By Fidel Amakye Owusu

1. Growing up in rural Ghana, I have been familiar with clusters of bamboo plants that thrived on the banks of streams.

2. They grew in the wild and kept the waters of the streams and rivers cooler. They were so abundant that one could take them for granted. However, they had diverse uses locally.

3. Houses, barns, benches and makeshift bridges were among the most common uses of bamboo. In the 1990s and even today, the length of bamboo trees made it important to access television signals in rural Ghana. It was, therefore, one of the most common things you would find behind windows in villages.

4. Small bamboo sticks on my shoulders, connected to wooden wheels, were among the first toys I had as a child.

5. And so what?

6. With the forest getting depleted and discussions about the need for Africa to pay attention to sustainable development, the bamboo plant could prove critical to reaching set goals. The qualities as well as diverse use of the plant could prove pivotal.

7. What are these?

8. It is one of the most resilient and “soil-friendly” flora I have seen. When bamboo is cut down and its roots burned to make way for the planting of food crops, it grows back and does so impressively fast. Most importantly, the broad root system of the plant prevents soil erosion.

9. Despite its fast growth rate, the tree is one of the most durable in the world. As seen in the video below, it can withstand extreme heat, pressure and wear. It is comparatively more durable than many trees.

10. In recent times, bamboo trees have been used for modern construction and recreational facilities. It is becoming an integral part of architecture in Africa—it has always been in rural communities.

11. Way forward?

12. Despite what seems to be a relatively low awareness of the extensive benefits the plant could offer to modern Africa, some countries are doing impressively well with its cultivation. In recent years, Kenya and Ghana have paid attention.

13. The two countries are planting it on a large scale for land reclamation and commercial use. In Kenya, smallholder farmers have been involved in the process. The country is determined to benefit from the multi-billion-dollar global bamboo industry. My friend Peter Brunner is also doing a fantastic job in The Gambia.

14. In Ghana, a Public Private Partnership( PPP) has targeted 11,145 hectares for planting in the Ashanti Region alone. Other regions are also going to host the project.

15. Yes, the bamboo industry is well established in Asia; however, Africa has great potential to utilize it for sustainable development. We call it kampor or pamporo in Akan dialects.

By Fidel Amakye Owusu – International Relations and Security Analyst and Writer

Article Reproduced with Permission from Fidel Amakye Owusu

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