Two busy weeks of membership relations in INBAR!

INBAR is an organisation of 44 Governments that believe in bamboo and rattan, and we are constantly in touch with existing member states and potential new members.  Let me give you a snapshot of recent and ongoing discussions.  I have to admit that these two weeks were exceptionally busy!

Earlier this week, we were co-hosting the Caribbean International Bamboo Symposium in Jamaica, together with the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture & Fisheries of Jamaica, the Bureau of Standards Jamaica, the Tourism Enhancement Fund of Jamaica, the Bamboo Industry Association of Jamaica, the Jamaica Business Development Corporation and other agencies.

The 2-day meeting reflected on “Bamboo: An Economic High-Value Chain Resource for the Caribbean”, and involved members and potential member states in the Caribbean.  It was an important gathering that was agreed some time ago, when Jamaica was the Chair of the INBAR Council, but was deferred in view of the Bamboo and Rattan Congress in Beijing in June this year.  We sent a large team headed by INBAR Deputy Director-General Prof Lu Wenming and Director of Membership Relations Ms Hao Ying.

Apart from participating in and speaking at the conference, several bilateral meetings took place with representatives from several of our member states in the Region, including Suriname.

Suriname-KittySweeb_Jamaica (2)

Ms Kitty Sweeb, Deputy Foreign Policy Coordinator in the Office of the President of Suriname with Hao Ying and Lu Wenming from INBAR

In preparation of the symposium, INBAR Trustee, Ms Sharon Folkes Abrahams visited the Embassy of Jamaica in Beijing, when she attended the meeting of the INBAR Board of Trustees earlier this month.  Ms Folkes Abrahams and I met with Ambassador Antonio Hugh and his deputy Head of Mission Ms Cheryl Campbell to talk about planned symposium and general cooperation between INBAR and Jamaica.

Jamaica-Nov2018

Jamaica Ambassador HE Antonio Hugh, INBAR Trustee Sharon Folkes Abrahams and Jamaica Charge d’Affaires Cheryl Campbell

On the other side of the world, INBAR Member State Cameroon is getting ready to host a team of project staff to launch the Intra-Africa Bamboo Smallholder Livelihood Development Programme, funded by IFAD.  INBAR Director of Programme Brian Cohen and future Cameroon Head-of-Office Rene Kaam will be in Yaoundé, together with colleagues from Ethiopia, Ghana and Madagascar to hold the inception workshop and agree on the plans for the coming year.

In addition to the inception workshop of the intra-Africa project, the INBAR team will also kick off a Cameroon bamboo sub-project of IUCN’s The Restoration Initiative, and they will informally discuss the date for the official opening of the new INBAR Regional Office for Central Africa. The decision to open the new office was made during the visit of the Cameroon Minister of Foreign Affairs in August this year, when we signed a Memorandum of Understanding.

In preparation of the meetings in Yaoundé, I met last week with Cameroon Ambassador to China, HE Martin Mpana.  Ambassador Mpana is a dear friend and a strong supporter of INBAR, without whom the developments in Cameroon would not have been so easy.  It is always nice to spend some time with Ambassador Mpana, and to talk about future plans.

Cameroon-HE-Mpana

Cameroon Ambassador HE Martin Mpana

While some staff were in Jamaica and others will be in Cameroon, I joined the Global Science, Technology and Innovation Conference in Brussels to talk about new research and innovation with bamboo.  Although we have no members in Europe, we used the meeting to share the latest developments with regards to composite manufacturing and applications of bamboo for the production of drainage pipes, bicycles and housing units.

The details will be given by a group of Chinese business people and researchers, and my assistant Li Ting has spent a lot of time to help them prepare for speeches and presentations.  They also presented the state-of-the-art production of closed-loop bamboo pulp production for tissue paper manufacturing.  This bridging role between China and Europe is an important function for the Secretariat, and I believe this relationship is critical for the future development of INBAR.

Small-HF

Small-Vanov

In early December, I will move to the Climate Change meeting in Poland, where I will touch base with a number of our members that are present.  I am speaking in several events, and INBAR is organising a discussion about bamboo, climate change and South-South Cooperation with speakers from Canada, China, Ethiopia and Nepal. Apart from these speaking roles, I will undoubtedly have bilateral discussions with a number of ministers and other representatives.

Talking about South-South Cooperation, INBAR Global Policy Officer Borja de la Pena and INBAR Trustee Ms Jan McAlpine are currently in UN Headquarters in New York to speak at the Global South-South Development Forum and to discuss INBAR’s participation next year in the Buenos Aires Plan of Action 40th celebration.  Borja is also arranging meetings with delegates from several INBAR members.

IMG_1970

INBAR Trustee Jan McAlpine

Meanwhile, the INBAR Headquarters is preparing for a possible visit of the First Lady of Ecuador in December.  This visit would be extremely opportune, as the Ministry of Housing in Ecuador has just approved the design of a bamboo-bahareque house for a new national social housing programme “Casa para Todos” (housing for all).  This social housing programme is one of the 7 components of the Inter-institutional Committee of the “Plan Toda una Vida” that is chaired by the first lady of Ecuador.

