The Board of Investments recently put out the Bamboo Industry Development Plan, expected by stake-holders in the industry to provide the impetus to considerably energize the bamboo industry
It was noted that the bamboo, which grows abundantly everywhere in the country, has the potential to create employment and thereby reduce poverty particularly in the countryside. It has many uses: material for light construction, for handicrafts, for food as bamboo shoots, for paper and pulp and source of biomass for renewable energy.
Bamboo also serves to conserve soil and water and thus provides an important ecological function. With its dense, matted root system, it is is an ideal species for protection of riverbanks and erosion-prone slope lands and rehabilitation of degraded watersheds.
Over the years, national government agencies, including the Development Bank of the Philippines, the Land Bank of the Philippines, and some universities and colleges,take continuing efforts to promote the development of the industry.
Non-government organizations (NGOs) and the private sector directly engaged in bamboo are active players including a number of major corporations which have incorporated bamboo in their corporate social responsibility (CSR) portfolios.
The estimated number of bamboo culms (poles) required in the recently-released plan or roadmap, is 107 million each year. There are 204 bamboo clumps or hills per hectare, each clump producing an average five culms per year. Thus, roughly, one hectare of bamboo will produce 1,000 culms per year. The hectarage projection is therefore 107,000 hectares,
The current estimated total bamboo production is 10 million culms. Thus, it is important to scale up bamboo pole production by a factor of 10 times between now and 2040, the time frame of the BOI roadmap.
If the objectives of the bamboo industry roadmap were to be realized, a number of challenges/constraints need to be addressed. First is the need for contiguous lands dedicated to bamboo plantations, and, necessarily, the establishment of bamboo processing plants that will absorb the raw materials.
Private lands in the uplands and slope lands are suitable for bamboo. However, the bigger opportunities are in lands classified as production forests many of which are covered by forest management agreements (IFMA, SIFMA, CBFMA) with peoples organizations and those areas subject to ancestral domain claims by indigenous peoples.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and local governments working closely together should bring the peoples organizations and indigenous peoples who have use rights to the lands in touch with potential private investors and the banks to broker mutually beneficial business arrangements.
The second constraint is the availability of cheap planting materials. Bamboos rarely produce seeds and they are conventionally propagated by cuttings. Close to 25 million cuttings are needed and they have to be produced cheaply to moderate establishment costs.
The Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) has resumed development work on micropropagation of the commercial bamboo species with research support from PCAARRD.
The third constraint which has come up time and again in bamboo industry dialogues is the requirement by DENR that every time bamboo is transported, the owners/traders/truckers must secure a certification from the Community Environment and Natural Resources Offices (CENRO) that the bamboo were obtained from private plantings, and not illegitimately harvested from public forests.
Unfortunately, it is not easy to obtain CENRO verification because bamboo farms are almost always in far, inaccessible places. CENRO offices are undermanned and there are not enough forest officers to verify origin of the bamboos.
The better way is a one-time application/registration of bamboo farms. Even better is the outright deregulation of the cutting, transport and utilization of bamboo and fast-growing tree species like gmelina, falcata, mangiun and other cultivated species.
Perhaps unique among commodities/crops is the very strong, organized advocacy of NGOs for bamboo because of its broad appeal as source of livelihood to reduce poverty, as a source of pride for its prominence in arts, handicrafts and culture, and for its environment value, for soil, water conservation and greening.
One such leading NGO is the Philippine Bamboo Foundation, Inc., led by its president, Edgardo Manda, who used to be general manager of the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), dedicated to promote research, development and education on all aspects of the bamboo.
Photo credits: sunsetbamboo.com