Bamboo cultivation and its use in productsranging from furniture to biofuel andbaskets, is set to take off in the EasternCape province.(Image: Wikimedia)Emily van RijswijckIt is one of the fastest growing plants in the world and has a multiplicity of uses, from the manufacture of biofuel to decor accessories, furniture and building materials.A miracle plant? No, just the ordinary bamboo, a plant usually associated with Asia and giant pandas, but one which also proves to be well adapted to the dryer conditions of the Eastern Cape.And it is these qualities – and the potential to alleviate poverty in South Africa’s poorest province – which have convinced the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) to embark on pilot projects for the cultivation and production of bamboo and its related products.Already a one hectare plot at St Albans near Port Elizabeth has been planted with the evergreen grass, with another two, larger projects of five hectares each taking shape in Centani in the former Transkei and at Ndakana near Stutterheim.The three projects are funded by the ECDC for the benefit of the Eastern Cape community and the plants will be harvested according to the market that is available at that time, confirmed Ken Bern, regional head of the East London-based ECDC.“We are hoping to be able to harvest the first shoots for hand weaving in two years’ time,” he said. For hardwood products used in the making of floorboards or furniture, the bamboo shoots would have to be matured to at least five years.Economically viable within five yearsBamboo can grow at an incredible rate. In temperate conditions it shoots up at three to 10 centimetres per day; in ideal conditions by as much as 100 centimetres per day. One hectare can yield anything from 20 to 40 tons of bamboo and can be economically viable within five years of planting.But it is its incredible adaptability to different, often poor soil conditions and its numerous applications which makes it such an attractive crop, especially for the poorer rural communities of the Eastern Cape.Clumps of these plants can be found around the province, showing that it can grow here successfully, said Pelo Gabaraane, MD of SA Bamboo, the company which has been commissioned by the ECDC to manage the Centani and Ndakana pilots.“The plant is regenerative and fast growing, and provides tremendous potential to fight poverty in the province.”Gabaraane and his colleague Nkosinathi William are project managers at the Centani and Ndakana plantations.Five people have already been employed at each plot and will actively be running the project, with SA Bamboo overseeing operations. For the moment the projects will remain small as this provides the ideal conditions for training the community in the aspects of cultivation and processing, said Gabaraane.“For the moment, the projects are not economically viable. It is simply useful as a teaching mechanism,” he confirmed.The bamboo organisation is already in negotiations with the Department of Economic Development to secure funds for the eventual extension of the project in Ndakana to 300 hectares to achieve greater economic viability, said Gabaraane.At least 300 people will be able to find direct employment at a project of this scale. In the meantime, while the bamboo shoots are small, the land will also be used for intercropping with the planting of vegetables between the bamboo rows.Downstream productsThe pilot projects will focus on passing on skills training for the supply of raw materials in three bamboo related products: basket weaving; furniture and building materials; and biofuels.At the moment South African bamboo furniture producers import all their raw materials from oversees. The Eastern Cape community has the potential to eventually tap into this lucrative market once they start to produce their own bamboo crops on large a scale, Gabaraane believes.“It is important to realise that there are two aspects to the pilot projects, both of which provides skill transfer and employment opportunities,” he said. ”These are the actual cultivating of the product and the downstream processing of the product. We want to make sure that the projects bring about real, viable economic benefits to the larger Eastern Cape community in the long term.”The basket weaving project gets going in January 2012 in Ndakana, with SA Bamboo sourcing mature plants from around the province to train five local women in the equipment and weaving processes used. These products will be available in curio shops around the area.“We believe the community has to be involved in the project from the beginning, from the actual planning phases all the way to the growing and processing of the raw product.”A big stalk of grass Genetically speaking, bamboo is just a very big, sturdy stalk of grass: a stalk of grass with amazing properties. It is said to be able to absorb 30% more carbon than trees and has the ability to grow rapidly in diverse conditions.While pine plantations will only be able to yield a harvest in 20 years, producers of bamboo will be able to harvest their bamboo in no more than five years.In South Africa, the Indian species Bambusa balcooa has been completely naturalised and has been around for over 300 years. As a hardwood for furniture and building related applications, it has no equal.South Africa only has one indigenous bamboo species, the hardy Thamnocalamus tessellatus or berg bamboo. This plant grows in its typical clumps all around the colder Drakensberg region in the south-east of the country.
