Bamboo Potential for Regenerative Micro Enterprises

As of March 2019 we have our 3rd anniversary at PermaTree. Living on-site and off the grid in this very unique tropical climate, we are now, better able to understand what works best. We try to focus on less work. Even if thats not visible yet 🙂 but hopefully in the not so far future, it will be. Anyway. For us it its now crystal clear that Bamboo is one of the most promising regenerative resources. Im a bit surprised that bamboo is not more talked about and used in permaculture theory. Because from a permaculture philosophy bamboo is predestined to be a key element in any permaculture design.

Stacking Functions

In efficient permaculture design we speak about getting many yields (outputs) from one element (thing) in your system. This is often called “Stacking Functions”. Every function is served by multiple elements and every element serves multiple functions. Elements are parts of a system. They can be plants or animals (wild or domestic), structures (tree-nursery, access road, house), or even established systems (chicken cop, fruit orchard, fishpond). Functions have to do with movements, they are everything an element does, wanted or unwanted.

For example wild snakes passing by our farm are on occasion an element. And among its functions is to take wake up our dogs and eat the young chicks and scare the chickens. But the same element (snake) also serves other functions. That are more directly use-full for us, for example keeping the rat population and venomous snakes in check.

Stacking Functions of Bamboo

Bamboo provides shade, filtered water, shelter for wildlife, carbon fixation, produces mulch and building materials, be a wind break, fertilize the soil (the leafs are nitrogen fixer when they break down), erosion control, natural water tank, slow down water flows across surface, provide a consistent supply of food, charcoal, construction material, etc. The Bamboo grass is ideal because of all the stacking functions. It can do a lot of different work for us in our system.

Next part is even more exiting. Because with Bamboo providing a consistent almost never ending supply of raw material we can start to create use-full things. From edible bamboo shoots, to music instruments, construction and medicine. Even beer, accessories and furniture. But also textile fabric, paper, cardboard, floorings and the best is innovative people are discovering new applications for bamboo everyday.

Bamboo Added Value Products

Image: Use-cases of Bamboo products

Now we could say the same thing about oil and one derivate which is plastic which has many use-cases. Whats the big difference? Bamboo is truly regenerative. Obviously oil and plastic are not at all regenerative. It will be a big challenge for future generations. To get rid of all the plastic trash produced in the last 100 years. Why is Bamboo regenerative? Well Bamboo can be harvested continuously in a sustainable manner. Did you know that: edible bamboo shoots appear from the roots every year. And grow to harvestable condition in just 4 or 5 years. Far faster than slow-growing hardwoods. Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on the planet. This is because Bamboo is part of the monocotyledonous flowering plants family known as grasses (Gramineae) and is not considered a tree. There are more than 1500 endless Use-cases of Bamboo (!!)

Yearly Bamboo Plant Cycle

The Yearly Bamboo Cycle

Bamboo Micro Enterprises Opportunities

Bamboo Project Timeline

The Bamboo plant has a very strong potential of being transformed into a number of high-value products. This is one of the many reasons why bamboo deserves more attention. From decision-makers striving to bring new economic growth potential to their countries. Bamboo offers a range of business opportunities to private sector entrepreneurs and local economies. Income generating and micro-business uses range from crafts to furniture, from flooring to textiles, bicycles and even beehives. And, with increasing urbanisation in much of Africa, bamboo is a valuable resource for construction. As strong as steel, but renewable and with a far lower carbon footprint, bamboo can be an excellent and affordable building material. Particularly – but by no means exclusively – suited to areas prone to earthquakes. In China, emerging industrial applications for heavy industry are showing how bamboo has ideal strength properties to replace concrete and PVC for grills needed for cooling high temperature steam in many industries.

Is bamboo industrialization profitable?

Example from Colombia: At what scale is bamboo industrialization profitable?

There is a great analysis from Jörg Stamm regarding the profitability of the bamboo industrialization. This essay begins with the experiences of the author in the civil construction with bamboo and the craft manufacturing of laminated guadua angustifolia in Colombia, South America. With the data obtained in these experiences on input costs and small-scale returns, there are projections on a medium production scale. Such as bamboo industry machinery in China of the Woven Strand Board (WSB, also called “Strand Woven Board”). Also larger scales with automated wood industry lines in “commodities” such as the Oriented Strand Board (OSB) and Middle Density Fiberboard (MDF).

Surprising and very challenging, on the other hand, is the fiscal policy environment, which punishes industrial development with various types of direct and indirect taxes. The report also names niche markets with high added value and research, which propose the use of bamboo fibers with epoxy resin. For replacement of steel bars in concrete constructions by high density compounds. An analysis of different technologies with the natural Bamboo as natural resource. Read the full industrial bamboo potential (2016) from Jorg Stamm here.

Environmetal use of Bamboo

Bamboo for land restoration, a valuable environmental asset When it comes to restoring degraded land, bamboo is a powerful ally. Wherever it grows, bamboo protects and rehabilitates the surrounding environment. By conserving soil and water and improving the quality of the land. The plant grows rapidly slowing degradation and repairing damaged ecosystems. It is particularly suited to reforestation, afforestation, agroforestry and watershed protection.

Photo: Bamboo for land restoration

Its robustness and ability to thrive on the poorest of soils. Means that bamboo will thrive where other plants cannot survive. This makes it perfect for rehabilitating land damaged by erosion or industrial activity. Bamboo is used to help repair severely degraded land and ecosystems, while producing new revenues for local communities.

Bamboo also provides rapid reforestation. And in in doing this, contributes significantly to combating climate change, offering large-scale carbon sequestration. As a versatile material that can replace timber for the manufacture of a wide range of products. Bamboo will play an ever-increasing role of relieving pressure on timber forests.

1 reply
  1. martin
    martin says:

    Congratulations on the 3 years!

    > We try to focus on less work. Even if thats not visible yet 🙂

    I know that feeling lol

    > but hopefully in the not so far future, it will be

    If you find the key to less work, would love to hear it. Each year I say the same, but work keeps piling up. Maybe next year though (ecuadorian time, so maybe in 10 years )

    Reply

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