Home Crops Uganda Encourages Bamboo Farming to Combat Deforestation & Promote Sustainability

Uganda Encourages Bamboo Farming to Combat Deforestation & Promote Sustainability

by Grace Kisembo

A lush green bamboo forest 65 kilometres north of Uganda’s capital Kampala is the creation of former journalist-turned-farmer Andrew Ndawula Kalema.

Kalema transitioned from journalism to bamboo cultivation in order to assist to the East African country’s environmental recovery. Uganda had 6.93 million hectares of tree cover in 2010, accounting for 29% of its total area. It lost 49,000 hectares of tree cover in 2021, equivalent to 23.5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the East African country has lost almost a million hectares of forest cover, accounting for nearly one-third of the total. With Uganda losing hundreds of hectares of forest cover owing to population pressure and illegal logging, public and individual efforts to restore degraded land have become critical. According to Kalema, bamboo, which grows quickly and adapts to diverse climatic conditions, is critical to minimising the consequences of climate change in Uganda.

“It can restore our environment much more quickly. It can absorb 30% more CO2 and provide 30% more oxygen, and it can create the green effect quickly, relieving strain on our treasured trees,” he says. “Bamboo, you cut it down, it grows back in a season, so it’s a kind of magic bullet that we need to use in our fight to save our environment.” Ndawula Kalema has been improving his bamboo plantation, which he started as a pastime in 2009.

Growing bamboo in farmer’s fields was unheard of just a few years ago, as the plant was mostly observed growing in the wild. That is no longer the case, as a growing number of farmers are turning to bamboo farming for its income-generating benefits.

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However, bamboo seedlings are expensive, which Ndawula Kalema believes may inhibit farmers. “The issue we’re seeing is that the price of a seedling is still very high; one seedling costs about a dollar.” Others are even more expensive, charging up to ten dollars per seedling – it’s a turnoff,” he says.

“People are becoming aware of the value bamboo has in conservation work, in conserving our soils, in conserving our environment, and they want planting material, but they can’t afford it.” Ndawula Kalema has opened his farm to students from other institutions to help promote knowledge of bamboo planting throughout the country. He claims that students will serve as bamboo farming ambassadors.

“Bamboo is well-known for its durability and resilience. There are thousands of possible products. There are numerous high-value products, but the export market requires standards and volumes that we do not yet have; we must encourage more people to grow bamboo,” he explained.

By ; Shivam Dwivedi

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