The President of the Cane and Bamboo Weavers Association of Ghana, Mr Stephen Osafo Owusu, has charged the new government to leverage bamboo cultivation to restore lands affected by illegal mining, popularly known as ‘galamsey’.
He explained that a strong backing for commercial bamboo farming would help ensure that the country had enough of the plant to use as by-products, as well as to restore lands affected by illegal mining activities in the country.
“Bamboo is a fast-growing indigenous and exotic species that has the capacity to rehabilitate degraded forest reserve areas such as the illegal mining affected lands,” Mr Owusu told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS in Accra.
He said commercialising bamboo plantation would also help unlock the potential of bamboo, create more jobs and lift many people out of poverty.
To achieve this, Mr Owusu said the government needed to develop a policy document that would regulate activities in the business.
The policy document will then serve as a blueprint towards boosting bamboo production and ancillary services in the country.
The bamboo and rattan business comprises carvers and weavers who use treated bamboo products and rattan to make furniture and ornaments, as well as support the construction of houses and roads.
In spite of its enormous potential for job creation and export revenue, the business has suffered neglect over the years, leading to a reduction in its contribution to national output.
The Cane and Bamboo Weavers Association of Ghana, the umbrella body of businesses and stakeholders in the bamboo enterprise, now wants to help revert that.
For a start, the association has appealed to the incoming administration to take deliberate steps that will sustain growth and increase bamboo production in the country.
The New Patriotic Party (NPP) stated in its manifesto that it would support the establishment of 1,000 hectares of bamboo and rattan plantation per annum.
An NPP party will also encourage individuals and private sector involvement in the bamboo business through the provision of subsidised planting materials.
To help rehabilitate degraded lands, the party estimates that it will cultivate bamboo plants on 30,000 hectares of degraded areas within and outside forest reserves for reforestation and plantation development.
These interventions should complement ongoing interventions in the sector, which include a partnership with the Chinese government to train Ghanaians on how to fully exploit the potential of the bamboo business.
Thanks to the partnership, 40 people have so far been trained in China on bamboo and rattan production.
The first 20 benefited from an intensive training programme in bamboo cultivation earlier last year.
The remaining, mainly artisans, were also trained in handicraft and bamboo processing.
While these are commendable, the President of the Cane and Bamboo Weavers Association said Ghana, as a developing nation with high appetite for furniture and related products, needed to make rattan and bamboo development a priority to serve as an alternative to timber.
This, he said, would help free more timber for exports while preserving the environment.
Bamboo is a plant that provides considerable environmental benefits and is used in construction works, furniture making and charcoal burning.
It is also used for ecological purposes such as soil stabilisation and erosion prevention on hill slopes and verges. It is also considered the best choice when it comes to restoring degraded land.
Experts say bamboo shoots are edible and can also be used as watershed protection and carbon sequestration, a process that involves the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and depositing it in a reservoir.
Learning from others
Mr Owusu said Ghana could learn from countries such as China and Ethiopia, which had prioritised the bamboo business in their respective national policies.
Estimates show that the bamboo industry in China employs nearly eight million people and the figure is expected to hit 10 million by 2020.
Ethiopia, on the other hand, is home to about 70 per cent of Africa’s bamboo. There, the bamboo business employs more than 1,000 people.
Taking inspiration from these countries, Mr Owusu said the winner of the polls could use policy to stimulate growth in the local bamboo sector for the benefit of the economy.