“Bahareque” is a traditional construction style based on a wooden or bamboo frame that has provided shelter for rural communities in Latin American culture.  This little known tradition is getting a new lease of life from the Ministry of Housing with a new modernised style.  Supported by INBAR as part of our Bamboo Aruaclima Project in Peru and Ecuador financed by the Spanish development agency AECID, the ministry has approved the use of a cement bamboo-bahareque prototype.  INBAR, local government and university partners will finish construction of the first unit in December 2018.

The house, the first of its type ever built by the Ecuadorian government, has an area of 56.95m2.  It cost the government just $12,500 to build, uses entirely bamboo poles for its frame, and under the government Housing plan ‘Housing for All’, it will now be scaled up for mass construction.  Alongside construction work, INBAR is supporting research into the thermal properties and carbon footprint of this type of house, allowing us to compare it with other construction methods.

Another bamboo construction success story focuses on the Philippines, where last week 23-year old Earl Patrick Forlales has been awarded the £50,000 “Cities for our Future” Prize by the Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in the UK.

Forlales’ idea, inspired by his grandparents’ bamboo shack, is to transform the slums of Manila into a livable space using the most sustainable, abundant material possible – bamboo!  The outcome, named the Cubo, is a modular design made from bamboo panels that could be constructed in a week and assembled in just under four hours. The Cubo is estimated to cost just $77 per square metre – an incredibly affordable living space.

When we contacted Earl Patrick Forlales he explained that he used INBAR publications in the preparation of the design.  We are very proud of his achievement, which has been recognised by international news outlets all over the world, and for bringing the benefits of bamboo as a sustainable, affordable building material to the Global South.

Manilla-slum-RICS

We are also actively engaging potential new members.  Last week, I gave a lecture at the Peking University Public Policy Forum, which addressed how bamboo and rattan can help countries to achieve their sustainable development goals.  More than 60 students attended from a wide range of countries, including several INBAR Member States.  I invited the Ambassador of Costa Rica to China, as she is keen to promote Costa Rica as the next Member of INBAR.  She wanted to know more about bamboo opportunities, and told me that she learned a lot from my presentation.

The discussions after my talk were rich and lasted for nearly one hour.  We could have continued, but unfortunately the working day was ending.  We touched on issues like the consumer’s demand for production standards, the need for a reliable supply chain, the choice between planting food crops and bamboo, the challenges of invasiveness of running bamboo and flowering of clumping bamboo and more.

Last week, I also met with the Ambassador of Timor Leste, HE Bendito dos Santos Freitas.  Timor Leste is currently Observer of INBAR, after they formally approached us to become Member in 2016.  Subsequent elections and budget negotiations have created confusion and uncertainty, and we are concerned that the Observer status may lapse before we receive the formal Instrument of Accession that would make Timor Leste a formal Member of INBAR.

Timor-Leste_Nov2018 (2)

With Hao Ying from INBAR and the Ambassador of Timor Leste, HE Bendito dos Santos Freitas

Ambassador dos Santos Freitas advised us to write to the new Speaker of Parliament and the new Minister of Agriculture to find out what the current state of affairs is, and how to proceed.

Earlier this week, I met the Ambassador of the Republic of Congo to China, HE Daniel Owasa.  A few months ago, I had the opportunity to greet the President of the Republic of Congo HE Sassou Nguesso when he was visiting for the Africa-China Forum (FOCAC), and he suggested that the Ambassador has a more substantive meeting.  Ambassador Owasa and I talked for an hour about the benefits of bamboo and rattan, and the possibility of Congo joining INBAR.

Congo-Nov2018 (2)

Talking with the Ambassador of the Republic of Congo to China, HE Daniel Owasa

 

This gives an idea of the membership work of INBAR during a very busy period.

Advertisements

To be part of the United Nations General Assembly

In December 2017, INBAR was officially confirmed as Observer to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).  The Assembly normally meets in September, and I attended the High-Level segment of UNGA for the first time from 24 to 30 September 2018.

 

IMG_0631

Being at UNGA is a privilege, and being Head of Delegation means that I had access to all places in the UN Secretariat building without having to go through security checks.  INBAR has its own seat at the back of the main hall where the General Debate takes place.  The General Debate is effectively a list of speeches from Heads of State or the Minister of Foreign Affairs.  All countries have the opportunity to speak, and although they are supposed to stick to 15 minutes, many take more time to deliver their message.  The session goes on till late in the evening.

The speeches are very political, and are used to highlight main issues of concern.  For example, Cuba complained about the US Embargo, IRAN stressed the need to re-instate the nuclear agreement, Colombia expressed concern about refugees from Venezuela.  President Trump spoke and stressed unilateralism and patriotism as the hallmarks of current American Foreign Policy.

DonaldTrump-speaking (1)

US President Trump is speaking in UNGA

Simply being at UNGA, classifies INBAR as a world player, and I strongly believe that it is worth-while attending the General Debate.  Several people we met made the point that UNGA is amazing networking opportunity, and my assistant Ms Li Ting managed to set up a number of important bilateral meetings.

Maria Fernanda Espinosa, Foreign Minister of Ecuador is the elected President of UNGA 73.  I know her from my IUCN days, as she was Regional Director for Latin America for a few years.  We tried to arrange a formal meeting in New York, but as President of UNGA, her schedule was so full that her office did not see a window for a proper discussion.  Fortunately, I had the opportunity to greet Maria Fernanda in the corridor during one of the days, and she recognized me.  She confirmed that she was aware of INBAR and the Ecuador Presidency of the Council, our Regional Office in Quito and about the discussions we are having with Ambassador Larrea in Beijing.

