Interview: “Cameroon Has Abundant Bamboo Resources”

Hans Friederich, Director General of the International Network For Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), talks on the importance of bamboo in development.

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Cameroon is hosting a Bamboo Carbon Forestry, Landscape Restoration & Sustainable Use Workshop on Harnessing the Potentials of Bamboo for Carbon Trading, Landscape Restoration and Job Creation. What are the stakes of the workshop and why the choice of Cameroon to play host to such a forum?

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The workshop will share existing knowledge and expertise on greenhouse gas emissions standards and ways to harness bamboo for carbon trading, land restoration and job creation. Discussions will feed into the development of bamboo-related projects and training initiatives that aim to equip bamboo and rattan artisans with the skills to strengthen product innovation, quality and marketing through West Africa.

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Cameroon seemed a strategic choice as host: the country has abundant bamboo resources and is actively exploring ways to sustainably exploit these plants. The workshop will help establish Cameroon as one of Africa’s leading bamboo and rattan-producing countries, joining other regional leaders such as Ghana and Ethiopia. 

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What is the potential of bamboo and rattan in Cameroon, and how can these strategic resources contribute to the sustainable socio-economic development of the country?

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Bamboo demonstrates significant potential as a strategic resource for sustainable development in Cameroon and across Africa. Cameroon has significant reserves of largely untapped indigenous bamboo, and excellent conditions for growing cultivated species. The plant provides a practical and rapid solution for a number of the natural resource and poverty challenges faced by many African countries: the plant’s rapid growth rate and shallow root system make it a highly effective resource for slowing degradation and repairing damaged ecosystems; it offers climate change mitigation/adaptation strategies and acts as an effective ‘carbon sink’; and both bamboo and rattan could support the development of pro-poor, green economies – bamboo, for instance, has over 10,000 documented uses and can be used in the manufacture of a broad range of products, thereby supporting rural livelihoods and helping to eradicate poverty.  

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The Government of Cameroon is engaged in transforming the economy into a middle-income one by 2035, what could be the contribution of INBAR in realizing this dream?

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INBAR is the intergovernmental organization dedicated to the promotion of bamboo and rattan for sustainable development. As such, we help countries to develop national strategies for bamboo and rattan – ensuring they maximize impacts from the development of these strategic resources and these plants contribute to the growth of greener economies. The strategies we offer encompass entire value chains that include environmental values, product development, increased value and trading, and action plans for implementation that involve all relevant ministries, departments and other relevant entities.

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What is expected to change with this workshop in the short, medium and long terms?

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In the short-term, the workshop will bring a wide range of stakeholders together to help raise awareness of the many climate-smart benefits of bamboo and rattan in Cameroon, and across the West Africa region. In the medium to long-term we hope to see national strategies in place and ongoing efforts to harness the potential of bamboo and rattan for climate-smart development – whether using bamboo to reverse land degradation or investing in bamboo and rattan enterprises to support a thriving green economy that delivers for the environment and local communities.

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Next year will mark INBAR’s 20th anniversary. To mark its 20th anniversary, INBAR will be hosting a major international conference in Beijing next year, dedicated to the promotion of bamboo and rattan for sustainable development. The event will bring together a diverse group of stakeholders – including policymakers, donors, the private sector and bamboo and rattan experts – to discuss how these strategic resources can best be mobilized so they become key strategic development resources over the coming decades - from the production of household items to land restoration schemes and the manufacture of high-value industrial products. We are convinced about the many strategic benefits of bamboo and rattan, and the conference will help ensure that more donors, decision-makers and development practitioners also appreciate this potential. We hope that Cameroon may organise a national event during BARC 2017 to showcase the development of bamboo in Cameroon

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