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  • INBAR appoints new Director General

INBAR appoints new Director General

A migrant bamboo farmer harvests bamboo shoots that will go to the Japanese market, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China. Photo by N. Hogarth/CIFOR
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Hand of a community woman on woven bamboo. Photo by M. del Aguila Guerrero/CIFOR

A CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) partner, the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR), has appointed Mr. Ali Mchumo as its new Director General.

Mr. Mchumo began his term as Director General of INBAR on April 1, 2019.

A Tanzanian national, Mr. Mchumo has extensive experience working in international organisations, and has a long diplomatic career. Tanzania is a bamboo-growing country, and a founding member of INBAR.

Mr. Mchumo has held three ministerial positions in Tanzania for eight years. He has also served as Ambassador of Tanzania to 10 foreign missions, including embassies in Canberra, London and Tokyo, as well as the United Nations Offices in Geneva and Vienna.

Prior to his appointment at INBAR, Mr. Mchumo was the Managing Director of the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC) for eight years in two terms, during which he was involved in financing a number of important bamboo and rattan projects with INBAR, in its capacity as the International Commodity Body for Bamboo and Rattan.

FTA congratulates Mr. Mchumo on his appointment and looks forward to continued partnership with INBAR.


The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with Bioversity International, CATIE, CIRAD, ICRAF, INBAR and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • Bamboo for restoration and economic development

Bamboo for restoration and economic development

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  • Standing tall: Bamboo from restoration to economic development

Standing tall: Bamboo from restoration to economic development

A woman stands beside an allanblackia tree, which can provide an edible oil and increase the incomes of farmers. Photo by C. Pye-Smith/ICRAF
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Can grass be used to make tissues, furniture, pipes and even housing? Can it help to improve livelihoods and to mitigate climate change? Think beyond garden lawns and savannah landscapes, to bamboo.

“Bamboos, although they look like trees,” said the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation’s (INBAR) Director General Hans Friederich in opening a recent side event at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Bonn, Germany, “are actually all grass species.”

Bamboo provides a durable building material and strong fiber for paper and textiles without the need to fell trees. Additionally, Friederich explained that as a grass, bamboo grows back quickly after being harvested – making it a highly sustainable product to work with.

Titled Bamboo for restoration and economic development, the discussion addressed how bamboo fits into conversations about land management, land restoration, erosion control and nature-based solutions for development challenges.

“[We need to] make that connection between bamboo as a plant, as a means to hold soil together, to think about climate change mitigation […] and then link that to the market,” he said. “What actually can we do with this bamboo once we plant it?”

“To have a value chain that actually identifies the market opportunities is important,” he added.

Eduardo Mansur, director of land and water at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UN) underlined the importance of nature-based solutions, and combining green and grey infrastructure – that is, natural ecosystems with human-engineered solutions.

He described the huge amount of degraded land on the planet, saying: “If we restore this degraded land that exists on the planet […] we will be able to produce the products, the food and the ecosystem services that we need for sustainable livelihoods and sustainable life on the planet.”

“We have seen examples of species-specific conservation,” he said, “when it links with sustainable livelihoods.” Giving the example of the Brazilian Amazon, Mansur described a species of palm that produces an inedible coconut known as “vegetable ivory” for its color and texture. Used to make buttons and handicrafts, it has helped to improve the ecosystems where the palm occurs, he said, because there is a market link.

Such a species can be used to promote sustainable livelihoods and sustainable use, he added, drawing a comparison with the over 1,600 species of bamboo. If a bamboo species is well chosen and well managed, it can have ongoing positive effects, especially for soil restoration.

Read also: Bamboo and rattan: Surprising tools for forest protection

Ye Ling, president and chief engineer at Zhejiang Xinzhou Bamboo-based Composites Technology Co., Ltd, discussed how his company develops products from bamboo on a large scale – such as pressure pipes and modular housing from a bamboo composite – which offer better performance and lower costs and can replace a huge quantity of traditional materials such as cement and steel, thus helping to tackle climate change and contributing to the SDGs.

A woman whittles a piece of bamboo in India. Photo by International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR)

He emphasized innovation as the most important factor in product development, saying that without it, other factors such as policy or investment would have nowhere to go.

Trinh Thang Long, coordinator of the Global Assessment of Bamboo and Rattan for green development (GABAR) at INBAR said the organization’s 44 member states had begun to learn specifically from China’s use of bamboo for economic development.

GABAR aims to maximize bamboo and rattan’s contribution to national economic development and environmental protection, to help inform policies, development strategies and opportunities for investment.

Many countries are not yet fully aware of the advantages of bamboo compared to trees, Long explained. He emphasized that the grasses are fast growing, easy to manage, and can be harvested annually after the first four to five years.

INBAR’s member states are contributing to the Bonn Challenge by restoring 5 million hectares of degraded land using bamboo. On a small scale, the work has been successful, but upscaling remains a challenge.