MF-Espinosa

A blurred Maria Fernanda Espinosa

Jorge Chediek, Director of the Office for South-South Cooperation and Special Envoy of the Secretary General for South-South Cooperation has his office across the street from the UN Secretariat.  Jorge and I launched a joint INBAR-UNOSSC report during the South-South EXPO last year in Turkey, and I was very happy to see that the cover of the book is framed on the wall of the office.

UNOSSC (2)

In November this year, UNOSSC will organise the South-South Expo in New York.  It will be smaller than the last EXPO in Turkey, and Trustee Jan McAlpine will represent INBAR.

We discussed the meeting to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action (BAPA +40) that will take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina in March next year.  INBAR will be offered space for a bamboo/rattan exhibition and we may organise a joint side event for bamboo and rattan for south-south in practice.  In December this year, UNFCCC COP24 will take place in Poland, and we talked about organising a joint event in the China Pavilion at COP24.

Finally, Jorge asked if we could help to secure furniture for his office or for a new meeting room, as a means to showcase bamboo furniture in the UN Headquarters.  I explained that INBAR has several Chinese Strategic Partners, and they may be interested to promote their products, provided the UN makes publicity about their products.  I will follow up when I am back in Beijing.

ONOSSC

Li Ting, Jorge Chediek, HF, Ajita Singh

I also had meetings with Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), and with Zhu Juwang, Director for Sustainable Development in DESA and acting Director of United Nations Forum on Forests.  I think that Liu Zhenmin is the most senior Chinese in the UN Secretariat.

I thanked Mr Liu for his help in our getting the UN Observer status and he expressed the hope that our being in New York for UNGA is useful.  He stressed that UNGA as a major networking exercise, being part of UNGA is politically and strategically important.  He referred me to Juwang for discussions about cooperation.

Liu-Zenming (1)

Greeting Liu Zhenmin, UNDESA

Juwang is relatively new in the job, and we had a very constructive discussion.  He labelled himself as an ambassador for bamboo in New York and a friend of INBAR.  Juwang proposed that INBAR and DESA sign a MoU to agree on cooperation in a number of areas, including his offer for INBAR to use his offices during future visits to New York, so that we have a base from where to operate.

Zhu-Jaweng

With Zhu Juwang from UNDESA and UNFF

The Embassy of Togo in Beijing had put Li Ting in contact with the entourage of President Faure Gnassingbé of Togo.  He spoke at the UN General Assembly, and agreed that we could have a brief meeting to talk about bamboo and rattan in Togo.

We had a very friendly, casual discussion in the corridor of the main hall.  The President is aware of our office in Kumasi and he is keen to develop both bamboo and rattan in the country.  We talked about the challenges of not having enough skilled labour and I explained that we can organise training for local staff.  We discussed the way in which this could be done, and he asked me to follow up with his office.

Togo-President (2)

Briefing the President of Togo, HE Faure Gnassingbé

I explained that INBAR has launched the Global Assessment of Bamboo and Rattan (GABAR) and President Gnassingbé is keen for us to carry out an assessment in Togo.  He mentioned that most bamboos in Togo are rather thin, and therefore may not be suitable for construction or flooring.  We agreed that we need to find out more about this.

I also explained that household energy from bamboo is another potential development path, and he was not aware of this.  He agreed that this could be very important.

The INBAR seat at UNGA is in the back of the main hall, together with other Observers, and behind us is the seat of the Pacific Island Development Forum (PIDF).  Secretary-General Francois Martel was there, together with his communications officer.  I first met Francois last year during the Belt and Road Initiative launch meeting in Beijing, and Francois took part in the INBAR Congress BARC 2018 in June this year.

We spent some time in the delegates lounge to talk about future cooperation.  Francois told me that PIDF has prepared a proposal for the establishment of a regional bamboo training centre in Fiji, and he has discussed this informally with the Embassy of China in Fiji.  A recent workshop reviewed the proposal, and a report about the workshop will shortly be published.  I knew about the workshop, and had sent a video message, and the workshop report is co-branded with IBAR logo.  The proposal will formally be submitted by PIDF to the Chinese Embassy in Fiji in the coming weeks, and if it is successful, INBAR will have an advisor in Fiji, as we are written into the programme.

Francois-Martel-PIDF (1)

Discussions with Francois Martel, PIDF

Francois also briefed me about the side event that PIDF will be organising during the climate meeting in Poland in December this year.  He is working with the organisers of the Fiji pavilion of COP24, and he invited INBAR to participate.  As we will be there anyway, I agreed that we will join PIDF.

One of the evenings, I had a very nice dinner with Achim Steiner and his wife Liz, and we talked about the role of bamboo and rattan for sustainable development, and the impediments to create upscale efforts.  We agreed that the main constraint may be the relatively high price of bamboo products compared to plastic and soft wood.  This is difficult to address in a short time period, but with increasing global recognition of the dangers of plastic pollution, and a few successful case studies of bamboo production, the tide will turn.

