It's been recently estimated that 67% of Africa’s naturally growing bamboo is in Ethiopia, a total of approximately 1 million hectares, an area bigger than Cyprus, which has, up to now, been largely ignored. As well as using bamboo for locally produced, high quality, furniture, the project is aiming to train farmers, in the highlands of western and south-western Ethiopia, to manage their own bamboo forests to supply sustainable energy to the country. This will include new planting and management techniques to efficiently produce charcoal and charcoal briquettes mainly for household cooking, already widely used in Ethiopia.
Currently about 90% of Ethiopia’s energy needs are supplied by biomass in the form of wood and charcoal, and Ethiopia has been undergoing a rapid period of deforestation to meet these demands, particularly for cooking fuel in its towns and cities. It was fascinating seeing Ethiopia’s bamboo forests up close, one of the fastest growing plants on earth, and meeting the local farmers who are very excited about this new opportunity, which has been largely ignored up to now.
To try and meet the growing needs of its population, countries like Ethiopia need to effectively manage their natural resources in innovative ways and this project was a fascinating example of how plants like bamboo, not normally associated with Africa, might provide some of the answers.