This challenge affects many countries, but a case study in China illustrates the success of scaled-up bamboo. Jiang Jingyan, President of Yong’an Institute of Bamboo Industry, discussed Yong’an, China, and its reputation as a “bamboo city”. Concurring with previous speakers, he also addressed the importance of design and innovation.

Read also: Realizing bamboo and rattan’s full potential: An interview with INBAR Director General Hans Friederich

The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry’s (FTA) Director Vincent Gitz then spoke about land restoration and the key constraints to upscaling, including policies and governance. He gave special attention to the economic aspects of land restoration – costs and benefits, investments and value chains.

“There won’t be any sustainable land restoration if we don’t give the means to increase, over time, the livelihoods of people that live on those lands,” he said.

There is often a time lag between a smallholder making an investment and seeing a return. However, as bamboo grows quickly and is extremely versatile, it is a strong option for restoration in different contexts. “Lots of innovation can come out of this plant,” he added.

Speakers participate in Side Event 4 at the Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn, Germany. Photo by Pilar Valbuena/GLF

An additional step is using bamboo to restore degraded lands while simultaneously creating clean energy, Gitz said, referring to an initiative from Clean Power Indonesia, which FTA is part of, and which is building small-scale bamboo-based energy generation plants in West Sumatra.

Touching further on industrial development, Cai Liang, the chief branding officer of Vanov Bamboo Tissue Enterprise in Sichuan, China, discussed the use of bamboo pulp for paper manufacturing, specifically for tissues. From concept to commitment, the company moved to develop a tissue paper using bamboo, without cutting down a single tree.

After years of experimentation, the company came up with soft, unbleached, antibacterial tissues made from bamboo fiber. Once again highlighting bamboo’s short growth period, constant regeneration and sustainability, Liang described how bamboo could provide the fibers typically taken from multiple types of trees to make paper.

Read also: Study examines bamboo value chains to support industry growth

As well as using the fiber to make the tissues themselves, the company uses waste from the process for energy generation and for fertilizer. The low-emission, closed-loop model uses over 1 million tons of bamboo annually, and offers over 1 million job opportunities for local farmers.

In closing, Friederich underscored this link between restoration and socioeconomics, harking back to Gitz’s presentation.

“If we want to succeed in restoration, we cannot only look at the landscapes – of course we need to look at the landscapes – but we need to look at the people in the landscapes and to connect them with the value chains that can come out of the productive aspects of restoration,” Gitz said.

“We can’t just stay where we are, and I think there are still some great opportunities for making new products from bamboo and looking at new ways of using bamboo within the landscape,” Friederich added.

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA Communications and Editorial Coordinator. 


Read more about INBAR’s participation in GLF Bonn 2018, or check out the summary of discussions from the forum.

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  • FTA researchers set to highlight seeds, REDD+ and inclusive finance at landscapes forum

FTA researchers set to highlight seeds, REDD+ and inclusive finance at landscapes forum

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Clouds pass over Ribangkadeng village in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Nanang Sujana/CIFOR

The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and its partner institutions are set to make a strong showing at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) Bonn on Dec. 1-2, 2018.

This year’s GLF Bonn will be key in drawing out the next steps toward hitting global sustainability targets, with many participants expected at the World Conference Center in Germany, in addition to a worldwide audience online.

Of numerous discussion forums, FTA is hosting a session on the delivery of quality and diverse planting material as a major constraint for restoration, organized by Bioversity International in collaboration with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).

FTA Director Vincent Gitz will provide the opening to the session, ahead of a range of speakers including FTA Flagship 1 leader Ramni Jamnadass, as well as FTA’s Christopher Kettle, Marius Ekeu and Lars Graudal, and representatives of numerous key organizations. Additional details are available in the session flyer.

The program is also cohosting a session from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) titled REDD+ at 10: What we’ve learned and where we go next. Looking back at 10 years of REDD+ research, the session will ask how REDD+ has evolved, and where it stands now.

FTA Flagship 5 leader Christopher Martius, who is also team leader of climate change, energy and low-carbon development at CIFOR, will moderate the session, in which CIFOR’s Anne Larson and Arild Angelsen will speak. The GLF will also see the launch of a related book, Transforming REDD+: Lessons and new directions, in the Landscapes Action Pavilion Networking Area.

Another discussion forum of note is Looking at the past to shape the Landscape Approach of the future, organized by CIFOR, the International Climate Initiative (IKI) and FTA, which will bring together a diverse set of panelists experienced in implementing integrated landscape approaches in various contexts.

A major feature of GLF is its schedule of side events, including Territorial development – managing landscapes for the rural future cohosted by Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD), and Bamboo for restoration and economic development organized by the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR).

