of these products, they could be included in the tourism industry. Souvenirs were already constructed with other materials, but bamboo souvenirs can diversify the choices for tourists and what they may want to purchase. It also allows an already known industry, tourism, to be reinforced by the youth of Bhutan.

Other projects have also become involved with bamboo in order to support unemployed youths. The International Fund for Agricultural Development offers grants to programs, and one of these programs sought to create training facilities in Tanzania, Mozambique, Madagascar, and Ethiopia. Reaching out to numerous communities, they were and still are able to help rurally disadvantaged youth. By offering them a means of income, these young people learned valuable, marketable skills providing for their families and receiving an experience that could help them in the future.

In these communities, bamboo nurseries were created and resources were gifted to farmers as people were taught how to improve the quality of bamboo. They were also trained on how to make bamboo products that support the community. Some of these products include charcoal briquettes which are easier to make than normal charcoal and school desks for children. Over 1,000 people participated and benefited from this project, allowing communities to take advantage of a new means of income.

Bamboo’s unique properties can provide economic opportunities for disadvantaged youth across the globe. The fast-growing plant can grow in numerous types of environments, flourishing in degraded landscapes. Once it reaches maturity, it will continue to grow every year, allowing for it to be repeatedly used and harvested. Whether it be through agriculture or trade, bamboo supports and creates industries that offer jobs to youth. With a large family to provide for, young people are encouraged to search for employment opportunities as soon as possible to help support their households. Bamboo could be the reason why they stay in their village rather than succumb to crime or migrate away to cities, avoiding rather than helping the local economic issues in their community. Bamboo, therefore, can give young people the opportunity to support themselves and their families, creating a productive and stronger community for the future.



Additional Resources On This Topic

Economic, Social, and Environmental Assessment of Bamboo for Infrastructure Development

How does it relate?

The economic, social and environmental assessment of bamboo was necessary for this study due to a shift by the world’s industries to its cultivation and usage. The increasing demand for wood and its products and the depletion of the forest has contributed to the world global warming. Most industries are advocating for the use of natural materials for infrastructure works due to this problem. Bamboo being a multifunctional, fast growing and a renewable plant is considered as an alternative to timber. Its wide range of uses has added significantly to the agricultural economy since it has created an employment and as a source of income generation to the rural farmers who goes into its cultivation, and contributing to community development. The social assessment looks at bamboos investment in a geographical area and its effects on the livelihood of the dwellers. The social benefits, risks and threats related to bamboo industry on living organisms and the environmental assessment explores the plant cultivation impacts on the forests, non-timber forest products, water resources and biodiversity, paying attention to the interlinkages between social and environmental assessment. The diminishing of the forest cover and deteriorating ecology threatens the very existence of man and animals. The development of bamboo resources globally will significantly add to the environment and the ecological balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Also, the impact of the industry on the social life of people, as we consider the threats related to the industry in the locality. The study concludes that a planned, scientific and holistic approach to bamboo cultivation, processing and management using advanced technology will enhance bamboo sustainability and an alternative material for infrastructure development. Bamboo can play a significant role in the restoration and rejuvenation of rural and national economies through its cultivation. When appropriate policies implement through advanced technology on bamboo and its products, the infrastructure needs in most African countries will be accomplished.

Contributor: Sarah Stuttaford


Harnessing Bamboo for Disadvantaged Youth

How does it relate?

A university graduate recognized the potential of wild bamboo growing around her hometown of Kumasi, Ghana, and sought to harness this resource to produce bicycles. The result: many new jobs for unemployed and marginalized youth.

Contributor: Sarah Stuttaford 

October 2020

Bamboo for Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience 

Main Contributor: Apsana Kafle

Other Contributors: Sarah Stuttaford, Sara Hamann, Arthur Lindhjem

Bamboo for Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience 

Disaster is a sudden, natural or human-induced calamitous event which drastically disrupts the functioning of a community and the society as a whole. This has direct human, material, economic and environmental losses that exceed the community’s or society’s ability to cope using their common resources (IFRC, 2020). Some of the most common disasters occurring globally are floods, storms, earthquakes, landslides, droughts, wildfires, volcanic activity, etc. Disasters have a fairly significant global impact on the economy, ecology, and society as a whole. The ability of any system to bounce back from the disaster and rebound forward is known as resilience. The 21st century is seeing a heightened intensity and frequency of these disasters as they become more unpredictable and deadly. 

Bamboo is a fast-growing perennial, that has wide use ranging from basic subsistence purposes to commercial construction and ecosystem restoration. Out of the various functions derived from bamboo, disaster risk reduction and resilience can be the most important. Today, disasters have cost more lives not only during their occurrence but also due to lack of preparation. There are two ways through which bamboo can be a possible solution for disaster resilience and reduction. Firstly, it can help to minimize the frequency of disaster, reduce the potential impacts from them, and most importantly help, to restore ecosystems and economy after disasters. 

