Bamboo Industry has been identified as a major foreign exchange earner for Nigeria which is itching to diversify its sources of revenue especially from monolithic and hidebound oil economy to agriculture which was the country’s economic mainstay in the ’60s.
Due to its wide range of uses Bamboo is considered an excellent source of wealth and prosperity both from domestic and export market and proper harnessing of the industry can earn Nigeria USD22b, from studies conducted by experts.
Confirming this aggregated industry wide study, Abdulkadir Hassan, a development consultant with interest in green economy and renewable energy, said in the past it was called the poor man’s timber but through research and innovation this perception has changed as it has contributed a lot to the global economy.
In an interview with LEADERSHIP, Hassan said today China alone makes about USD50b from bamboo and bamboo products and produces bamboo products for both domestic and export markets.
“The market in China has been stimulated over time especially in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, as its farming was encouraged through policies and incentives. It was used in the afforestation and reforestation of degraded land and incentives in the form of government patronage and subsidies were offered to the farmers. Subsequently after 1998 due to devastating flood, logging was banned and the industry had to use bamboo and related alternatives. This was how the market was developed to the extent that China is now making much from the green gold”, he explained.
The demand in India is about 30 million metric tons per annum and is expected to grow significantly especially with the setting up of National Bamboo Mission, which led to establishment of Cane and Bamboo Technology Centre to develop bamboo value chain for improved livelihood and this is similar to technology park or incubation facility, said Hassan who is also a consultant/adviser on research and strategy to the Coalition of the Northern States Chambers of Commerce, an umbrella platform of the chambers of commerce in the 19 northern states and Abuja.
According to him, Its economic impacts are many. In the housing sector for example apart from providing sustainable and affordable housing, it creates chain effects across all economic sectors. Kenya is taking advantage of this as it planned to construct 500,000 housing units using bamboo and other related agricultural waste materials by 2030, in line with the country’s Big Four Agenda aimed at making Kenya an upper-middle income nation. Considering the fact that over 200 million Africans live in substandard shelter with no access to basic services, bamboo can be used as an option to minimise this challenge. Kenya has also established Bamboo Policy 2019 so as to optimize economic impacts from bamboo.
He said that Bamboo offers an excellent medium for empowerment and inclusive growth and development and is capable of creating jobs, wealth creation opportunities and supporting enterprise development.
“There are about 10 million bamboo farmers in China and over 35 million jobs. Rwanda has recently keyed into bamboo empowerment programme through china Aid Bamboo Project; the project has engaged about 2400 women who are being trained to use bamboo to produce a number of products include household items, kitchen utensils, decorations, bags and so on.
Unfortunately, he observed that despite its inherent economic value, Bamboo industry in Nigeria remains undeveloped and untapped due to low level of awareness. “However, as more Nigerians get to know about this important plant, the industry would grow rapidly, taking into accounts its socio-economic and environmental benefits. Because of its importance it is being given special names in places where there is adequate awareness, such names include ‘green gold’, ‘green resource and miracle plant amongst others.”, he said.
Bamboo is a tropical and temperate plant and also grows in cold areas and belongs to grass family and is one of the fastest growing plants in the world. There are over 1400 species of bamboo globally, this makes it possible to determine what species to planted in any place. In fact some species are capable of growing up to 90 centimeters in a day. Bamboo can be harvested between 3 – 5 years; thereafter it continued to regenerate for about 70 years. This implies one would continue to harvest for a long period, what an attractive investment.
Hassan said the plant is mostly found in the forest areas but it can grow in almost all parts of the country, with the largest reserves include Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Delta, Rivers, Cross Rivers and Ebonyi amongst others in the South.
Other large reserves are found in Niger, Kogi, Taraba, Federal Capital Territory, Benue and Nasarawa.
It also occurs in Kebbi, Kaduna, Adamawa, Bauchi, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara and Borno amongst others.
The ones in the south are thicker and shorter and those found in the north are slimmer and longer and this implied that it can be planted in all parts of the country, as with good practice appropriate species suitable different parts could be used, he added.
He said that there are over 10,000 documented products that can be derived from bamboo, as Nigerians get understand this, the industry would be stimulated, but due to low level of awareness the farming practice is yet to be popular, as most of the reserves occur in the wildness. “So the value chain is yet to be optimized, as the present level of value addition is micro-fraction compared to what is obtainable in Asia, Latin America and even Europe”, he said.
LEADERSHIP reports that Bamboo has a wide range of applications across sectors. In the past the uses were considered traditional but with the increasing level of awareness it has made inroad into knowledge based system through research and innovation.
The uses cut across all the basic needs of life; shelter, food and clothing and due to its diverse uses, globally over 2.5 billion persons benefit from bamboo value chain both direct and indirect impacts, according to Hassan.
“It serves as sustainable and alternative raw material for many industries. For example in Bangladesh alone it is used as input for over 45,000 SMEs as well as a number of big players across industries. It played role in many key inventions; for instance it was used in the development of the first set of air planes, used in the invention first light bulb by Thomas Edison as well as other scientific research activities”, he stated.
Also, Bamboo offers more cost effective and eco-friendly building materials thereby addressing the issue of sustainability, he disclosed adding that “Over 1b persons are said to be living in bamboo shelter in the world, mostly in Asia. The housing sector is responsible for about one third of global greenhouse gas emissions and consumes 40 per cent of global resources. Using bamboo in building and construction would eventually minimize this major challenge, in addition to making access to housing more affordable. Already innovative architectural designs and concept are fast emerging on the use of bamboo to develop basic and complex buildings, mass housing and industrial projects. Such innovative initiatives would help attaining SDGs, Habitat III New Urban Agenda and Paris Agreement 2015.”
In agriculture it is used in fencing, support stands, agro-forestry, soil quality enhancement, production of bio-fertilizer, drying, packaging and so on. It is also used in the fabrication of agricultural implements and equipment. Even the farming practice of bamboo is also very attractive. With the development of its value chain more farmers would key into its business. Also there exist opportunities in establishing nurseries; in some places even with less than a hectare one can make tens of thousands of dollars from the sale of seedlings.
Hassan further said that in some countries the seedling cost as much as USD30 per pot while in Nigeria it goes for about N300-500, adding, “For example one quarter of an acre can be used to produce 2400 containers, at USD30 each one can earn USD72,000 and in Nigeria at N300 per container that gives N720,000.00. Another example of innovation is in the making of greenhouse, conventional greenhouse costs about N3 – N5m on average but the alternative one made from bamboo requires about 15-20 per cent of that amount