AN ancient Asian saying goes thus: “A man is born in a bamboo cradle and goes away in a bamboo coffin. Everything in between is possible with bamboo!”
As the world celebrates World Bamboo Day today, it is still saddening that Nigeria’s bamboo industry is underutilised, especially in terms of the potential the plant offers for all-round economic development.
With the various calls for the need for diversification, and with the potential in the bamboo market, it is just as well that it offers so much for improving Nigeria’s foreign exchange, a factor which has contributed in no small terms to the present economic recession. For instance, export of bamboo and its products from Asian countries contributes billions of dollars in foreign exchange earnings. For Nigeria, such investment in the bamboo industry is a goldmine waiting for the taking. It will not only generate employment, but will also encourage foreign investment and, in no time, Nigeria, with its capacity for excellence, may just become the next bamboo capital of the world. Apart from export of the bamboo in its raw form, there are other end-products of bamboo such as charcoal, laminated bamboo furniture, clothing materials such as bed sheets and drapes that can be got from bamboo fibres, among others.
Professor Musiliudeen Onilude of the Department of Wood Products Engineering, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Ibadan, Oyo State, who is conducting a research on the evaluation of the properties of Nigerian grown bamboo species, in an interaction with Sunday Tribune, while acknowledging that Nigeria wasn’t getting enough from the benefits of bamboo as it should, compared to the investment by Asian countries, stated that bamboo in Nigeria was yet to gain industrial status.
According to Professor Onilude, “Bamboo can provide a veritable source of foreign exchange if that industry is developed. It is a biological resource that you can plant and harvest like any other cash crop, in a maximum of four years. As such, it can be used as a raw material for pulping, charcoal, furniture making, among others and when processed, can be a top grade product for exportation. Bamboo thrives in moist areas, and especially where we have our indigenous trees or plants. Once it starts growing, it continues to increase until it becomes a colony. They are present in natural forests. Bamboo furniture can last longer than that made with conventional wood, depending on the kind of the furniture. Most biological materials face the risk of being attacked by some organisms. However, that can be prevented if the bamboo is treated with preservatives and these chemicals protect it for life from decay.”
The many benefits of bamboo production
According to Onilude, Bamboo is a biological raw material that can become a business product, depending on the objective of production. Within two, three years the bamboo would have reached the harvestable stage which can be marketed. From that point, it depends on the objective of the harvester, such as for construction, firewood, charcoal production, furniture, among others. There are so many applications for bamboo usage and it provides a viable alternative for furniture makers especially now that there are concerns that forests are being depleted and large-sized logs are becoming difficult to get. Some hotels in Asian countries have their furniture built from bamboo. Its use is dependent on the objective of having the bamboo plantation.
“There are so many species of bamboo and this determines the product you want to derive from the bamboo. There are also various sizes you can even shape into composite boards or flat boards. So, you’ll get laminated bamboo boards which can be made into various products. There are also species that will determine thickness. For instance, the one used for scaffolding has to be very sturdy and durable because of the purpose for which it will be used,” he stated.
Veritable investment for low, high income earners
According to findings by Sunday Tribune, the bamboo market is a viable alternative source of income for low and high income earners. Mr Oluwole Yusuf, a bamboo trader, shared some peculiarities about the bamboo market.
“Bamboo production is an industry that even low income earners can invest in. A typical log of bamboo used for scaffolding, which cost N200 earlier this year, now costs between N250 and N300, depending on the size. And that is for us who sell to the end users. However, even with the price increase, it is still quite affordable for investors and consumers,” Yusuf stated.
Speaking with other traders in bamboo, the industry also helps to boost other businesses. For instance, transporting 30 pieces of bamboo for a short distance can cost up to N3,000. As such, people who have access to trucks can lease them for transport. Through transportation, there is also employment for drivers. There are also jobs for movers, cutters and those who shape the wood, depending on what you want to use the bamboo for. Bamboo can also be useful for farmers too, not just for those cultivating bamboo itself. They can be used as effective stakes for yam. Apart from scaffolding, bamboo is very effective for building wooden bridges, and even for construction of buildings such as schools and homes. It can also contribute to the fashion industry as bamboo can be fashioned into lovely jewelry.
With the concerns raised about using environment-friendly products, and to prevent deforestation, bamboo, if tapped into effectively, can safely provide an ecofriendly alternative for as many uses as can be imagined possible.
In the spirit of fostering the change for the best we so desire, in a country already blessed with numerous natural resources, of which bamboo isn’t lacking, as well as human resources, embodied in the typical Nigerian willing-to-excel-even-in-the-most-difficult-situations spirit, now may just be the time to follow the popular notion of doing things differently to achieve better results and bamboo provides the best reflection of the nation’s present economic situation. As Chinese-American entrepreneur, Ping Fu, puts it, “Bamboo is flexible, bending with the wind but never breaking, capable of adapting to any circumstance. It suggests resilience, meaning that we have the ability to bounce back even from the most difficult times…. Your ability to thrive depends, in the end, on your attitude to your life circumstances. Take everything in stride with grace, putting forth energy when it is needed, yet always staying calm inwardly.”