Making the Conservation of Tropical Forest Biodiversity a RealityAgriculture & Rural Development | December 27, 2012
Although tropical rainforests cover only 6% of the earth’s land...
The tropical, clumping species of bamboo has exceptional green credentials. Needing relatively few nutrients to grow, it thrives on degraded lands, restoring them into functioning forest ecosystems. The result is flourishing biodiversity and habitat connectivity, improved ecosystem services such as water and soil quality, and climate change mitigation.
Bamboo also acts as a watershed protector with its extensive root system that aids water absorption, and as a stabilizer of microclimates. It can be planted on steep slopes and riverbanks to prevent mudslides and soil erosion, it can be intercropped with remaining trees in degraded forests or it can be used to slow trends of desertification.
Once regarded as a poor man’s timber, bamboo is now being dubbed as green gold. Commonly it is touted for its wide range of uses from handicrafts to local building materials. Traditionally bamboo is used for poles and beams for housing construction, irrigation pipes, furniture and handicrafts. Recent improvements in processing technologies allow bamboo to be utilized for high-end products such as flooring, decking, panels and veneers, and structural beams. These products are not only aesthetically pleasing but are stronger and lighter than wood.
The environmental and financial benefits alone of tropical bamboos are vast. Combine them with a business model that deploys conscious capital, and natural resource friendly economic development of rural areas occurs.
In this fashion, EcoPlanet Bamboo’s operations look beyond purely financial returns and also aim to create lasting environmental and social impact. To do this, EcoPlanet Bamboo’s operations are strategically located on degraded lands in impoverished communities around the world where the impact from job creation and opportunities for livelihood diversification are the greatest.
Through permanent employment and capacity building programs, workers generate stable income that trickles into development of the local community. Instances of better nutrition, improved healthcare, women’s empowerment, increased education are such positive social impacts. Secondary opportunities also form around such sustainable enterprises creating bamboo related SMEs that further stimulate economic development and maximizes social change.
With growth in mind to spread bamboo’s triple bottom line benefits to more regions around the world, the company has been founded and developed as a supplier to any entity currently utilizing large volumes of tropical timber, thereby seeking to make bamboo the timber of the 21st century, and ensuring that the raw fiber carries certification standards of the highest degree. As an alternative to timber, bamboo helps alleviate pressure on topical forests, and thus curbs deforestation and mitigates climate change.
As the world’s second largest producer of bamboo after China, India can also greatly benefit from bamboo. There are over 125 species of bamboo distributed throughout the country with nearly 9 million ha of forest area covered by bamboo. Awareness of bamboo’s potential to alleviate poverty is growing. In 2000, the Cane and Bamboo Technology Center, in partnership with UNIDO, was established in the Northeastern region of Guwahati, Assam. The goal of the center is to improve processing technologies and grow the capacity of the bamboo sector. Coupling trainings on bamboo handicrafts and industrial products with access to improved technology, the center is able to improve incomes of bamboo related SMEs.
The market for bamboo is booming with estimates putting the worth of the industry at $25 billion dollars globally. This translates directly into a huge opportunity for sustainable economic growth by deploying conscious capital to create triple bottom line returns – social, environmental and financial. With a little curiosity and ingenuity, bamboo will lead us to a sustainable future.
About the Author:
Camille began her career in traditional conservation, working for Richard Leakey in Kenya as well as managing projects in Belize and the Philippines, but realized that a purely donor driven conservation model was not a long term solution.
Following a Masters from Yale’s Forestry School she went on to work with the Papua New Guinea Ambassador to the UN, during the early development of forest carbon markets. Mixing policy with project development, Camille was involved in the origination, implementation, deliverance and management of carbon forestry projects under both voluntary and compliance markets working for entities including Green Resources AS, Face Foundation, and World Vision.
In addition Camille has extensive experience in the development of both community based and large scale commercial forestry plantations across Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia.
Camille is the co-founder and managing partner of EcoPlanet Bamboo. Founded in 2011 with her business partner and the company’s CEO Troy Wiseman, EcoPlanet Bamboo owns and operates nearly 6,000 acres of sustainable commercial bamboo plantations around the world and has created more than 500 permanent jobs in some of the most remote and impoverished communities in the world.
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