The program will have a presence at the event’s pavilions, including the Inclusive Finance and Business Engagement Pavilion where a highlight session titled Making responsible investments work: Bridging the gap between global investors and local end users is set to take place, looking at success factors for inclusive and responsible businesses, which are at the core of both climate finance and responsible investments, as well as financial mechanisms that can adequately address the needs of such businesses.

Visit the Tropenbos International (TBI) and CIFOR booths to find FTA resources and to speak with FTA experts.


For the full details of FTA’s involvement in GLF, please check the event webpage.

Tune into the GLF livestream on Dec. 1-2, from 9am-7.30pm in Bonn, Germany.

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  • CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) Annual Report 2017

CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) Annual Report 2017

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The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) contributes to 9 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to all CGIAR Intermediate Development Outcomes (IDOs) and to 31 sub-IDOs with different levels of investment. With efforts targeted respectively at 29%, 33%, 38% across System Level Outcomes (SLOs) 1, 2 and 3, FTA balanced its work across four main production systems (natural forests, plantations, pastures and cropping systems with trees) dealing with a number of globally traded and/or locally important tree-crop commodities (timber, oil palm, rubber, coffee, cocoa, coconut, wood fuel, fruits, etc.), that form the basis for the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of smallholders. These commodities also represent an important share of the land area, including 13 million km2 of forests and 9.5 million km2 of agricultural lands (45% of the total agricultural area with >10% tree cover). Progress towards IDOs in 2017 resulted from FTA work on technical innovations and tools, as well as on value chains, and institutional and policy processes. These innovations were taken up and diffused by different actors and along value chains, and all were suited to their particular context. As 2017 is the first year of FTA’s six-year program, progress towards SLOs was aimed at the upstream level; in some cases there was already progress towards downstream uptake.

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  • Bamboo and rattan: Surprising tools for forest protection

Bamboo and rattan: Surprising tools for forest protection

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A display of giant pandas greets attendees at BARC 2018. Photo by IISD/ENB | Diego Noguera

A new declaration is paving the way for non-timber forest products (NTFPs) in forest conservation. 

Bamboo and rattan are important – but critically overlooked – non-timber forest products. These plants have huge potential to restore degraded land, build earthquake-resilient housing, reduce deforestation, and provide jobs for millions of people in rural communities across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Despite this, bamboo and rattan are often regarded as ‘poor man’s timber’, and households, governments and businesses have yet to realize their full potential.

This image problem may be about to change. On 25-27 June, CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) partner institution the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR) and China’s National Forestry and Grassland Administration (NFGA) cohosted the Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress (BARC) in Beijing, China. At the Congress, 1,200 participants from almost 70 countries took part in discussions about the uses of bamboo and rattan in agroforestry, their ecosystem services, and their contribution to a number of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Inspiring innovation

Speakers included Vincent Gitz, Director of FTA, and Robert Nasi, Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). Both highlighted problems of forest governance, and the role that innovative bamboo and rattan uses can play in this regard. Indeed, innovation was a key theme of the event. Throughout the three-day Congress, entrepreneurs exhibited innovative products: from wind turbines and bicycles to heavy-duty drainage pipes and flat-pack housing made with bamboo. Fast-growing and quick to mature, with the properties of hardwood, bamboo can provide an important low-carbon replacement for cement, plastics, steel and timber.

An equally important point, raised in many discussions, was NTFPs’ potential to create incomes for the rural poor. Throughout BARC, participants heard from speakers who had created businesses with bamboo: from Bernice Dapaah, who has founded an internationally recognized bamboo bicycle company in Ghana, to entrepreneurs from countries in Southeast Asia, where many communities rely on rattan for up to 50% of their cash income. According to INBAR Director General Hans Friederich, the bamboo and rattan sector employs almost 10 million people in China alone, proving that there are many possibilities for these plants to contribute to FTA’s core research themes.

Read also: Realizing bamboo and rattan’s full potential: An interview with INBAR Director General Hans Friederich

A bamboo bicycle is pictured on the first day of the Congress. Photo by IISD/ENB | Diego Noguera

Storing carbon 

The potential for bamboo to complement forests’ role as carbon sinks was much discussed. A new report, launched at BARC, shows how certain species of bamboos’ fast rate of carbon storage makes them a very competitive tool for carbon sequestration. In an important announcement in plenary, Wang Chunfeng, Deputy Director-General of NFGA, suggested that bamboo could become part of offset projects in China’s new emissions trading scheme – a statement with huge potential for bamboo management.

And in a striking statement of support for bamboo’s use as a carbon sink, Dr. Li Nuyun, Executive Vice-President of the China Green Carbon Fund, stated that her organization would help establish a bamboo plantation in Yunnan province, China. Over time, the plantation will aim to sequester the estimated 2,000 tons of carbon dioxide emitted over the course of the Congress – making BARC a ‘zero-carbon’ event.

