Anyone who questions the importance of bamboo in the global quest to combat climate change need look no further than the Bamboo Village in Uganda (BVU) for evidence and inspiration. Since the turn of the century, we here at Bambu Batu have been studying the many uses of bamboo as an alternative material and as a means of restoring the earth’s precious ecology. And we are constantly amazed by the countless ways in which bamboo can be used, and the limitlessness of human ingenuity in applying those uses.
Uganda’s Bamboo Village is the brainchild of Dutch entrepreneur Henri Potze, who had a vision to fight both climate change and poverty by planting acres of bamboo in East Africa. Bamboo has proven the ideal solution in the developing nation of Uganda, as it has elsewhere in Asia and Latin America, to restore the soil, provide building materials for affordable housing, and create jobs and industry for local residents.
With a background in horticulture and a penchant for sustainability, Potze founded the BVU in 2019 on the simple model of a bamboo nursery. But it is far more than just a nursery. The BVU not only employs dozens of local villagers to propagate bamboo in the Nakasongola district of central Uganda. They also plant seeds of hope by empowering the local population to produce and sell their own bamboo products, and to develop their own skills as eco-entrepreneurs. Furthermore, the BVU invites international businesses to participate and invest in the Uganda economy by purchasing parcels and planting plots of bamboo to offset their own carbon footprints.
Bamboo in Uganda soil
As a perennial grass, bamboo is one of the most effective plants for capturing carbon and combating climate change. Bamboo grows easily without depleting the soil, and its high metabolism allows it to take in carbon dioxide and convert it into oxygen about 30-35% faster than an equal area of hardwood trees. As bamboo absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere, it sequesters the greenhouse gas in its complex root system, resulting in cleaner air for all of us.
Most residents of the Nakasongola district of Uganda work in low intensity agriculture, where they commonly grow crops like cassava, sweet potatoes, bananas, cotton and coffee. The BVU plantation provides more agriculture positions for gardeners, field managers and bamboo specialists. But it has also created a host of higher skilled job opportunities.
Utilizing bamboo in Uganda
The history of European colonialism in Africa has long meant extracting local resources from the rich land and taking those raw materials back to Europe and America to produce finished goods with greater value. Bamboo is a resource that Africans can work with easily even without factories or heavy industry. The BVU is using bamboo to build houses for local villagers in this area where other materials, like lumber and steel, are scarce and expensive. The village can currently host up to 200 families and looks forward to building a school, church and medical facility on the premises.
Bamboo grows quickly and easily, provides a very strong building material, and is easy to work with. It requires little or no fertilizer and is not susceptible to pests or diseases. A grove of bamboo can reach maturity within four or five years, and then is ready to be harvested. As it is harvested, the bamboo continues to grow, like the grass that it is. Farmers don’t have to replant new rows of bamboo after each harvest.
In addition to building homes and structures from their hardy bamboo culms, the BVU also produces a full line of crafts and smaller products which they sell in their gift shop and online. The products range from simple bamboo keychains to more elegant planters and bamboo carvings. Local craftspeople create these attractive, eco-friendly items, and they hope to start selling them in bamboo shops and eco-boutiques worldwide.
Carbon footprint assessments
Globally speaking, bamboo’s greatest value is probably its ability to sequester carbon. With this in mind, the BVU offers a formula to calculate the carbon footprint of your own household, business or other travel activities. Knowing roughly how many kilos of carbon you produce each year, BVU gives you the option to offset your carbon footprint by planting a plot of bamboo.
On average, every square meter of bamboo at BVU can absorb 267 kilos of CO2 annually, according to their website. With only 4 square meters you can compensate more than a tonne (1,000 kilos) of carbon. By investing in a plot of bamboo in the village, you become a member of their carbon compensation project. In this way, you too can help the planet and the people of Uganda.
The Concept Center
The newest and perhaps most ambitious component of this already incredible project is the BVU Concept Center. Opened in late 2019 in the nearby city of Kampala, the Concept Center serves as the home of the Bamboo Start-up Academy. Here they support bamboo entrepreneurs with training in product development, marketing and sales. These crucial business skills enable enterprising people of Uganda to turn their product ideas into profitable and sustainable businesses.
Learn more about the Bamboo Village of Uganda or contact them through their website. To read more about the many benefits of bamboo, check out some of our other informative articles. And please consider subscribing to our blog. What are you doing to reduce your carbon footprint?
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