AchimSteiner-at-home (2)

With my good friend Achim Steiner

Inter Press Service (IPS) is a global news agency.  Its main focus is the production of news and analysis about events and processes affecting economic, social and political development. The agency largely covers news on the Global South, civil society, and globalization.  IPS has written one or two stories for INBAR during the 20th Anniversary and BARC, and prepared a proposal for cooperation with INBAR, but we have not yet decided how to proceed.

Farhana Haque Rahman, the Director General of IPS was at UNGA, and she proposed that we aim at producing a few strategic stories, linked to some of the upcoming events where INBAR will be present.  To smooth the way, she offered for IPS to prepare two features related to bamboo based on interviews with INBAR DG and quotes from Chinese authorities especially.  One story could focus on innovation, in advance of G-STIC and the other one on Madagascar and Cameroon to be targeted for issuance before the November event at COP24 in the China Pavilion.

Farhana-IPS

With Farhana Haque Rahman from Inter Press Service

During the June Bamboo and Rattan Congress, I had a meeting with the delegation from Nepal, headed by the Minister for Environment.  Following this discussion, the Embassy of Nepal in Beijing informed u that the Foreign Minister of Nepal, HE Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, wanted to make contact during UNGA.  I met Minister Gyawali in the Permanent Mission of Nepal to the UN, and talked about the opportunities that bamboo provides for Nepal.  Minister Gyawali is keen for something to happen, as he sees the opportunities, and he knows that Nepal could do more.  I talked about the construction opportunities for classrooms and learning centres, and he was happy to hear this, but stressed that Nepal is no longer looking for emergency response, but for long-term solutions.

He is very keen to carry out an assessment, as he claims there is bamboo everywhere, but they don’t know how much and what to do with it.

Nepal-Minister

Talking with Nepal Foreign Minister, HE Pradeep Kumar Gyawali

In 2016, I met HE Amina Mohammed when she was Minister for Environment in Nigeria. UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutierrez has subsequently appointed her as UN Deputy Secretary General (DSG), and we tried to set up an appointment in advance of our trip to New York.  After a lot of effort, we managed to arrange a meeting on the last day.  When we finally met, DSG turned out to be very interested in what we are doing.

DSG and I talked about bamboo in West Africa, and whether it could be incorporated in the Green Wall of Africa.  I explained that bamboo will not thrive in the Sahel, but south of the real desert there are opportunities. Natural bamboo occurs in the south of all countries along the coast of West Africa.  DSG thought this is an opportunity to consider.

DSG told me that the Climate Summit next year will be a watershed moment, and the Secretary-General himself is pushing for this.  They are looking for action, and she offered for INBAR to be part of the event, which will take pace during UNGA next year.  She stressed that they only want organisations that will deliver and are ready to put efforts into this.  She asked me to write to her with ideas and she will put me in contact to the Head of the Climate Team.

Amina-Mohammed (3)

With UN Deputy-Secretary-General, HE Amina Mohammed

DSG also talked about the Horn of Africa, and she explained that Secretary-General Gutierrez will travel to Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia in early 2019.  She asked if bamboo will grow there, and I explained that Ethiopia and Eritrea are INBAR members.  She asked me to send more information about resources and value chains.

I had brought a nice present in the form of a vase with very fine bamboo weaving, produced by one of the master weavers in Meishan.  DSG was impressed and immediately found a place for it on her shelf.  She took away the vase that was there, and replaced it with the bamboo creation.

My last meeting in New York was very strategic, as we had recently received notice from the authorities in Paramaribo that Suriname was not happy with its INBAR membership.  During the UNGA General Debate speech of Suriname Foreign Minister HE Yldiz Pollack-Beighle, she mentioned that Suriname wants to introduce sustainable forest management practices, but they are looking for help.  She also stressed that they want to avoid further forest degradation.  I believe that bamboo could play a role in this, and I therefore went to meet her after the speech.

Suriname (1)

Suriname Foreign Minister HE Yldiz Pollack-Beighle

She was aware of INBAR, and was very happy that I reached out.  She introduced me to Kitty Sweeb, who is both Deputy Permanent Representative of Suriname to the UN and Deputy Foreign Policy Coordinator in the Office of the President, and we agreed to meet later in the day at the office of the Mission.

Ms. Sweeb explained that with the change of Government a few years ago, the contacts with INBAR were lost, and the current Government is asking what the benefit is of remaining with INBAR.  I explained that we could provide support, if we knew who to talk with.  I promised to try and find a solution for the outstanding membership dues payments, and Ms. Sweeb will discuss with her Minister and others who would be the best liaison for INBAR.

We also talked about the next steps in Suriname, and Ms. Sweeb agreed that a national consultation meeting would be extremely useful, to get everybody on board.  When I explained that I could give a speech in Dutch she became excited, as many people in Suriname are more comfortable speaking Dutch.  We parted with big smiles, and Ms. Sweeb thanked me for trying to find a solution to the issues.

Suriname (3)

With HE Kitty Sweeb in the Suriname Mission to the UN

It was a busy week, but very productive, and we managed to position bamboo and rattan on the global stage.

 

Bamboo for Urban Development

Last week, I attended the International Forum on Green Urbanisation in Langfang, China, which was organized by the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Green Global Growth Institute (GGGI).

