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The Pacific’s new “Green Gold”-Bamboo

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Bonn, 11 November, 2017: Bamboo is a critical material for Small Island Developing States (SIDs) and could be an essential plant for helping fight climate change, the UN international climate conference heard at a COP23 side event on Bamboo for Combatting Climate Change in Island Developing States on 11 November, 2107. The side event, organized by the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) and was held at the Fiji Pavilion saw senior representatives and technical experts from island developing states and international organisations share successful case studies of bamboo for climate change adaptation and mitigation in island developing states, with a special emphasis on assisting SIDS.

Government representatives and members from international organisations shared the various uses of bamboos in Fiji, Grenada and Indonesia as they put up a strong case for the imperative need for greater utilisation of bamboos and innovation to address some pressing challenges including climate change action and livelihoods support. Invited panelists of the event highlighted the role of bamboo for climate change action and value chain creation though collaboration and innovation.

PIDF Secretary General, Francois Martel, who was on the panel, championed the need for more island states in the Pacific to join INBAR and benefit from bamboo.

“Bamboo has many uses and can be used to make climate resilient buildings. The Pacific Islands Development Forum stands ready to support countries in these efforts through a partnership with INBAR, and methodically build an industry out of a resource that is terribly under-utilised,” he said during the side event.

The participants were informed that PIDF considers bamboo as an incredible resource in the Green Economy in par with importance with seaweed in the Blue Economy because their mission is to bring a transformative change by working towards establishing in the Pacific Green/Blue Economies.

Secretary General Martel said during his address that PIDF does see bamboo as potentially an important component of this transformation as its presence in a number of Pacific island countries and its versatility could offer Pacific people sustainable solutions to their needs.

“For those tropical 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 wood-like groups of plants we could have,” he said.

“But so much more can be done with this important resource and we do need to first raise its profile which has the potential of becoming the new green gold of the Pacific.

The PIDF Secretary General told the participants that there have been a few attempts in the Pacific in bamboo related activities but many have not been successful although there have been a number of trainings provided in relation to bamboo in both propagation and utilisation although this kind of skill training is important, it is not enough.

He highlighted that these skills need to be coupled with other trainings, such as simple business principles or financial management and to establish a support system for those trained to offer them assistance when they are faced with problems in their endeavours. He said that it may be necessary to establish some form of Bamboo Centers in those Pacific island countries where bamboo production and utilisation offers promising prospects.

“We need to take the issue of bamboo propagation and utilisation seriously as this cannot be just by implementing ad hoc activities or some time-bound projects that come to an end after a few years and everything folds up with it”.

“If we are truly serious about this and we should be as there are many opportunities in this, we need to look at a long term engagement in this area, investing some serious funding and establishing a centre that would support these efforts and the efforts of individuals that want to take this work seriously,” he further commented.

The Secretary General emphasized that there is a need for an approach that is inclusive of a number of factors including advocacy work, botanical and agricultural research, research in innovative applications (such as paper making and cloth making for example) mapping of bamboo habitats around the Pacific, training in propagation and also in the skills required in its many applications, and establishing policy that is conducive for the growth of the industry.

Participants discussed the use of bamboo for typhoon proof construction, soil/water conservation and coastal protection, small and medium enterprise (SME) development, bioenergy, and carbon sequestration. They noted the important role bamboo can play in addressing many of the most serious challenges faced by SIDS, while, also supporting their National Determined Contributions (NDCs) and realising their sustainable green development goals.

This fast-growing grass plant could prove to be extremely useful for the SIDS since it is used across the world for typhoon-resilient construction, soil conservation and coastal protection, bioenergy and carbon sequestration.

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