Ugandan farmers have joined forces with the Chinese embassy in an effort to cultivate bamboo. This collaboration comes as part of Uganda’s 10-year National Bamboo Strategy and Action Plan, which aims to improve the livelihoods of rural Ugandans by increasing their incomes, creating more jobs, and enhancing the economic development of bamboo forests in the country.
The Ugandan government implemented a policy in 2019 to tap into the global bamboo industry, which is worth a staggering $60 billion. This policy received a significant boost when the Chinese government announced their financial and technical support on August 30.
This partnership with China has been welcomed by local farmers, such as Mr Andrew Tumusiime, who started bamboo farming four years ago. He recognizes the immense benefits of the bamboo industry and the opportunities it presents for both farmers and the country as a whole.
Mr Tumusiime now produces a variety of bamboo products, including toothpicks, furniture, and mats. He sells these products and generates income from them. Additionally, bamboo has numerous uses, such as firewood, crafts, construction materials, vinegar production, fertilizers, and charcoal. Its versatility and sustainability make it a valuable resource for both economic development and environmental protection.
The Chinese government’s involvement in Ugandan agriculture extends beyond just bamboo farming. According to Mr Zhang Lizhong, the Chinese ambassador, they are funding projects in mushroom technology and the bamboo industry. The aim is to introduce Chinese technology to Ugandan farmers, ultimately increasing their production output, expanding their operations, and adding value to their products.
Bamboo cultivation serves as an excellent strategy for rural development. Its fast growth and versatility make it a sustainable source of income for farmers. Furthermore, bamboo forests provide environmental benefits, such as soil conservation and carbon sequestration. As Uganda aspires to tap into the $60 billion global bamboo industry, this collaboration with China will undoubtedly contribute to achieving that goal.
The establishment of bamboo plantations across Uganda will not only boost the local economy but also have positive implications for the environment. By promoting sustainable practices and green initiatives, Uganda can position itself as a leader in bamboo cultivation and contribute to global efforts towards a more sustainable future.
Mr Lizhong refrained from disclosing the total funds that his country will allocate for the project. The 10-year National Bamboo Strategy and Action Plan has been formulated with the objective of enhancing the economic development of Uganda by improving the livelihoods of its citizens, particularly those residing in rural areas, through augmenting their incomes, generating more employment opportunities, and increasing the contribution of bamboo forests.
The plan also aims to promote the development of a green economy. Ms Flavia Nabugera, the former State Minister for Environment and current Secretary General of the Uganda Bamboo Association, has stated that although policies have been formulated, there has been sluggish progress in terms of technology, production capacity, and value addition.
To leverage the potential of the industry, the association of 400 members, in collaboration with the Ministry of Water and Environment, has sought the support of China, a leading grower and producer of bamboo-related products. Ms Nabugere has stated that Uganda has policies in place for bamboo cultivation and has developed a concept to utilise the available bamboo resources to generate income and provide training to communities.
Nine experts from China have conducted feasibility studies in Uganda to explore the potential of the industry. Ms Wang Jing, the head of the Chinese expert team, has stated that the findings of the studies will guide the next steps for the Ugandan government to take the bamboo trade to the next level. Mr Lizhong has also revealed that his country will establish demonstration sites across Uganda to train farmers in various value-addition technologies.
In accordance with the policy outlined in the vision of “Sustainably managed bamboo resources for community livelihoods, socio-economic development, and environmental protection,” the Ministry requires a sum of Shs436.2 billion ($118 million) to facilitate the planting of 375,000 hectares.
Former civil servant, Mr. Andrew Tumusiime, has reported that the National Forestry Authority has granted 500 acres in Nakasongola District for bamboo cultivation. Additionally, Kisoro, Kabale, Kanungu, Mbale, Nakasongola, Kaliro, and Mityana are presently the largest bamboo growers.
The Ministry of Water and Environment has estimated that the planting and management of bamboo will contribute approximately 15 percent towards Uganda’s objective of restoring 2.5 million hectares of forest landscape by 2030, while also creating 150,000 jobs. Furthermore, it is projected that the country will earn Shs2 trillion in carbon credit over the course of the strategy.
The policy highlights that bamboo is a crucial natural substitute for various forest products and services, and is one of the fastest-growing plants on earth.