Cultivating the Timber of the Future in Nicaragua

Environmentalists are hopeful that the commercial cultivation of bamboo in Nicaragua will save the country’s ancient hardwood forests from being stripped for their timber. Deforestation has a huge impact on climate change as the number of available trees to absorb carbon dioxide dwindles. However, as the world’s population continues to grow, the demand for timber grows with it, and the commercial exploitation of previously untouched areas becomes difficult to control. The development of an alternative to hardwood would go a long way to reducing the rate of deforestation, and bamboo has the potential of being that alternative.

Counted among the fastest-growing plants in the world (up to 100cm in 24 hours), Bamboo has long been used in Asian countries as a strong, flexible and versatile material for construction, as well as a food source and a raw product from which all manner of practical and decorative items are made. As the largest members of the grass family, there are more than 10 genera of bamboo, and up to 1,450 species. With some occurring naturally in Asia, Northern Australia, India, the Himalayas, sub-Saharan Africa and the Americas, bamboo species have found their way virtually around the world and are able to grow in diverse climates and terrain.

If industries can be convinced of the fact that bamboo can be used in place of hardwood for virtually any application, and the supply of bamboo can meet the potential demand, there is a good chance that bamboo will become the “timber” of the future. With their Central American operations based in Nicaragua, EcoPlanet Bamboo aims to develop the cultivation of bamboo and to ensure that the product is marketed efficiently. Backed by the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), despoiled land is being converted into plantations for the commercial cultivation of bamboo. A pre-processing facility will be set up in Nicaragua, with a view to exporting bamboo fiber to the United States and other multinational timber manufacturers where the product will be used to manufacture laminates, furniture, paper and other products.

Already up to 4,800 acres of degraded land has been turned into bamboo plantations, providing jobs for more than 300 local people in one of the country’s poorest areas, El Rama, and is also promoting literacy in the community. In November 2012, EcoPlanet Bamboo became the first company to receive the Kyoto Protocol supported Verified Carbon Standard rating for its Nicaraguan plantations, thereby setting a global benchmark for bamboo carbon projects.