Protecting biodiversity

Biodiversity management was the theme of a number of sessions. In a session on the Giant Panda, speakers from Conservation International, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the Nature Conservancy, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, the Wildlife Conservation Society in China, and the World Wildlife Fund committed their support toward a potential planning workshop in early 2019. The workshop would discuss how to take a holistic approach to biodiversity protection, which integrates bamboo management, panda protection and natural heritage conservation.

Read also: Study examines bamboo value chains to support industry growth

Offering ‘win-wins’

As many of the discussions showed, bamboo and rattan are often used because they offer more than one solution. Bamboo charcoal is such a case. As a clean-burning, locally growing source of energy, bamboo charcoal can significantly reduce stress on slower-growing forest resources. However, it can also form an important revenue source for individuals, particularly women.

Dancille Mukakamari, the Rwanda National Coordinator for the Africa Women’s Network for Sustainable Development, described how “charcoal is crucial for women in Africa”. And Gloria Adu, a successful Ghana-based entrepreneur who has been making bamboo charcoal for several decades, emphasized its huge potential for deforestation prevention, mentioning that almost three-quarters of Ghanaian forest loss came through charcoal production.

The road from BARC

Flags represent the countries in attendance at BARC 2018. Photo by IISD/ENB | Diego Noguera

If bamboo and rattan are so important, then why are they not more widely used? A lack of awareness is one factor. According to many of the private sector representatives at BARC, the absence of clear customs codes for bamboo and rattan, or specific standards to ensure the safety and quality of products, has prevented their uptake.

Ignorance is only part of the problem, however. Although people are increasingly aware about bamboo and rattan’s properties, more needs to be done to share technologies and innovative uses. Speaking in plenary, entrepreneur and author of The Blue Economy, Gunter Pauli, said it best: “The science is already there. We don’t have to convince people about bamboo, we have to inspire them – and bamboo is an inspiring product.”

The Congress made an important step forward in this need to ‘inspire’ change. On the first day, INBAR and the International Fund for Agriculture announced the launch of a new project, which plans to share Chinese bamboo industry expertise and technologies with four countries in Africa. The initiative aims to benefit 30,000 rural smallholder farmers and community members across Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana and Madagascar, who will be taught about how to plant, manage and create value-added products using bamboo.

BARC also saw an outpouring of political support for bamboo and rattan. A number of heads of state and development organization leaders provided video messages in support of bamboo and rattan. And in a plenary session, John Hardy, the TED talk speaker and founder of the Bamboo Green School in Bali, Indonesia, offered to offset his lifetime carbon emissions using bamboo, in a demonstration of the plant’s carbon storage potential.

Read also: Mapping bamboo forest resources in East Africa

The Beijing Declaration

With three plenary events, 75 side sessions and a lot of inspiration, BARC showed that there is clearly growing interest in bamboo and rattan for forest management. Announced on the third and final day of the Congress, the Beijing Declaration aimed to put all these commitments into action. Written on behalf of “ministers, senior officials, and participants”, the Declaration lays out bamboo and rattan’s contributions as “a critical part of forests and ecosystems”, and calls upon governments to support the plants’ development in forestry and related initiatives.

According to INBAR’s Friederich, “The Beijing Declaration stands to make a real difference in the way bamboo and rattan are included in forest practices. Far from being poor man’s timber, this Congress has shown that bamboo and rattan are truly green gold. Now we need to focus on the road from BARC – how to make these plants a vital part of the way we manage forests, and the environment.”

Given their relevance for climate change mitigation and adaptation, their role in supporting sustainable forest conservation and their importance to smallholder livelihoods, bamboo and rattan are key NFTPs for the realization of FTA’s core aims. As the Congress showed, the key challenge now is to integrate these plants into forest management, and promote their central role in sustainable development.

By Charlotte King, INBAR international communications specialist. 

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  • Bamboo and rattan: Surprising tools for forest protection

Bamboo and rattan: Surprising tools for forest protection

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A display of giant pandas greets attendees at BARC 2018. Photo by IISD/ENB | Diego Noguera

A new declaration is paving the way for non-timber forest products (NTFPs) in forest conservation. 

Bamboo and rattan are important – but critically overlooked – non-timber forest products. These plants have huge potential to restore degraded land, build earthquake-resilient housing, reduce deforestation, and provide jobs for millions of people in rural communities across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Despite this, bamboo and rattan are often regarded as ‘poor man’s timber’, and households, governments and businesses have yet to realize their full potential.

This image problem may be about to change. On 25-27 June, CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) partner institution the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR) and China’s National Forestry and Grassland Administration (NFGA) cohosted the Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress (BARC) in Beijing, China. At the Congress, 1,200 participants from almost 70 countries took part in discussions about the uses of bamboo and rattan in agroforestry, their ecosystem services, and their contribution to a number of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Inspiring innovation

Speakers included Vincent Gitz, Director of FTA, and Robert Nasi, Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). Both highlighted problems of forest governance, and the role that innovative bamboo and rattan uses can play in this regard. Indeed, innovation was a key theme of the event. Throughout the three-day Congress, entrepreneurs exhibited innovative products: from wind turbines and bicycles to heavy-duty drainage pipes and flat-pack housing made with bamboo. Fast-growing and quick to mature, with the properties of hardwood, bamboo can provide an important low-carbon replacement for cement, plastics, steel and timber.