The Manipur government’s plan to set up a bird sanctuary at the Loktak lake in Bishnupur district has met with stiff opposition from the villagers in nearby areas.A large number of residents of Thingnunggei village took out a massive procession against the government’s proposal on Sunday.“The villagers of Thingnunggei are poor and they have no other means of earning a livelihood except for catching fish and plucking vegetables from the lake. If fishing is banned in the lake, the villagers would starve. We are all for protection of birds, most of whom are migratory, but the new scheme should not be implemented at the cost of the poor villagers,” said one of the protesters.Declining number Thousands of migratory birds flock to the Loktak lake, the largest freshwater lake in north-eastern India, every year. However, in the past few years there has been a sharp decline in the number of migratory birds coming to the lake.Reports indicate that bird poachers are active in the area, targeting the winged guests. Officials of the forest department’s wildlife wing say in view of the widespread bird poaching at the lake, setting up of the sanctuary is a must. Birdwatchers on the other hand blame human intrusion, bird poaching and hydroelectric power project near the lake for the decline in the number of migratory birds and brow-antlered deer in the Keibul Lamjao national park in the vicinity.Brow-antlered deerSome decades ago, the villagers of the lake islets had agitated against setting up of the Keibul Lamjao National Park, the natural habitat of the endangered brow-antlered deer. They wanted the land demarcated for the park to be made available to them for cultivating paddy.Now, several years later, the latest census suggests that there are only 260 brow-antlered deer in the Keibul Lamjao national park.
Teachers in Eastern St. Thomas, who wish to upgrade their skills, can benefit from grants and scholarships being offered by the Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, through the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).Making the announcement in his contribution to the 2013/14 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives, on Tuesday, June 25, Dr. Ferguson said the grants for teacher study upgrade and the scholarships are valued at more than $60,000 each.The grants from the CDF are being bolstered by funds from the Friends of Eastern St. Thomas – Jamaica and New York Chapters; while the scholarships are being made possible through the Dr. Fenton Ferguson Scholarship for Teachers.The Minister emphasized that he is committed to the educational development of his constituents, and pointed out that “the greatest allocation from my Constituency Development Fund has historically been to education and this has not changed.”“This past year, we committed support to infrastructure upgrade, equipment, scholarships, school appliances, and assistance to needy students,” Dr. Ferguson said, as he outlined his stewardship in Eastern St. Thomas.The Minister further informed that he will be continuing this year, the award of $10,000 each for the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) Top Performing Boy and Girl, from the 21 primary schools in his constituency as well as the hosting of the annual luncheon in their honour.Contact: Alecia Smith-Edwards
Addressing a National Energy Solutions Limited (NESol) ceremony to officially commission electricity service to the Park Lee and Ridge Pen communities in Mountainside, South West St. Elizabeth, on August 18, Dr. Wheatley said getting electricity to the community should also be viewed as mission accomplished, following a commitment he made to the residents early last year. “By bringing electricity here we are opening the doors and providing opportunities for the people,” the Minister said. He told the residents that following representation from Member of Parliament for South West St. Elizabeth, Hon. Floyd Green, a community access point (CAP) will soon be opened in the area. Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, Dr. the Hon. Andrew Wheatley, says the provision of electricity in communities which were previously without the service forms part of the Government’s push to create economic opportunities for everyone. Story Highlights Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, Dr. the Hon. Andrew Wheatley, says the provision of electricity in communities which were previously without the service forms part of the Government’s push to create economic opportunities for everyone.Addressing a National Energy Solutions Limited (NESol) ceremony to officially commission electricity service to the Park Lee and Ridge Pen communities in Mountainside, South West St. Elizabeth, on August 18, Dr. Wheatley said getting electricity to the community should also be viewed as mission accomplished, following a commitment he made to the residents early last year.“By bringing electricity here we are opening the doors and providing opportunities for the people,” the Minister said.He encouraged the residents who will benefit from the electricity to remember the responsibilities which come with the service.“It is not free…it comes with responsibility, so I encourage you to be responsible and to practise energy conservation,” he said.He told the residents that following representation from Member of Parliament for South West St. Elizabeth, Hon. Floyd Green, a community access point (CAP) will soon be opened in the area.This, the Minister said, is part of the Ministry’s push to get Jamaica on the information super highway as the country works to attain its Vision 2030 developmental goals.“The community access point is to ensure that we build out a knowledge based society – a truly digital society – so that Jamaica can embrace the opportunities that are presented as the economy grows. We do not want South West St. Elizabeth to be left behind,” he said.“We want to create opportunities for young people, such as skills in animation and app development. Even in the farming communities you will be able to use technology,” the Minister added.Meanwhile, the Member of Parliament said the installation of electricity in the communities form part of efforts to restore hope for the residents.“This is part of the reason why I went into politics…to make the lives of people better. There is a lot more work to be done and we are going to ensure that we go community by community and look at the critical issues and treat with them. In this modern day Jamaica, you must have road, water and light that you can turn on. It is now a necessity,” Mr. Green said.Also addressing the ceremony was Mayor of Black River and Councillor for the Mountainside Division of the St. Elizabeth Municipal Corporation, Derrick Sangster, who said residents of the communities are really happy that the service is being made available to them.Some 150 households in the Park Lee and Ridge Pen communities will benefit from the electricity service.