Bamboo: Alleviating Poverty in Rural Communities
Updated: Apr 13
As a multi-functional, fast-growing and rapidly renewable plant source, Bamboo holds many economic and environmental benefits. With an estimated global economy worth 60 billion USD a year according to INBAR, the bamboo sector offers many opportunities for generating income, creating jobs and improving economic development. Here we break down what it is about this ‘miracle plant’ that makes it such a useful tool for combating poverty in rural communities across the world.
Grows in rural area
With over 16,000 known species of bamboo growing in a range of climates across Asia, Africa and Central and South America, this incredible plant grows locally to some of the poorest rural areas in the world. The involvement of these rural communities in the cultivation and production of bamboo has generated jobs and income for them year-round. Nowhere can this be better seen than in China, the global centre for bamboo industry, which employs over 8 million people and was valued at 39 million USD in 2018.
One of the greatest economic benefits of this game changing plant is how versatile it is! Considered the most important non-wood forest product - and becoming an increasingly popular green alternative to timber - bamboos can be used for a very wide range of products. Anything from scaffolding, chopping boards, furniture, pulp and paper, fabrics, chopsticks, flooring… the list goes on and on! In fact, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), it has over 2,000 different uses. Its large array of end uses gives producers a wide range of livelihood options and flexibility, bringing massive development to the communities that process them.
In comparison to timber, the processing of this sustainable alternative requires less heavy machinery and capital investment thanks to its lightweight nature. This, in turn, makes it much easier for farmers (many of whom are women) to be involved in its initial processing.
Bamboo is an extremely fast-growing, renewable and easy-to-grow resource. With growth rates of up to one metre per day for some species, it can be harvested every three to five years- in comparison to softwood and hardwood which often take a minimum of forty years (or even up to a hundred) to reach harvesting maturity. Once it begins to grow, it remains in the soil and produces new shoots every year, so the more you cut, the more it grows! Bamboo’s potential for short-term profitability by delivering returns every few years, makes it a steady and reliable source of income.