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


Read the article here 

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 

Read the article here