China promises boost to African bamboo expertise

Bamboo 1
Copyright: Flickr/Wu Zhiyi/World Bank

Speed read

  • Network aims to transfer knowledge about novel products
  • Bamboo’s fast growth make it ideal for removing carbon from atmosphere
  • Money will come from Chinese fund to fight climate change

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[PARIS] China aims to increase Africa’s expertise in novel bamboo products through a new knowledge exchange network, it was announced at the COP 21 summit.
The country plans to team up with African states to start a partnership that would see knowledge about bamboo growth and products, such as bamboo-based biofuels and charcoal briquettes, transferred to other bamboo-growing nations.
The partnership, which was launched at an event on 9 December in Paris, France, will be overseen by INBAR, a China-based intergovernmental organisation that seeks to use bamboo and rattan to reduce poverty and environmental damage.

“Bamboo should now become a South-South-North dynamic for climate change initiatives using China’s expertise in managing this sector.”

Hans Friederich, INBAR


Part of a 20 billion renminbi (US$3.1 billion) fund that China launched in September to increase South-South cooperation on climate change will be spent on the initiative.
Bamboo’s quick growth and easy care make it ideal for removing carbon from the atmosphere, and being a raw material for biofuel and consumer products, the initiative’s supporters said.
“Bamboo should now become a South-South-North dynamic for climate change initiatives using China’s expertise in managing this sector,” said Hans Friederich, INBAR’s director-general.
The partnership also plans to include bamboo-growing countries from Asia and Latin America at a later stage, the event heard.
China’s innovations in bamboo growth and products have seen the sector grow into a US$30 billion industry, employing seven million people and reforesting over three million hectares of degraded land, the event heard. The country has developed technologies such as charcoal briquettes and construction materials made of bamboo.
In Africa, Ghana, Rwanda and South Africa have seen a boom in commercial bamboo growing, the event heard.
But some African representatives at the meeting were guarded about the prospect of Chinese interventions in local business. In Ghana, where bamboo charcoal briquettes are now used, there have been problems with some Chinese firms, said Yaw Kwakye, who runs the climate change unit at Ghana’s Forestry Commission.

“We have issues with deforestation in the mining sector and unregulated harvesting of rosewood in the northern zones with Chinese companies,” he told the event.
Other researchers, however, said the initiative could allow African countries to improve their plant science and better understand how to make the best use of their natural resources. Maria Vorontsova, a plant taxonomist at Kew Gardens in the United Kingdom, is working with INBAR to research bamboo species.
“There are bamboo species in Madagascar that I don’t even know what scientific name to give,” said Vorontsova. She said African countries should create inventories of their plant diversity to better conserve them in the face of climate change.