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World Bamboo Day: Empowered prosperity through Bamboo

Twelve years ago, on this date (September 18, 2009), at the 8th World Bamboo Congress in Thailand, the World Bamboo Organisation declared the day (September 18) to be observed as the World Bamboo Day to spread awareness on the benefits of bamboo and promote its use in everyday products. This year the theme for World Bamboo Day is, #PlantBamboo.
Also known as Green Gold, bamboo, unlike timber, which takes years to grow and mature, can grow to its full height in three months and mature within four years. This is also why bamboo is preferred and promoted as a more sustainable product to use, as compared to timber, in various industries, from construction, textiles, home decor, accessories, musical instruments, kitchenware and even as a fuel. Further, seeing that it is an eco-sustainable raw material — as it locks global warming (or pollution) and promotes carbon storage — the Indian Parliament too passed the Amendment Bill of the Indian Forest Act , 1927, that reclassified bamboo as a grass, removing prohibitions in growing and cutting bamboo.
Bamboo, the fastest growing and highest yielding renewable resource is found extensively in Asia, Africa, and South America. In the last 3 decades, the economic and social benefits of planned bamboo cultivation have had positive impacts on rural livelihoods, generating employment opportunities in areas where it is grown. It has brought significant development to communities where the bamboo value chain is made commercially viable with supporting processing industries.
For those who expect to derive their livelihoods from bamboo cultivation, bamboo offers a number of benefits and has relatively high levels of growth and income security. Bamboo grows very fast with speeds of up to 1 meter in 24 hours for some species. Productive groves can be established from scratch in ten days, and individual culms harvested after 4 to 5 years (depending on species). The benefits of this short rotation include lower levels of exposure to outside risks such as fire, and flexibility to change management and harvesting practices relatively quickly when facing climatic changes. The fast growth, early maturation and high net productivity of bamboo means that a bamboo stand can be selectively harvested by extracting older culms and leaving younger ones to grow without decreasing total stand biomass.
Annual harvesting of bamboo generates a regular income stream that gives bamboo farmers a quick return on investment and an important annual safety net. Another major advantage of bamboo is that it grows on marginal lands, such as degraded land and steep slopes, leaving better lands for more demanding crops. Consequently, bamboo can be planted in nearly all degraded lands, especially where gully and sheet erosion are ravaging and in soil damaged by overgrazing and poor agricultural techniques.
The rate of carbon sequestration by bamboo is one of the highest in the world. Bamboo grows very fast, with a growth cycle between 60 and 120 days. Bamboo also has a high net primary productivity and produces more culms annually when managed intensively, making it a standing carbon stock and a living ecosystem that continues to grow. In plantations where selected mature culms are harvested annually bamboo can sequester more carbon, especially when the harvested culms are turned into durable products. Consequently, development of bamboo plantations is one of the major ways of reducing environmental effects of climate change. Bamboo shows significant implications for reduction of atmospheric carbon dioxide being the fastest growing canopy that releases 40% more oxygen than equivalent stands of trees and sequesters about 17 tonnes of CO2 from the air per hectare per year.
Despite its high potential in carbon storage and sequestration and its important role in livelihood of millions of rural poor worldwide, prospects of bamboo ecosystems in CDM (Clean Development Mechanism) and REDD (Reduced Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) schemes remain to be explored. Thus, there is an urgent need to recognize ecosystem services that woody bamboo provides for the well-being of rural communities and nature conservancy. Bamboo offers tremendous opportunities for carbon farming and carbon trading.
Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.
Neelam HRMs Neelam Chhiber is  Founder & Director at Industree Crafts Pvt. Ltd. An Industrial Design graduate from NID, Ahmedabad, Neelam has for the past three decades been working with artisans in rural areas, by providing design, technical, marketing and management solutions to bridge the urban-­‐rural chasm. Over the years, Neelam and her team have built a holistic ecosystem that works with rural communities in India to equip them with the necessary skills and tools to set up self-owned enterprises close to their homes. 
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