Langfang is a satellite town of Beijing, approximately 90 minutes from the centrum of the Capital.  It is part of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei urbanised region in Northern China, and has announced to become an eco-city.  The Mayor of Langfang had invited the organisers to come to Langfang for an exchange of information and discussion of potential green urban development options.

Background-slide

MEP was represented by the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED), a major think-tank in China.  We were invited by both CCICED and GGGI to participate in the Forum, and I had bilateral meetings with Guo Jing, Director-General of International Cooperation of the Ministry of Environment Protection and GGGI Director-General Frank Rijsberman to discuss closer cooperation.

The Forum involved a large number of national and international urban development experts, and the presentations covered energy, transport, urban development and more.

Group-photo

I was happy to provide one of the opening speeches, and stressed the possibilities of bamboo in urban development.  I made the point that bamboo should be included in urban parks and green spaces, that bamboo can help mitigate carbon emissions from cities, that bamboo charcoal can be a sustainable source of household fuel and that bamboo can help with soil and water management.  I also stressed that bamboo as a product can play a major role in interior design and construction.  I believe that my ideas were well received.

WNFG4966

One of the key speakers was CCICED Senior Advisor, and former Minister Liu Shijin, who presented economic facts and figures.  He warned us that the economic downturn in China is real, and that we should not expect a major upturn after a few years.  He reckons the downward spiral will bottom out next year at 5% growth, and that this will be the norm for many years to come.  He promised long-term stability after 2018, but at a medium range economic growth, rather than the high growth experienced several years ago.

He also stressed that the main urbanization in China will continue to be focused in the three large metropolitan circles of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong.

China-urban-clusters

Another presentation that provided an interesting perspective was that by Donovan Story, the GGGI Deputy Director and Global Lead on Green Cities.  He reminded us that by 2050 more than 6 Billion people, or 70% of the global population, will live in cities.

GGGI-presentation (2)

He cited as main challenges in urban development the fact that there is still a divide between urban and rural societies, and urban areas are seen as sectors that focus on infrastructure.  Instead, he advocated a Green City approach that is inclusive and looks at environmental, social and economic aspects of development.  He called for smart, green and sustainable cities that improve energy efficiency and promote renewable energy; that close the waste/resource loop and improve access to clean water and sanitation; that are connected and walkable, pro-poor and inclusive.

GGGI-presentation (8)

After lunch, Professor Qi Ye from the School of Public Policy & Management of Qinghua University, reiterated the rapid urban growth, and warned that the rural population is actually starting to shrink.  He also reminded us that 800 years ago, the Chinese Capital city had more than 1 million people, and in those days more than 20% of the population lived in urban areas.

Prof Qi showed how different energy sources have fueled the economic growth during the past decades.   Starting with biomass and coal as the main power source, oil, gas, hydro and nuclear power are playing a more important role.  In the big picture, other renewables hardly show up.

ProfQiYe-TsinghuaUniversity (3)

Finally, Prof Qi talked about the future, and he stressed that new urbanization is a combination of compact, green, smart and low carbon

Nicholas You from World Future Council talked about “from smart cities to sustainable regions”. He presented several very interesting case studies from around the world.  This included the high-tech coordinated approach in Rio de Janeiro; the inclusive consultation processes in Bristol, UK and the integrated planning approach in Singapore.  I was astounded to hear that Singapore recycles all it used water, and that excess run-off during rain storms is collected in a maze of wetlands, parks and smaller reservoirs.

Nicholas advocated that we should have one Key Performance Indicator for urban development, and he suggested this to be human health and welfare.

NicholasYou-presentation (1)

The third session, after tea break included a presentation by Marijn van der Wagt from the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment about the Dutch perspective.  She stressed the consultative approach in the Netherlands, and explained that Dutch people are generally happy in small spaces.  She also mentioned that there are more bicycles than people in the Netherlands!

Netherlands-presentation (6) Netherlands-presentation (2)

Liu Kewei from INBAR gave a very interesting presentation about bamboo construction and how this can contribute to green urbanization.  She showed examples of bamboo design and architecture from around the world, and made the case that there is an important role for bamboo.   After all, bamboos are grasses, so any products manufactured from bamboo did not involve logging of timber and cutting of trees.

LiuKewei-presentation (8).JPG LiuKewei-Twitter

She also explained that INBAR is the Liaison Organisation for ISO Technical Committee 165 for timber structures.  As Convener of the working group on structural uses of bamboo, INBAR has helped to develop national and local standards for bamboo construction in several countries.

LiuKewei-presentation (5)

There were many other presentations about rural heating, urban planning, energy assessments, and other interesting aspects, and I learned a lot.  It is clear that the challenge to find ways in which to make future cities nice living spaces is enormous.

I hope that the examples provided during this interesting forum will help planners in China and abroad, and that urban planners, architects and designers will think about bamboo when they prepare their blue-prints.

 

 

Bamboo and Rattan Business in Ghana

A few weeks ago, I was in Ghana, one of the 18 Member states of INBAR in Africa, and the host of our Regional Office for West Africa.  The INBAR office is in Kumasi, where we are sharing the premises with Tropenbos Ghana.

