P5M bamboo project to benefit 500 farmers in C. Luzon


TOP ENVIRONMENT and science and technology officials here signed a P5 million bamboo deal in a bid to maximize the economic and ecological potential of bamboo as an industry and source of livelihood to poor upland farmers in Central Luzon. 

The two-year bamboo project targets about 500 upland farmers in a cash-for-work scheme that would establish an initial 40 hectares of bamboo plantation in Pampanga, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and Zambales, revealed Maximo Dichoso of the regional Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) here.

He said the Laguna-based Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) of the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) agreed to provide the initial P3.5 million startup capital, with the DENR providing another P1.5 million. 

“This project recognizes the enormous potential of bamboo not only for construction and furniture, but also for environmental rehabilitation, carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation,” he explained.

He said the country is the world’s sixth biggest exporter of bamboo products in the world, with a total export value reaching $30 million in 2009.

With the threats of global warming and climate change, and the growing demand for eco-friendly alternative to wood to conserve the world’s remaining forests, international market value for commercial bamboo is expected to hit $20 billion by 2015. 

“Given the right socio-economic and political environment, Central Luzon can very well supply this international demand for commercial bamboo,” Dichoso explained adding that a third of the country’s bamboo exports go to the United States. 

Commercial species of Kawayan tinik (Bambusa blumeana), Bayog (Bambusa sp.), Kawayan kiling (Bambusa vulgaris) and Giant bamboo (Dendrocalamus asper) shall be planted to an initial 40 hectares of lower to mid-slope upland areas in Central Luzon tapping the services of people’s organizations, said DENR deputy research director Restituto Bauan. 

Owing to its tensile strength, bamboo is considered by forest scientists as a “poor man’s lumber” whose many new products included high-value engineered floor tiles, export furniture and handicrafts, and musical instruments, he said.

Tensile strength refers to the stress or load a piece of bamboo can hold without breaking.

A sustainable bamboo industry will position the Philippines as the second largest bamboo producer in the world, next only to China whose current market share is about 50 percent.

There are about 1,000 species of bamboo in the world, 49 species of which grow abundantly in the Philippines.

As the world’s fastest growing plant, bamboo can grow up to a meter a day, can reach maturity in five years, and can be harvested once every two years for about 120 years. Bamboo belongs to the Graminae family of grass, like rice and corn.

Under Pres. Aquino III’s National Greening Program (NGP), the DENR is set to establish a total of 7,848 hectares of bamboo plantation throughout Central Luzon by 2016, mainly for riverbanks stabilization and stream erosion control. 

With a carbon sequestration potential of about 12 tons per hectare, the bamboo plantation set under the NGP is expected to sequester up to 94,176 tons.