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The Benefits of Bamboo as a Tool for Land Restoration

Updated: Nov 19, 2020

With at least 30 million hectares of bamboo and over 1,400 species worldwide, this highly versatile and rapidly renewable plant could play an important role in soil conservation and rehabilitation of degraded land. As stated by Hans Friederich, Director of INBAR, “as far as degraded land is concerned, bamboo is green gold”. So what is it about this ‘miracle plant’ that makes it such a valuable tool for restoring soil? Here we discuss its many benefits.

Land degradation

Forest and land degradation occurs in many countries and is a serious problem worldwide. Almost a third of the world’s land is degraded, having adverse effects on livelihoods, food security and increasing the risk of disease. According to ISRIC World Soil Information, this environmental issue costs an estimated €30 billion annually worldwide and affects more than a billion people. Reversing land degradation has therefore become an important task, and challenge, for humankind in the 21st century.

The move towards bamboo

Today, an increasing number of countries are recognising bamboo as a high priority species for land restoration. India, China, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Philippines, Cameroon, Ghana and Madagascar are just a few of the countries using bamboo in their sustainable land management programmes. According to the State Minister for Agriculture in Ethiopia “bamboo is considered the most important, fast-growing, strategic intervention for afforestation and reforestation in the mountainous and degraded areas in the country.”

Why bamboo?

Bamboo has many distinguishable biological characteristics which make it such a valuable tool for land restoration projects. Its root system – an extensive network of fibrous rhizomes and roots - can control floods and landslides and prevent erosion by binding the soil particles firmly together. Its extensive root system makes it very resilient, capable of surviving even when the ground above is destroyed, such as by fire. Thanks to its long root systems, bamboos are able to grow in “poor soils” and on steep slopes, giving them great potential for eco-restoration of degraded lands.

Bamboo is also one of the fastest-growing plants in the world, with reported growth rates of up to 1 metre per day for some species. It is, therefore, able to revegetate and restore productivity to even the most damaged of landscapes within a short period.

The proof is in the pudding

Many studies have confirmed the effective role of bamboo in soil conservation and in the rehabilitation of degraded lands.

In India, a bamboo restoration project completed by INBAR saw a severely degraded area - the result of an intensive brickmaking industry - turn into green, productive land. Bamboo projects have also been used to restore degraded mines in Ghana, and prevent coastal erosion in Thailand.

Alongside its many environmental benefits, planting bamboo also helps local communities by creating jobs and providing stable income – thus helping to alleviate poverty across many countries. In Tanzania, bamboo enterprise development has proven very successful, with bamboo-related enterprises generating an extra 200 USD each month per household.

Due to bamboo’s many remarkable environmental and economic benefits, INBAR has committed to restoring over 5 million hectares of land with this ‘miracle plant’ by 2030.

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