INBAR-Office-Kumasi (2)

Michael Kwaku and Paul Osei Tutu – INBAR Office

The main reason for coming to Ghana was to speak at the workshop on “Innovative Management and Utilization for Bamboo Biomass in Agroforestry Systems”.  The workshop presented results from INBAR’s work under the project: “Improving food security in Africa through increased system productivity from biomass-based value webs – BiomassWeb”.

The workshop was organized at the premises of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) in Accra.  FARA is an African institution, representing agricultural research in all of Africa.  INBAR and FARA are discussing how to upscale cooperation to the continental level, and I hope I can write about this in the not too distant future.

The workshop was well attended and generated a lot of very frank and lively discussion about the need for market development, the lack of planting material, the challenges with inter-ministerial cooperation, and the fact that there is not enough understanding and awareness about bamboo and rattan in Ghana.  We had representatives from the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, Ministry of Agriculture, the Ghana Bamboo and Rattan Development Programme (BARADEP), the Forestry Commission, the Forest Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG), the Ghana Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and the Embassy of China.  The overwhelming recommendation was to organize a follow-up meeting next year, with a wider list of invitees, presence of the media, and more discussions about the challenges for development of a bamboo industry.

This involvement of the local private sector was one of the exciting aspects of my visit to Ghana, and I was able to talk with several local entrepreneurs and business people.  In the workshop I met Janette Poku Akom from Kwamoka Farms and Processing Ltd .  Kwamoka Farms is a bamboo agro-forestry business that produces bamboo seedlings and reforestation services.  They state that their aim is to help in the reduction of deforestation through the promotion of wider use of bamboo as a renewable natural resource whilst contributing towards rural development and poverty reduction.

Janette and Gloria

Janette Poku Akom and Gloria Asare Adu

During the workshop, I also had a long discussion with Gloria Asare Adu, the CEO of Global Bamboo Products Ltd   Gloria has attended several INBAR training courses in China, and she worked with INBAR during the EC-funded charcoal project.  As a result, she has launched her own bamboo charcoal manufacturing plant, and she is selling her charcoal for household consumption in the local supermarket in Accra.

 

Ghana is well known for the manufacturing of bamboo bicycles, especially after Bernice Dapaah, the CEO of Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative was profiled at the 2013 Conference of Parties of the Climate Change Convention. The photo of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon on a bamboo bicycle went viral.

Ban-Ki-Moon

The Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative is a Ghanaian social enterprise that addresses youth unemployment by creating jobs for young people, especially women.Netherlands-Embassy-Accra

Bernice employs nearly 35 workers, and they manufacture high quality bamboo bicycles.  She has good connections all over the world, and I was pleased to see one of her bamboo bikes in the reception of the Embassy of the Netherlands in Accra.

I last met Bernice during the 2015 World Bamboo Congress in Damyang, Korea.  She is a World Bamboo Ambassador, and she is passionate about using bamboo to create jobs for local women.  This time, we met at the INBAR Office in Kumasi, and she agreed to join me later this year to present her experiences during the Global Science, Technology and Innovation Congress (GSTIC2017) in Brussels, Belgium.

I also visited the workshop of the other bamboo bicycle manufacturer in Kumasi, Boomers international.  Their workshop is a good 90 minutes’ drive outside Kumasi into the countryside.  The CEO, Mr Kwabena Danso, was not on site, because he arrived back from UK that day, but I met him for dinner in Accra the following evening.  Boomers is employing approximately 35 young man from the neighbouring villages, and they are manufacturing very nice looking bamboo frames.

Boomers-Bike-workshop (15)

The bamboo is harvested from nearby clumps, treated, sorted and used to make sturdy bamboo frames.  Boomers-Bike-workshop (13)They told me that the main market for the frames is currently in Germany and the Netherlands, and the bikes are assembled there.  I saw a large number of frames ready for dispatch, so business seems to be good, and Mr Danso confirmed that Boomers International is doing well.

Back in Accra, I visited several of the bamboo and rattan furniture stalls in the centre of town.  The furniture is manufactured and sold at the roadside, and there is a thriving business of local people who stop their car to have a look at the wares of display.  Several of these local artisans were in China last year, during a three-month bamboo training programme which was organized by INBAR and the Chinese International Centre for Bamboo and Rattan (ICBR) with funding from the Ministry of Commerce of China.  I had joined the students during the closing ceremony last November in southern China, and wished them good luck back home.  It was therefore very nice to meet some of them again, but this time in Ghana.

Accra-furniture-manufacturers-twitterIMG_1964

The former students told me that they were doing well, and that business had improved significantly after their return from China.  Apparently, customers specifically ask for the “Chinese students” when they visit the roadside markets, and the students told me that they had seen an improvement in their designs, their manufacturing process, and the finishing of the products.  It was very encouraging for me to learn about this positive outcome, as I had asked myself if the training in China would have made a big difference.  Clearly, it has made life and the living conditions of this group of furniture manufacturers a lot better.

IMG_1970

One aspect that particularly bothers the artisans, is the fact that they have no electricity in their manufacturing space along the road side, and therefore they cannot use any equipment or machines.  They also lack proper storage facilities, and during the rainy season all the new furniture gets wet.  They want to move to a proper furniture market where they have better services, and they have asked the Bamboo and Rattan Development Programme (BARADEP) to help.  The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, which is the host of BARADEP, has allocated land for such a common facility, and they are currently looking for funding to make it happen.  I agreed to help find a solution.

