Bamboo – A win win resource for the Global North and South
It is almost 2020, the time in which new NDCs are being submitted, with the main target, to stay below 2 degrees Celsius. That also implies the implementation of climate friendly actions. It is a challenge that individuals and nations do not face themselves, but it is a global challenge. Although divided by borders, one forest has become our forest; there are no borders to air and water flow, there is no your or my climate, it is our climate.
While there are no borders to these flows, there are certain borders between product producing and consuming countries, clearly illustrated by environmental and trade regulations. In Asia, for instance, many products are produced from natural resources such as timber for furniture or flooring. These goods are consumed on domestic markets, but largely enter international markets, where high consumer interests are driving their demand. These are fixed markets and it is difficult to change these without causing turbulences in producer countries where producers depend on the production for livelihood, but also governments that drive on these economic activities.
However, some of these resources, such as timber, have been criticized to be linked to deforestation. Therefore, certified tropical timber, which is likewise being criticized is being favored more, but overall also demanded less. The simple question derives; how can we continue consuming the way we do without risking economic activities? Likely not with timber. And is up to the consumer countries to decide what type of priority products should be consumed or could we broaden our view in the light of our climate agenda and consider alternative resources, such as bamboo- less considered in the Global North and less fully explored in the Global South?
Bamboo itself, has been linked to contributing to almost all of the Sustainable Development Goals, while it has also found incredible industrial applications. We could say that it is an incredible versatile plant, which can be harvested in almost 3 to 5 years. Unique about it is the fact that it is a grass with high starch content. This makes it a favorable resource for biomass. Its shoots are edible and can be used to solve some of the most prominent hunger issues. Even more useful are bamboo houses that can be built earth quake resistant.
However, while the traditional application of bamboo has been taking place for centuries in many Asian countries, bamboo is less favorable. It is viewed as a rather poor plant, which is based on the fact that it easily degrades without proper treatment. Because of that it is very attractive to termites and fungi, but if treated and processed well, it can last a lifetime. Besides this negative connotation, there is also limited knowledge, particular of rural populations, on value addition.
It is less known that bamboo can be easily used and integrated into existing markets, benefiting both producer and consumer countries. It could be used for the production of bamboo pellets for energy, it could integrated into existing food chains, it could be used as carbon storage and diverse constructional applications in smart cities, circular transport, for water purification, as an alternative to steel, it could simply be used to such an extent that it can sincerely help various countries in achieving their NDCs, while also allowing consumer and producer countries to continue their trade activities, if not even increase.
There are however a few challenges that seem to remain on national levels; a lack of knowledge of bamboo value addition, the fact that little is known about proper treatment and that facilities are not put into place. There is also a lack of bamboo plantations which are needed to keep up with the commercial demand. Although
bamboo grows very quick, it cannot be harvested at once. There also seems to be a lack of support, and the likely view that other resources for which markets are dominantly established, are more profitable, while they become eventually less profitable and more scarce.
Another challenge is the image, less is known about engineering bamboo and less is known on bamboo market diversification. Bamboo, which provides so many solutions –nearly the perfect people, planet, profit resource – is yet to be supported more on an international scale, national scale and particular on the regional and local scale. It should not be viewed as the “poor, terrible and invasive grass, but rather as the wonder grass that outweighs so many other resources”