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23.11.2004 Business & Finance

Help develop bamboo as alternative to timber - Fobih

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Accra, Nov. 23, GNA - The Ministry of Lands and Forestry on Tuesday called for a collaborative effort by all stakeholders in the formulation of appropriate strategies of bamboo preservation as an alternative to timber.

Professor Dominic Fobih, Minister for Lands and Forestry, said bamboo and rattan resources, which together constituted the two largest non-timber forest products in Ghana, had a wide range of socio-economic and environmental benefits and needed to be well developed for better profits.

The Minister, who was speaking at a two-day strategic conference on the development of bamboo and rattan resources, said Ghana was endowed with the raw material, which had shorter gestation period, compared to timber trees.

He said the advantages and the usefulness of the bamboo tree were numerous. Apart from its socio-economic benefits it could be used as a suitable material for land rehabilitation, erosion checks, reduce soil cutting from riverbanks and reduction of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

The Minister noted that though much education and awareness on the benefits of the bamboo tree had yielded fruits, evidence of which was the current widespread use of bamboo products like sitting and dinning room chairs, bed and other decorations by artisans, there was the need to move into broader production to feed future factories.

He said the Ministry would involve other organisations and ministries to ensure that bamboo and rattan production and development became a viable venture to ensure wealth creation for the youth.

Mrs Gifty Ohui Allotey, Programme Administrator of the Ministry, said if treated well bamboo could last for over 400 years, but said field experiences on some locally manufactured products showed that some persons were using harmful chemicals for preservation.

"This is not acceptable to international market standards and could be banned if detected at the world market."

She called for the formulation of an appropriate policy on bamboo preservation to regulate activities of the industry and ensure its growth.

Mrs Allotey said the Ministry was mandated under the President's Special Initiative on Forest Plantation Development to promote bamboo and rattan plantation and industry development as a complement to the wood industry.

This would reduce the pressure on the natural forest for timber and increase income and employment opportunities for the rural poor. She said the Ministry had trained about 320 persons in eight communities and 20 other members of staff of the Forestry Services Division under the Bamboo and Rattan Development Programme (BARADEP) on the nursing, proper harvesting and processing of bamboo.

BARADEP, apart from the training, provided some selected communities with entrepreneurial skills in the processing of the resource to serve as an alternative source of livelihood.

"This has provided jobs for about 75 unemployed in the processing of bamboo into handicraft, furniture and fence making." Mrs Allotey said that there was the need to redouble efforts on the propagation of bamboo so as to gather enough raw material and resource to feed the factories that would be active in the near future in the production of bamboo T and G, plywood and other products.

"These would require large volumes of bamboo and we hope those communities will put to use the skills given in propagation at the appropriate time."

Mr Leander Sancheba, Principal Technician, Subri Industrial Plantations Limited at Daboase, said since the traditional bamboo in Ghana had high sugar content there was the need to ensure proper preservation to ensure durability.

He further called for diversity of species to ensure wider plantations.

Mr Sancheba said the industry was faced with challenges such as lack of knowledge and skill on propagation, harvesting and preservation and called for intensified education on those areas for maximum development. 23 Nov. 04

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