Bamboo is an incredible resource in the Green Economy, in importance on a par with seaweed in the Blue Economy. Bamboo is potentially an important component of the Green Economy transformation. Its presence in a number of Pacific island countries and its versatility could offer Pacific people sustainable solutions to their needs. It could also become an important source of employment and income for communities that are currently under employed.
In those Pacific islands where water is not scarce, bamboo thrives. With a three to five year growth period (depending on the species) it is certainly one of the most sustainable non-timber groups of plants growing on the islands with building potential. Without a doubt bamboo does form part of Pacific culture when one considers the panpipes and other Bamboo instruments produced and skilfully used in Solomon Islands, the Bilibili (mbilimbili), a raft used mostly in rivers in Fiji, and also in the building of traditional huts and fishing traps in a number of Pacific island countries.
But much more can be done with this important resource. We do need to first raise its profile. There have been a few attempts in the Pacific in bamboo related activities but many have not been followed through with. There have been a number of trainings provided in relation to bamboo in both propagation and utilisation but although this kind of skill training is important, it is not enough. These skills need to be coupled with other trainings, such as simple business principles or financial management.
It is essential to establish a support system to provide those trained with assistance when they are faced with problems in their endeavours. The establishment of national Bamboo Centres in those Pacific island countries where bamboo production and utilisation offers promising prospects, proposes to do just that.
The Pacific has a good variety of bamboo and enough diversity to suit a number of applications. For example Fiji has some 20 species of bamboo, (of which only one, Schizostacyum glaucifolium is indigenous) including species that grow extremely long and are strong enough for use in the building industry, particularly for their properties which make them ideal for use in cyclone resistant buildings. For most of the species introduced in Fiji, with the exception of the naturalised Bambusa vulgaris which is now pervasive, there is a lack of planting materials and this has been what has stalled development of the local bamboo industry.
The PIDF feels that this is the right time, in the Pacific’s desire for green economies, to take up bamboo propagation and utilisation seriously. This needs to go beyond ad hoc activities or time-bound projects. The Pacific needs to look at a long term engagement in this area by establishing national bamboo centres that would support these efforts and the efforts of individuals that want to take this work seriously.
The former PIDF Secretary General, Franҫois Martel and the PIDF Team Leader Programme Management, Mark Borg, participated in the first Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress organised by INBAR and held in Beijing China from 25 to 27 June 2018. The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Fiji facilitated this participation through a grant that covered the cost of travel of the two PIDF officials. The PIDF officials took the opportunity to learn from other initiatives on display, promote the Fiji Bamboo Centre concept, provided the Pacific perspective on sustainable bamboo development, networked with like-minded professionals, and had discussions with INBAR on formalising partnership through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding. Read the full BARC participation report here.
On 22 August 2018, the Pacific Islands Development Forum, the Pacific Green Business Centre, Fiji’s Ministry of Forests and the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation organised a Talanoa in Suva, Fiji. The Talanoa brought together a number of stakeholders to discuss the future of the bamboo industry in Fiji, and offered an opportunity for all those interested in the sector to offer their views on the proposed Bamboo Centre. Read about this Talanoa here.
The table below lists all the bamboo priority species identified for the Pacific and the potential uses of each of these species.
Bamboo species occurring in the Pacific
Proposed priority species for the Pacific
Other species of interest: