EcoPlanet Bamboo’s bamboo plantation operations in Nicaragua and South Africa have been noted and acknowledged repeatedly over the years, for its work towards disrupting timber and fiber supply chains and achieving circular economies that contribute to landscape restoration, rather than deforestation. As a company it is leading the global industrialization of bamboo as a tree free, deforestation free alternative fiber for timber manufacturing industries that meets certification and sustainability criteria that the industry and consumers are already familiar and comfortable with, such as Forest Stewardship Council certification.
But while the Nicaragua and South Africa plantations represent global showcases, it is EcoPlanet Bamboo’s latest operations, in West Africa, notably the Ashanti Region of Ghana, that hold the cards for the company to take its established framework and prove that it can scale up its operations while maintaining the stringent framework of social and environmental impact.
The Global Bamboo Market is the Biggest Hindrance to Industrialization
Statistics have estimated the global export value of bamboo to be around US$1.82 billion and the import value to be about US$1.6billion. Traditionally bamboo is used in making various handicraft related products including baskets, mats, screens and other semi finished articles that constitutes 40% of the global export market.
Ironically, EcoPlanet Bamboo believes that it is this existing market that has also proven to be one of the biggest barriers to industrialization and acceptance into existing timber and forestry supply chains.
“Major timber manufacturing industries, such as those for pulp and paper, textiles or engineered wood, require a security and stability of supply. They simply won’t make the shift to bamboo as an alternative fiber without a secure and long term raw resource base that meets the highest standards of consistency, quality control, and certification”
Bamboo in Ghana
A few years ago the Ghana government has introduced BARADEP to find ways of developing the bamboo sector.
The Bamboo and Rattan Development Programme (BARADEP) is a government initiative under the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources. BARADEP has a national programme coordinating Secretariat located in the Forestry Commission’s Achimota Forest Depot.
Similar projects have occurred in other African countries, as initiatives to industrialize bamboo, but with limited success, predominantly due to the a disaggregated attempt to enter the bamboo handicraft market – and thereby compete with China, while obtaining only narrow margins. Such projects are better left to the non profit sector,
In contrast, Africa, and Ghana in particular have the opportunity to industrialize bamboo not to compete with China’s bamboo products, but rather to fill the gap of increasing markets for consumer products, currently using wood and timber from the world’s remaining natural forests.
For bamboo to go beyond the realm of handicrafts and semi processed products it requires a stringent forestry approach to its productions and the involvement of the private sector. Significant investment is required and the development of planting initiatives – whether smallholders, farmers or commercial plantations – must go hand in hand with the development of manufacturing and processing facilities targeted to specific species, markets and a host of other factors.
EcoPlanet Bamboo in Ghana
The partnership between EcoPlanet Bamboo and the Ghana Forestry Commission for the development of large scale commercial bamboo plantations, under an integrated framework, is the first step towards disrupting major supply chains. While 10,000 hectares might be small in traditional forestry terms, these plantations have the potential to produce upwards of 750,000 tons of raw fiber each year – enough to supply a significant volume of paper or packaging products for export markets – markets that currently rely on the unsustainable harvesting of old growth boreal forests.
EcoPlanet Bamboo’s co-founders, Troy Wiseman and Camille Rebelo have developed the company with a strict culture of sustainability. They have set the framework and benchmarks for these larger plantations, and now must ensure that the criteria established in the company’s smaller initiatives in Nicaragua and South Africa, can be upheld in Ghana. If the first two years of development, in which close to 1,000 hectares have been restored along with the creation of more than 500 jobs, the company is well set to achieve these goals.