It is clear that there is a keen interest to develop the bamboo resources in Ghana, and there is already a local market.  Improved quality will make the local trade more lucrative, and an increased supply of bamboo will reduce the price of the raw material and consequently the price of the manufactured products.

planting-bamboo (3)

The ministry of Lands and Natural Resources is planning a major national programme to reforest some of the areas that have been devastated by small scale mining, and this could include bamboo plantations.  Such a large-scale intervention could be the game-changer that Ghana needs, and I have offered to work with the ministry to encourage the establishment of large-scale bamboo plantations

 

 

Artisanal Bamboo Paper

Bamboo paper has excellent ink absorption and good toughness. Last year, I visited a modern pulp and paper factory in Guizhou, which was a high-tech industrial plant, but bamboo paper is also being produced by local artisans. Nancy Norton Tomasko has written an interesting article in 2010 about hand-made bamboo paper production, and she mentions that Fuyang in Hangzhou district in Zhejiang province, China, is the most famous place for traditional bamboo paper production in China.

INBAR produced a Transfer of Technology Model for manufacturing hand-made bamboo paper in 2001. This describes the process, and makes the case that producing bamboo paper is a relatively low-investment use of bamboo fibres. It could be done anywhere where there is healthy bamboo, and I could be an opportunity for local industry development in many INBAR Member States, as you need minimal infrastructure and capital investment.

I was in Hangzhou recently to participate in the award ceremony for the Most Beautiful Bamboo Village in Hangzhou. During the trip, I also paid a visit to the Hangzhou Fuyang Greater Yuan Zhu Paper company where they make paper by hand from bamboo fibres.

twitter-bamboo-fibres

I was told that bamboo paper manufacturing began in Fyyang during the Southern Song Dynasty, and has been passed down from generation to generation for more than a thousand years. The key is to use young bamboo culms, so the stems are still relatively soft. They are cut into pieces and soaked in a bath of lime water. I was told that the company used the culms of the current growing season – only a few months after they have reached maturity. These have not yet become hard and contain relatively small amounts of lignin.

The bundles of bamboo pieces are stacked side by side under water, and lime is added to accelerate the decomposing process. This particular company prides itself on the fact that no chemicals are used, and natural lime is added to reduce the PH in the bath, and to allow for the decomposing of the bamboo fibres.   If chemicals are used, the process may be faster, but the waste water is polluted. In the case of the Greater Yuan Zhu Paper company there is no chemical pollution, and the waste water is released into the nearby stream.

twitter-bamboo-culms-alkali-bath

Once the fibres are softened, the bundles are taken out of the water and drained. You can still see the individual bamboo culms, but the strength has been leached out of the culms, and the fibres are soft enough to be pulped. The bundles are washed, boiled and further broken down to produce raw bamboo fibres, which can then be processed further

twitter-bamboo-culms-softened

The breakdown of the fibres into mulch is done of the traditional way, by using a large mills stone. In historical times this must have been the work of donkeys, but now a simple machine operates the mill stone. I can imagine that in another other geographical context animal power could still be the way to move the mill stone for grinding the fibres into pulp.

twitter-mill-stone

Once the fibres are pulped, and soaked further into smaller pieces, the solution is thick enough to make paper. This is done by pulling a screen through the water, which collects a thin film of bamboo fibres. Tomasko describes different ways of doing this, but the company that I visited dips the screen only once.   The thin films are stacked to form a pile of thin, fragile sheets, which are the basis for the traditional paper.

twitter-seiving-mulch

The actual paper sheets are produced by drying the thin films of fibres on a heated sheet. This is professional work – Several members of our team tried their hand at it, and everyone ripped the sheets of fibres. You need to be trained and experienced to paste the thin sheets onto the heated panel and pull off the dried sheet of paper.

twitter-paper-drying

The dried sheets are stacked and packaged to be put on the market.  I was told that this type of hand-made paper is sold to artists, museums and vocational training centres, mainly for use in calligraphy and professional drawing. This factory does not produce paper for thecomputer printer or for normal daily use: it provides a source of high-quality professional material. It may be a small high-value niche market, but what a wonderful use of bamboo fibres.

paper

A Stone Forest in a Bamboo Village

I was in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province recently. Hangzhou District covers not only the central city but also a number of districts and many villages. I was told by our friends in the Hangzhou Forest Academy that this is the area with most of the Moso bamboo in China – 164,000 hectares!

My main reason for my visit was to help award certificates to the ten “Most Beautiful Bamboo Villages” in Hangzhou. The competition had been organised by the Hangzhou Forest and Water Affairs Bureau, Hangzhou Culture, Radio and Television Group and Hangzhou Daily Group, in partnership with the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan -INBAR. The ceremony took place in the offices of the local TV station, and I was asked to say a few words on behalf of INBAR.

IMG_3787

It was touching to hear the emotional thank you speeches from some of the winners, and I was very happy to learn that the awards were not just decided by a panel of judges. The local people in Hangzhou had the opportunity to vote through social media, and they have been active supporters. Therefore, the lucky winners were recognized by their own peers, and this made it even more meaningful.