An equally important point, raised in many discussions, was NTFPs’ potential to create incomes for the rural poor. Throughout BARC, participants heard from speakers who had created businesses with bamboo: from Bernice Dapaah, who has founded an internationally recognized bamboo bicycle company in Ghana, to entrepreneurs from countries in Southeast Asia, where many communities rely on rattan for up to 50% of their cash income. According to INBAR Director General Hans Friederich, the bamboo and rattan sector employs almost 10 million people in China alone, proving that there are many possibilities for these plants to contribute to FTA’s core research themes.

Read also: Realizing bamboo and rattan’s full potential: An interview with INBAR Director General Hans Friederich

A bamboo bicycle is pictured on the first day of the Congress. Photo by IISD/ENB | Diego Noguera

Storing carbon 

The potential for bamboo to complement forests’ role as carbon sinks was much discussed. A new report, launched at BARC, shows how certain species of bamboos’ fast rate of carbon storage makes them a very competitive tool for carbon sequestration. In an important announcement in plenary, Wang Chunfeng, Deputy Director-General of NFGA, suggested that bamboo could become part of offset projects in China’s new emissions trading scheme – a statement with huge potential for bamboo management.

And in a striking statement of support for bamboo’s use as a carbon sink, Dr. Li Nuyun, Executive Vice-President of the China Green Carbon Fund, stated that her organization would help establish a bamboo plantation in Yunnan province, China. Over time, the plantation will aim to sequester the estimated 2,000 tons of carbon dioxide emitted over the course of the Congress – making BARC a ‘zero-carbon’ event.

Protecting biodiversity

Biodiversity management was the theme of a number of sessions. In a session on the Giant Panda, speakers from Conservation International, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the Nature Conservancy, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, the Wildlife Conservation Society in China, and the World Wildlife Fund committed their support toward a potential planning workshop in early 2019. The workshop would discuss how to take a holistic approach to biodiversity protection, which integrates bamboo management, panda protection and natural heritage conservation.

Read also: Study examines bamboo value chains to support industry growth

Offering ‘win-wins’

As many of the discussions showed, bamboo and rattan are often used because they offer more than one solution. Bamboo charcoal is such a case. As a clean-burning, locally growing source of energy, bamboo charcoal can significantly reduce stress on slower-growing forest resources. However, it can also form an important revenue source for individuals, particularly women.

Dancille Mukakamari, the Rwanda National Coordinator for the Africa Women’s Network for Sustainable Development, described how “charcoal is crucial for women in Africa”. And Gloria Adu, a successful Ghana-based entrepreneur who has been making bamboo charcoal for several decades, emphasized its huge potential for deforestation prevention, mentioning that almost three-quarters of Ghanaian forest loss came through charcoal production.

The road from BARC

Flags represent the countries in attendance at BARC 2018. Photo by IISD/ENB | Diego Noguera

If bamboo and rattan are so important, then why are they not more widely used? A lack of awareness is one factor. According to many of the private sector representatives at BARC, the absence of clear customs codes for bamboo and rattan, or specific standards to ensure the safety and quality of products, has prevented their uptake.

Ignorance is only part of the problem, however. Although people are increasingly aware about bamboo and rattan’s properties, more needs to be done to share technologies and innovative uses. Speaking in plenary, entrepreneur and author of The Blue Economy, Gunter Pauli, said it best: “The science is already there. We don’t have to convince people about bamboo, we have to inspire them – and bamboo is an inspiring product.”

The Congress made an important step forward in this need to ‘inspire’ change. On the first day, INBAR and the International Fund for Agriculture announced the launch of a new project, which plans to share Chinese bamboo industry expertise and technologies with four countries in Africa. The initiative aims to benefit 30,000 rural smallholder farmers and community members across Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana and Madagascar, who will be taught about how to plant, manage and create value-added products using bamboo.

BARC also saw an outpouring of political support for bamboo and rattan. A number of heads of state and development organization leaders provided video messages in support of bamboo and rattan. And in a plenary session, John Hardy, the TED talk speaker and founder of the Bamboo Green School in Bali, Indonesia, offered to offset his lifetime carbon emissions using bamboo, in a demonstration of the plant’s carbon storage potential.

