Employment generation with Bamboo


The ultimate goal of development is self-reliance using local resources with local skills to satisfy local needs. In this context bamboo is an ideal material. It is a local material with traditional skills to use it in many applications. Production can start as a home-based activity.  Bamboo craft is currently not a full day's activity but is done in balance with other activities like agriculture and livestock husbandry, but it has great livelihood potential. 


In creating jobs with bamboo, there should be a kind of social contract between the environment and the local population. This requires symbiotic linkages into the process itself: the initial processing takes place at the level of the rural poor families, and the final processing is at industry level, with both sectors being interdependent.


In many regions of India bamboo are being cultivated increasingly as plantations. One constraint to bamboo-led job creation is the prevailing notion that bamboo is something that belongs to the past or as a poor man's material. Also many craft persons in the villages do not see a future in the craft and want their children to pursue a different profession. Traditionally, the handicraft sector is an enormous source of employment, skill and know-how. Products have always been sold at local markets, but the radical economic changes taking place mean that new markets have to be explored. The low level of education of the local worker, the shortage of capital, and a lack of understanding about markets are constraints to be overcome. On the other hand, now that consumers are becoming environmentally conscious, they are demanding "green design" and taking an interest in the total life-cycle of a product, including its long-term environmental impact. 


Harvesting creates employment, too. Projects in India have revealed that eight to ten person days are needed to harvest one ton of bamboo. In India, each year bout 4.5 million tonnes of bamboo are harvested commercially, which means 45 million person days. After the harvest, loading and unloading, stacking and handling need two person days per tonne.


New Industrial products from bamboo provide immense additional employment opportunities. An Indian study estimates that if one quarter of the plywood production in India is replaced by bamboo mat board, additional employment of about 66 million person days per annum would be created specially for rural women in mat weaving, virtually weaving money at home, in addition to protecting 8,000 ha of natural forests and collateral ecological benefits.


For Costa Rica, it has been calculated that 1,000 houses built with timber require the destruction of 560 ha of rainforest. Built with bamboo, a 60 had bamboo plantation would be sufficient. Among the advantages of bamboo houses is  because of the wood's elastic characteristics - their resistance to hurricanes and earthquakes. In the author's opinion bamboo creates many opportunities which are still not being used to the full. This hinders sustainable development and prevents the local population from developing a balanced relationship with the environment. 


Further reading:
  • Billing K./Gerger, M., Bamboo as a substitute for wood in construction - away to reduce deforestation in Costa Rica?, Stockholm School of Economics, minor field study series no. 12, 1995, 79 pp. 


  • Stiles, D., Tribals and Trade: a strategy for cultural and ecological survival.  Ambio vol. 23 no 2, pp 106-111 


  • Nagi, K, Bamboo: a people-oriented approach, in: Bamboo, people and the environment. Proceedings of the International Bamboo Workshop and Congress, Ubud, vol. 4, 1995, pp 70-77 


  • Jules J. A. Janssen teaches and researches at the Eindhoven University of Technology (The Netherlands).

© IPIRTI, All rights Reserved