One of the villages that received an award was Shi Lin, which is the smallest town in China, with only some 5000 participants. The town has large bamboo resources, and we visited one of the plantations to see the big Moso culms. The village leader told us that nearly half the population depends on bamboo for its livelihood, while eco-tourism is another main form of economic development.

Twitter-bamboo-forest

Interestingly, there were a number of bent bamboo culms in the Moso plantation that we visited and when I enquired how this happened, I was told that this was a result of heavy snow fall last winter. It is difficult to imagine snow when the temperature is around 35o Celcius, but the 2015/2016 winter has been severe in this part of China. Judging from the number of damaged bamboo culms, the weight of the snow must have been considerable.

Twitter-snow-damage

The added excitement of my trip to Shi Lin was a visit to the local Stone Forest. Many years ago, I visited Shilin Stone Forest in Yunnan, and I was part of the committee that worked on the World Heritage nomination for this natural monument in southern China. I recall the discussions about the fact that this formation was rather unique, and I supported the registration of the Yunnan Stone Forest as a natural World Heritage Area. With reason:

Major Stone Forest - view1

Therefore, I was intrigued to learn that there is a stone forest in Hangzhou, and I was very grateful for the opportunity to visit the site, which is called the Qiandao Lake Stone Forest. It is a most interesting geological and morphological phenomena, although much smaller than its namesake in Yunnan. There appears to be a relatively small limestone lens between other rocks, and the surface outcrop of this limestone bed has weathered into deep karst fissures. It is still relatively unknown to the public, and we were almost the only visitors.

Twitter-Stone-Forest2

The limestone is eroded down to ten metres in some cases, creating narrow, deep trenches, and solution patters are obvious throughout. There rocks are badly weathered, and form all kinds of shapes, with the usual innovative names. There is a path that enables you to walk around, and this is tastefully constructed, without damage to any of the rocks, and without obvious concrete or other construction features.

Twitter-Crags-path

There is a cave in the area, which is a classic vadose stream passage of some ten, twelve metres high. You can traverse from the lower entrance where a stream emerges to the upper entrance, and a steep staircase allows you to climb out. I saw a good number of bats roosting on the ceiling, and there are a few Buddha statues in the lower entrance. I wonder if there are more such cave passages further along the cliff wall.

Twitter-cave-entrance

Shilin village does not only qualify for one of the “Most Beautiful Bamboo Villages”, but it would also be a candidate for a beautiful karst village.

Bamboos in Cornwall? You bet!

I visited Trebah Gardens in Cornwall in South-West England, a sub-tropical paradise near Falmouth with a stunning coastal backdrop of the Helmford River.  It is one of the Great Gardens of Cornwall and rated among the 80 finest gardens in the world.

The garden has an interesting collection of bamboos and I therefore wanted to get some photos for the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR).  The bamboos in Trebah Garden are grouped together in a specially created maze of paths known as the Bamboozle which zig-zags alongside the small stream that eventually flows into Helford River. There are some 40 different species and cultivars to be found there.

twitter_Trebah-bamboos

It surprised me to see so many bamboos in an English garden, but the micro-climate in this area is very gentle. The fairly narrow, steep valley runs north-south into Helford River, and rarely experiences frost. The steep slopes protect the plants from severe winds. It was unfortunately raining when I visited Trebah, but this clearly benefits the bamboos as well. They all look very healthy, and there were many new shoots. Bamboos shoots are a delicacy in China, and the local squirrels in Trebah Garden also like to take a bite out of new bamboo shoots. In order to avoid this, the shoots are protected with wire mesh.

twitter_protected-shoots

Most of the bamboos in Trebah Garden come from China, which is not surprising as the largest number of bamboo species are found there. But there are others in Trebah Garden as well, and I was taken by Thamnocalamus spathiflorus from the Himal Region, which is a clumping bamboo with relatively thin culms.

twitter_Thamnocalamus-spathiflorus

The Garden has several Phyllostachys species, including a hybrid that was cultivated in Trebah Garden. It has beautiful thin yellow culms. There are also several nice stands of Phyllostachys aurea. Apparently, the English name is fishpole bamboo, so it was appropriate that the bamboos are planted around a small lake. For security reasons, they have positioned a life-ring next to the healthy bamboo clump, as you can see on the following photo.

twitter_Phyllostachys-aurea_life-ring

A different species from SW China is Fargesia robusta, with a tight, non-invasive clumping habit.  It is apparently one of the earliest bamboos to break soil in spring and the white culm sheaths contrast beautifully with the dark green canes to give what is often described as a chequerboard effect

twitter_Fargesia-robusta

The common Moso bamboo from China, Phyllostachys edulis, is also very happy in Trebah Garden, and there is an information plaque about its incredible growth rate. In China, this species can grow up to one metre per day, and can reach heights of 30 metres, but the English climate does not provide for this. According to the information on the board, the growth rate in UK is up to 20cm per day and the maximum height is 6 metres. That is still a lot faster than any tree species that I know of!

twitter_Phyllostachys-edulis-info

This was a nice visit to a beautiful garden and a very interesting discovery of healthy bamboos in the UK.  For more information about bamboos in the UK, you can contact the Bamboo Society of Great Britain .  They had a meeting in Trebah Gardens last May!