Read also: Mapping bamboo forest resources in East Africa

The Beijing Declaration

With three plenary events, 75 side sessions and a lot of inspiration, BARC showed that there is clearly growing interest in bamboo and rattan for forest management. Announced on the third and final day of the Congress, the Beijing Declaration aimed to put all these commitments into action. Written on behalf of “ministers, senior officials, and participants”, the Declaration lays out bamboo and rattan’s contributions as “a critical part of forests and ecosystems”, and calls upon governments to support the plants’ development in forestry and related initiatives.

According to INBAR’s Friederich, “The Beijing Declaration stands to make a real difference in the way bamboo and rattan are included in forest practices. Far from being poor man’s timber, this Congress has shown that bamboo and rattan are truly green gold. Now we need to focus on the road from BARC – how to make these plants a vital part of the way we manage forests, and the environment.”

Given their relevance for climate change mitigation and adaptation, their role in supporting sustainable forest conservation and their importance to smallholder livelihoods, bamboo and rattan are key NFTPs for the realization of FTA’s core aims. As the Congress showed, the key challenge now is to integrate these plants into forest management, and promote their central role in sustainable development.

By Charlotte King, INBAR international communications specialist. 

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  • Realizing bamboo and rattan’s full potential: An interview with INBAR Director General Hans Friederich

Realizing bamboo and rattan’s full potential: An interview with INBAR Director General Hans Friederich

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INBAR Director General Hans Friederich is pictured among bamboo plants. Credit: International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation

Ahead of the Global Bamboo and Rattan Conference (BARC) on June 25-27, 2018, the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation’s (INBAR) Director General Hans Friederich spoke with the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) about the versatility and potential of bamboo and rattan, and what can be expected from the upcoming conference. 

Set to take place in Beijing, China, BARC will be the world’s first international, policy-focused conference on how the “green tools” of bamboo and rattan can benefit sustainable development. It is being coorganized by INBAR, an intergovernmental organization comprising 43 member states, which is one of FTA’s strategic partner institutions.

This year marks the first ever BARC. What has prompted INBAR and China’s National Forestry and Grassland Administration to organize this policy-focused conference?

INBAR has worked to promote bamboo and rattan for sustainable development since 1997, and we have never before seen so much international interest. Last year, for our 20th anniversary, INBAR received messages from two heads of state: His Excellency Xi Jinping, President of China, and His Excellency Mulatu Teshome, President of Ethiopia. INBAR also became an Observer to the UN General Assembly and welcomed its 43rd member state.

To quote a senior official from our flag-raising ceremony [for INBAR’s new member state, Brazil] last year: “The time is right for bamboo and rattan!” Overall, 2018 feels like the perfect year to bring people together and push for realizing bamboo and rattan’s full potential.

It is worth mentioning that we are holding our conference in China, INBAR’s host country and home of the world’s largest bamboo sector. The Chinese government has always been supportive of INBAR’s efforts, and uses bamboo for everything from land restoration and poverty alleviation to climate change mitigation. What better place to hold the first Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress?

What makes bamboo and rattan so versatile and suitable as an alternative to materials such as PVC, steel and concrete – and what makes them such strategic plants for contributing to the achievement of the SDGs? 

Bamboo and rattan are amazing plants. We have counted some 10,000 ways in which they can be used. Bamboo is taxonomically a grass, and it grows incredibly fast — you can literally hear and see some species grow — but it also has all the properties of hardwood.

This makes it an important low-carbon alternative for everything from paper and packaging to fuel and flooring. The industrial applications are also huge. Companies in China are starting to build wind turbine blades and drainage pipes from bamboo. Rattan, meanwhile, is a very important source of income for rural communities, who use it to make handicrafts and furniture.

What makes bamboo and rattan so powerful for sustainable development is their local availability to the rural poor. These plants grow in the tropics and subtropics — all but one of INBAR’s 43 member states are based in this belt — and can be grown and harvested close to homes. Communities can use them to create an income, restore their land or feed their animals — all the while preventing deforestation and climate change mitigation.

Children look out from a bamboo construction in Ecuador. Credit: International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation

Could you explain the concept of “green tools”? 

There is more and more talk about finding nature-based solutions to development problems. How can we improve the wellbeing of people in a way that also benefits the environment? So often, nature has the solutions — we just need to apply them in the most suitable way.

Bamboo is a great example of a green tool. At INBAR we’ve used bamboo around the world to restore degraded land, and as part of climate-smart farming systems. As well as improving soil quality and preventing water runoff, bamboo improves farmers’ incomes and can provide a clean-burning, renewable source of fuel. And, of course, when well managed, bamboo can benefit biodiversity, providing a source of food and habitat for a wide range of animals.

Climate change mitigation and adaptation is one of FTA’s key research areas. In what ways can bamboo and rattan contribute to combating climate change? 

Bamboo has huge potential as a means for climate change mitigation. Some species store carbon at a rate of almost 13 tons per hectare per year: faster than several species of tree.  Durable bamboo products also lock in carbon for the extent of the products’ lifespan.