Bamboo for Disaster Risk Reduction 

Bamboo has been used to combat wind and erosion for decades. Bamboo has a vast network of roots and rhizome which strongly helps to bind the soil, thereby resisting erosion induced by natural sources such as wind and water.  

Bamboo can be used as an important bioengineering structure as well. Planting bamboo along the river corridors and bunds helps to protect the river from being breached and prevent rapid runoff. It is often planted in erosion-prone areas along with erosion control structures, e.g., embankments and check dams. Being a pioneer species of plant succession, it can easily be grown on degraded land. When proper techniques are considered while harvesting bamboo it does not impact the topsoil like other trees thus reducing the probability for erosion and displacement of soil. 

Bamboo is evergreen in nature which grows in all seasons. As a result, it covers the surface of the ground and increases the infiltration capacity of the soil. This not only helps with surface erosion but also maintains the water table below the surface.  Bamboo can also help to decrease the evaporation of water from ponds and help further water conservation. Bamboo leaves can be used as an important source of organic manure which can be a great alternative to industrial fertilizers which have a direct role in land productivity and conservation. 

 Some of the exemplary species of bamboo which play a good role in providing coverage to the earth against soil erosion and sunburn are Sasa bamboo (Sasa palmata) in China (INBAR, 2000), Moso bamboo (Phyllostachys edulis) on the abandoned landslide sloppy areas of Nepal (DFRS, 2018), Giant bamboo (Dendrocalamus Asper) on the flood-prone corridor of Timor Leste (DARDC, 2018). In all of these cases, planting bamboo has not only protected against disasters but has also contributed to upscale the livelihood of the associated communities. 

Some of the post-disaster consequences include the transformation of land structure, succession, disruption in the natural cycles, mass movement of people. These events have severe implications, especially on natural resources as displaced people put on extreme pressure on natural resources. Previous studies in Rwanda had shown the severe degradation of the natural resources by people for rebuilding their livelihood. An estimate (UNHCR/CARE/ERM) of the fuelwood needs by the displaced people in the area demanded the resource at an average of 2.6/person/day. This was when 524,000 refugees were interpolated among the community, and a daily supply of some 1,603m3 of fuelwood was needed – approximately 585,095m3 per year.

Bamboo for resilience

One way to acquire resilience is through rebuilding structures that are not only strong, durable, and affordable but even prevent further occurrence of future disasters. Bamboo can be used as an important construction material as it can provide long-lasting building materials that can be easily harvested within 3 to 5 years when managed and treated properly. Worldwide bamboo is widely distributed among 1662 species and 121 genera and is available anywhere from the tropics to the mild temperate zones. It is accessible and versatile, growing along the hillsides, walkways, river corridors, etc. 

Bamboo exhibits properties such as hardened culm, high growth rate, and versatility which makes them equivalent and most often superior to wood structures. Unlike the construction industries like steel and cement, bamboo is the best alternative material as it has a high CO2 sequestration capability which plays an important role in any future climate-induced disasters. Besides, the tensile strength of bamboo is 28,000 pounds per square inch which is much higher than steel (23,000 pounds per square inch). This means that during high-stress events, like hurricanes or an earthquake bamboo, can provide higher strength than steel (INBAR, 2000). Bamboo also has greater stiffness (mass per volume) which has a higher practical experience and importance. For instance, if a bamboo house has suffered from a heavy earthquake, only partial elements in the bamboo might show damage to the house being still habitable and standing.  They are light in weight and thus able to withstand more loads. Besides bamboo also has properties like greater bending strength which makes bamboo houses and infrastructures disaster resilient. The bamboo rooftop also consumes less energy than conventional building materials which helps in regulating the temperature and reduce indoor energy consumption. 

Lastly, in the midst of uncertainties and the proliferation of disasters, bamboo-based solutions are sustainable, reliable, and practicable. The multi-disciplinary function of bamboo prevents the occurrence of disasters, reduces the intensity of their impact, and most importantly helps to recover and rebuild the losses from disaster in a more sustainable way.  


Additional Resources On This Topic

Bamboo and rammed-earth therapy centre in Bangladesh wins 2020 Obel Award 

How does it relate?

The winner of the Obel Award, German architect Anna Heringer, uses her mud and bamboo design to illustrate sustainable values and respect for culture and land use. And also how to build a modern building with simple and local resources, an important lesson that can be useful in the wake of natural disasters.

Contributor: Sara Hamann


Stories that change the paradigm: bamboo structures for sustainable and resilient communities

How does it relate?

Whether it be reducing flood risk or combatting the unsustainable practices of urbanization, bamboo is a versatile solution for the low-income communities of the Asia Pacific.

Contributor: Sarah Stuttaford