How bamboo could be the next big thing in 2018
A LONG-RUNNING Chinese parable usually shared during motivational seminars is a story about a bamboo tree. According to the tale, there is a certain kind of bamboo that shows no visible signs of growth for up to half a decade – even if it is nurtured with water, fertile soil, and sunshine. On its fifth year though, it grows amazingly to an astonishing height of 80 feet in just a matter of six weeks!
While the said narrative has not been confirmed via research, it teaches an important principle about patiently working towards goals. This is similar to the persistence of those from the Philippine Bamboo Foundation (PBF), which was established by bamboo enthusiasts all the way back in 1998. Their group is presently gaining traction 20 years after it was formed as an enabler of farmers, cooperatives and entrepreneurs in developing the Philippine bamboo industry.
Edgardo C. Manda, President of PBF and a member of the Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Council, explains why it is important for Filipinos to learn more about the uses of these tree-like grasses that grow in so many places around the Philippines.
“It is a sustainable resource which many of us do not understand and appreciate,” he expressed.
PBF is boosting what they call its “bamboo advocacy” via lectures and seminars on the plant as a commodity, both with environmental importance and livelihood components.
“We have been collaborating with various government agencies to include bamboo in their programs and trainings,” Manda said.
The programs of PBF are geared on a focused objective of educating farmers on the scientific way of conserving and expanding hectarage of the country’s natural bamboo forests.
“With our collaboration with TESDA, the Foundation has developed training standards for bamboo propagation, nursery and plantation management,” Manda enumerated, adding that the DENR, DTI, DA, Climate Change Commission, and provincial governments have also been supportive.
Due to the many undiscovered uses of bamboo, many PBF projects have been based on what Manda dubbed as “to-see-is-to-believe” demonstrations.
“These include sample bamboo eco-farms and demo plantation projects aimed to make Filipinos understand the plant’s potentially exceptional economic value,” he said.
Mainstream and innovative
Since bamboo is believed to be an underrated commodity compared to coffee, cacao and rubber, PBF has been focusing on promoting its more mainstream uses – most of which are not even known by the public.
“Among the new products that we have introduced include bamboo beer and bamboo tea, both made from the plant’s extracts,” Manda shared.
Innovative products that are still being developed include bamboo straws, barbecue sticks, toothpicks, and coffee stirrers. “These environment-friendly items can even be imported, which means locals in rural areas can have a sustainable source of livelihood,” he added.
Homebuilding to handicrafts
PBF also hopes that bamboo can be used more often by those in the field of homebuilding and interior design.
“From raw materials for engineered bamboo, laminated bamboo for intricate flooring, furniture production, and even house construction – there is a use for bamboo in all of these,” Manda pointed out.
The group also highlighted how bamboo is used by many small-scale enterprises for local handicrafts. Among the recent and more unique initiatives of PBF included how they challenged woodcarvers from Ifugao to try their hands on bamboo.
“The project turned out to be an eye-opener not only for wood carvers, but also for art collectors,” Manda said. “With the scarcity of wood, woodcarvers may now turn to bamboo as an alternative medium.”
Pharmaceutical companies may also want to look into the tapping the said resource. “Bamboo is a source of raw materials for medicines because of its flavonoid contents,” the advocate explained.
Other industrial uses shared by the group included bamboo as a source of biomass feedstock, fiber to produce bamboo silk, and materials for pressure pipe production.
More persistent efforts
With its many uses, Manda is keen on being more persistent with promoting bamboo production compared to PBF’s early years. This is because of the rapid depletion of natural bamboo forests in many parts of the country.
“As an NGO, we continue to collaborate with DENR and DTI in conducting seminars and trainings in the provinces, especially for farmers, cooperatives and private landowners,” he detailed. The group is specific on conservation by rehabilitation techniques, clump management and bamboo propagation.
PBF has also been helping farmers by linking them to government agencies with financial resources to train them as entrepreneurs.
“We facilitate planning and workshops for farmer leaders to understand the dynamics of linking up with several government agencies to start their bamboo business,” Manda said.
The group has also been guiding existing entrepreneurs on how to develop bamboo-based businesses. “With the help of DTI, we have been conducting site visits, assessments, and workshops in different provinces for this purpose.”
Similar to how the bamboo in the Chinese proverb finally grew to astounding heights after so many years, Manda hopes that the continuous and purposeful drive of PBF will help Filipinos finally know more about bamboo’s full potential.
“Filipinos need to be aware on the many uses of bamboo – that it can generate employment, livelihood and create wealth especially in the rural areas.”
For more information about PBF, visit www.facebook.com/philippinebamboofoundation.