Bamboo is a group of woody perennial grasses with over 1,000 species that grow in the tropic and sub-tropic parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America at altitudes up to 3,000 m above sea level. While in Asia bamboo sprouts are widely appreciated as a food item, in Africa bamboo is mostly considered as a source of non-food biomass.
Bamboo resources constitute a suitable complement to timber usages such as building and construction, pulpwood, flooring, panel products, furniture and artisanry. In comparison with forest timber species, bamboo has a short gestation period of between four and five years and is quickly self-regenerating. Due to its high heating value, bamboo-based firewood and charcoal are suitable alternatives for similar wood-based products.
The integration of bamboo into indigenous cropping systems (via agroforestry) has proven to be agronomically interesting and can help meeting both socioeconomic and environmental needs. Many African countries already promote the use of bamboo in their agricultural policies. In contrast to the vast experience from Asia, further research is needed to identify suitable species, ecological conditions and enabling socio-economic factors for bamboo agroforestry in Africa.
text: Michael Kwaku