As well as this, bamboo and rattan can help communities adapt to the effects of a changing climate. Bamboo housing is flexible, durable and earthquake-resilient. More generally, bamboo and rattan can provide an important income stream to households whose livelihoods are negatively affected by climate change. Many INBAR member states are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts, so we take this part of our mandate very seriously.

Finally, we are working with a number of countries to realise the potential of bamboo energy. Bamboo can be burned directly, or converted into charcoal and gas, providing a cleaner-burning and renewable source of biomass for rural communities.

How can bamboo and rattan support local communities and livelihoods, at the same time as providing environmental benefits? 

There are many INBAR examples I could use, but perhaps the best one is Chishui, China. Chishui is one of China’s most famous hometowns of bamboo, with almost 100,000 ha of bamboo forest. A lot of Chishui residents are also very poor, and a large number have to emigrate to find work.

INBAR has worked with the local government in Chishui on a number of projects, to help restore degraded land and reforest areas using bamboo. The socioeconomic impacts were extraordinary. Within six months of one project, farmers were earning money from selling bamboo shoots, and using bamboo to feed their livestock. Within a few years, 40 per cent of migrant workers in nearby Guangdong were returning home to Chishui; three-quarters of them are now involved in the bamboo sector.

What’s particularly interesting about the Chishui example is how homegrown bamboo enterprises can help women. We see this in our member states across the world — women use bamboo because it is easy to collect and process, can be grown in home gardens, and can be used to make a lot of products with no special machinery or setup costs. One woman in Chishui, Mrs. Lu Huaying, started off making small carved bamboo handicrafts, and now runs an enterprise worth some RMB 2 million a year!

Clouds drift over a bamboo forest in China. Credit: International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation

In your opinion, how can governments, international organisations and the private sector work together on bamboo and rattan?

INBAR and FTA know why bamboo and rattan are strategic tools for sustainable development — now we need to make these plants part of the conversation at a global level.

Bamboo and rattan can make a real contribution to the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Bonn Challenge for reforestation, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. They can also become a key material in sustainable infrastructure and trade. One of the reasons we are holding BARC is to provide a platform for people to share ideas and start this conversation: How can bamboo and rattan benefit my work?

What outcomes are you hoping to see at BARC in terms of national and global policy? 

INBAR expects to launch or facilitate a number of new initiatives at BARC. We will sign a major new agreement with the International Fund for Agricultural Development to work across Africa, sharing experiences from working with farmers in Ethiopia and Madagascar with communities in Cameroon and Ghana. In Latin America, a number of National Bamboo Societies will establish a plan for increased regional cooperation. And in China, we will be discussing the challenges and opportunities for the newly announced Giant Panda National Park, and the relationship between biodiversity and bamboo. I hope that we can announce a dedicated conference about bamboo and the panda early next year.

Most excitingly, we are also expanding our work into new areas. At the congress, INBAR and the government of Cameroon will announce the establishment of INBAR’s new Central Africa office, with diplomatic privileges, in Yaoundé. Central Africa contains much of the continent’s bamboo, but we have previously had little access to these countries. We will also sign an agreement with the Pacific Island Development Forum regarding land restoration and rural development in the Pacific.

These are just some of the expected policies, programs and partnerships that we are excited about, and exactly the reason we are so delighted to host this congress.

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA Communications and Editorial Coordinator, and Charlotte King, INBAR International Communications Specialist. 

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  • Mapping bamboo forest resources in East Africa

Mapping bamboo forest resources in East Africa

Training is an essential part of improved natural resources management. INBAR staff alongside some of the participants in land mapping training, East Africa. Photo: INBAR
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Training is an essential part of improved natural resources management. INBAR staff alongside some of the participants in land mapping training, East Africa. Photo: INBAR

The International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation is working with partners across the world on an ambitious project to map bamboo resources. The findings will form an important part of Flagship 4: Landscape Dynamics, Productivity and Resilience, of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

Bamboo has vast potential to help tackle global poverty and natural resource problems. This fast-growing grass is abundant in forests across the world, where it performs a wide range of ecosystem services such as biodiversity protection, reforestation and landscape restoration. Importantly, bamboo could also provide sustainable livelihoods for millions of people in rural communities – helping countries meet their Sustainable Development Goals.

One key example of bamboo’s usefulness is its ability to replace traditional sources of bio-energy. Using timber for cooking is a leading source of deforestation across many rural communities, including much of sub-Saharan Africa. Bamboo provides a clean, renewable, tried and tested energy alternative in the form of charcoal briquettes and wood for domestic and industrial use – one that will be particularly needed as demand for energy grows.

Despite this, lack of information about bamboo stocks – their distribution, varieties and characteristics – has long prevented many countries from making more use of this strategic resource.


Read also: Bringing in the development expertise: INBAR to join CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry


The global land cover mapping project, led by the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR) and researchers from the Tsinghua University, China, aims to address these knowledge gaps. Unlike traditional assessments of bamboo stocks, which are often based on assumptions about local growing conditions or out-of-date information, researchers are using the latest remote sensing technology to pinpoint exactly where bamboo is growing.

Results are then uploaded to an online portal, where they can be easily accessed, shared and added to by local researchers and practitioners on an ongoing basis. The result is a comprehensive, worldwide inventory of bamboo cover and observed changes.

Currently, the project is creating national assessments for Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, in partnership with the INBAR-led Dutch-Sino project on East African bamboo development. At present, East Africa’s bamboo sector remains largely untapped, despite the region having sub-Saharan Africa’s largest natural bamboo forests and accounting for around 3-4% of the world’s total known bamboo coverage.

A better understanding of regional bamboo stocks is very much needed to create multifunctional forests, as part of FTA’s Flagship Programme 4: Landscape Dynamics, Productivity and Resilience.

Better data about land cover and land use change is only one part of FTA’s Flagship Programme 4. Improving the management of forest resources is key to improving their productivity and resilience. With this in mind, INBAR and Tsinghua University are training staff from Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.

As a result, it is hoped that national practitioners from forestry services, environment ministries and research institutes will be able to use the Mapping portal to collect, share and analyse data effectively to inform decision making.

And the data generated by INBAR’s land cover mapping could also help to enrich FTA’s existing work on observing changes in forests, and will provide information for decision-making on international initiatives such as the Bonn Challenge and CBD Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

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  • Bringing in the development expertise: INBAR to join CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry

Bringing in the development expertise: INBAR to join CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry

Community bamboo nursery in Madagascar. Photo: Inbar
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Photo: Inbar
#more Photo: Inbar

Next year, with the start of Phase 2 of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), two new managing partners will come on board. One of them is the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), an international non-governmental organization dedicated to helping improve the wellbeing of users and producers of bamboo and rattan within the context of a sustainable resource base. We asked INBAR’s Director General Hans Friederich what joining FTA means for his organization. See more partnerships stories here.

Why did INBAR join FTA?

Bamboo and Rattan are Non-Timber Forest Products that play a critical role in forest ecosystems. They are also used widely in agroforestry systems throughout the tropics and sub-tropics.

Therefore, there are strong synergies between our work and the goals of the FTA program. We currently serve 42 member states and many of these are target countries for FTA research.

How was the partnership arranged?

In preparation of the FTA Phase II, INBAR met with FTA Director Robert Nasi in Beijing in the autumn of 2015 to share our areas of expertise and learn more about the plans for the second phase of the program.

Based on this, INBAR was invited to present its work at a planning meeting for FTA centers and partners in Paris during UNFCCC COP 21. Based on these discussions, INBAR provided inputs to the program as a partner institution that does not belong to the CGIAR.


Also read: Connecting with countries–Tropenbos International to join CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry


What was the relationship between INBAR and FTA like until now? 

During phase I of FTA, INBAR worked with partners such as the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) to provide input to research on bioenergy and sustainable charcoal.

INBAR and and another FTA partner, CATIE, are both members of the Association of International Research Centres for Agriculture (AIRCA) and have a long history of working together to promote sustainable landscape management.

Community bamboo nursery in Madagascar. Photo: Inbar
Community bamboo nursery in Madagascar. Photo: Inbar

What will be your contributions to the next phase as far as you can foresee them now?

Over almost 20 years, INBAR has developed a set of proven models for delivering livelihood development impact at the smallholder level. Our work has already helped to improve the livelihoods of over 300,000 people in our member states.

In addition, we have several good case studies of how bamboo can contribute to landscape restoration, particularly from India and China, where bamboo has been used to restore close to 4 million hectares.

We believe we will be able to add value to FTA research by bringing this development expertise to the partnership.

We have existing programs in Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Madagascar, where we are already working on transfer of models on livelihood development, environmental protection and landscape restoration from Asia to Africa.

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The bamboo sector in China is probably the most advanced in the world. Photo: Inbar

We also look forward to creating linkages with FTA to our work in China, where we are headquartered, as well as Latin America and the Caribbean and South Asia.

What are your expectations for the collaboration?

We are excited by the possibility of linking some of the over 2000 FTA scientists to our work in INBAR member states. This will strengthen our development-oriented approach by enabling us to apply cutting-edge scientific research and practices from FTA to our action research and programs.

We hope this will give the governments of our member countries the evidence base needed to develop well-informed policies that maximize the contribution bamboos and rattans can make to meeting national and international commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals.

More partnerships stories:

Long-term relationships and mutual trust—partnerships and research on climate change

The best science is nothing without local voices: Partnerships and landscapes

Influence flows both ways: Partnerships are key to research on Livelihood systems

Partnership increases number of academically trained foresters in DR Congo from 6 to 160 in just ten years


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