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Bamboo for Africa


Bamboo forest

Food & Trees for Africa launched the Bamboo for Africa programme  in September 2010. It is now internationally accredited through the Verified Carbon Standard as a Verified Emission Reduction programme. 

This is a greening, climate change response, corporate social investment, enterprise development and black economic empowerment programme. 

Carbon offset opportunity is offered at the cost per plant which includes community training and support at R100. The proceeds from the accumulated carbon offsets are managed to support further community development programmes.

The programme is implemented alongside the FEED programme so that bamboo crops are cared for alongside organic produce by the emerging farmers and farm managers.

Minimum plantings are 230 plants or one hectare and these are currently taking place as offsets for a number of companies at the Blue Disa Farm in the Gauteng province.

Bamboo provides a high impact carbon sequestration opportunity with multi faceted community beneficiation and the programme is introduced to the community with plantings at public schools and on open/tribal land.

Forest Carbon Asia Brief No. 6   

World's first bamboo carbon offset credits issued under the VCS

How Bamboo for Africa works:

  • The programme is introduced to the community with plantings at public schools and on open/tribal land
  • FTFA receives applications for greening from disadvantaged community groups living in barren, dusty townships across South Africa
  • Plants are procured and delivered to the beneficiary sited
  • Bamboo cultivation and its income generation ability are demonstrated
  • The community is advised to form a co-operative to manage the project (FTFA works with SEDA to facilitate this)
  • Planting events (which can be branded and attended by the funders for publicity) are often held to highlight the benefits of greening and climate change action and spread awareness and education
  • FTFA and partners support and follow up annually with reports to funders

Research and Development: The development and implementation of projects involves different stakeholders and requires considerable expertise. FTFA coordinates donors, government departments, community and the necessary technical expertise. This phase is initiated through feasibility studies.

Selection Process: The selection of committed farmers is imperative if the project is to succeed.  Accordingly, FTFA has a practical screening phase to identify these committed farmers.  These farmers are existing community growers, land reform beneficiaries or community members who have shown an interest in agribusiness.  

Accredited Training: Farmers undergo exclusive Commercial Training Courses. These courses, of international standard, are designed to meet unique South African AgriSeta requirements and are intended to equip small farmers with principles of commercial farming.  The course is conducted in the language of choice and is mainly practical.


Bamboo walkwayBamboo creates the exciting potential for small scale value added manufacturing opportunities. The emergence of high energy crops opens up the opportunity for communities to share in the New Green Economy, as fast growing bamboo contributes to biomass value addition.

Larger scale local developments are planned, implemented and managed in conjunction with community beneficiation programmes

The projects combine the following, all from single project design:

  • Social Responsibility: Provide opportunities for corporate SA to reach compliance
  • Enterprise Development: Agriculture and manufacturing enterprises that are environmentally sound and sustainable
  • Environmental Responsibility: Countering soil erosion, phyto-remediation of polluted soil and water.
  • Carbon sequestering / Offset opportunities at R100 per bamboo plant.

Renewable energy options

  • Biomass Gasification: Alternative fuel for boilers and dryers
  • Fast pyrolysis oil: Replacement for No2 Bunker oil in boilers
  • Captive Gasification Co and Tri-generation
  • Bituminous coal replacement
  • Pellet fuel for home cooking and heating
  • Sustainable low cost bio-diesel
  • Renewable consumer products
  • Timber replacement
  • Steel roofing replacement
  • Animal feed
  • Soil amendment

These are the ideal planting times, dependent on site and the long-term weather forecast for the area hold, so there is some leeway:

  1. Highveld planting season: Oct to Dec
  2. Lowveld planting season: Oct to Apr
  3. Southern Cape planting season: throughout the year (depending on project site)
  4. KZN planting season: Oct to Jan
  5. Western Cape: May

Three months notice is required before the intended planting dates.

Contact '); document.write(addy95769); document.write('<\/a>'); //-->\n This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

 Frequently Asked Questions about Bamboo for Africa

1) Invasiveness

This is a clumping bamboo, which means that although the clump can expand up to 5m in diameter over a period of 50 years, it does not send out underground shoots that pop out of the ground in unexpected places. As it does not have viable seeds, it cannot invade any area.

2) Water requirement

The plant species is a dry savannah specie and grows well in areas with rainfall as low as 600mm without irrigation. Planting this species in wet or water logged areas is not advisable. Water is important during shooting season in the summer months. Total water requirement is 5000 l per year per clump. There are recoded plants growing as low as 250mm rainfall per annum, but that is the exception rather than the norm.

3) Soil requirement

It does best in well drained soils with a PH between 4 and 7. Wet clay soils results in stunted growth and low culm production.

4) Climatic conditions

The plant species grows well in temperatures between 20 ºC and 40ºC. It can withstand black frost temperatures as low as - 5 ºC without dying.

5) Why use bamboo as a carbon off-set

It has a lifespan in excess of 100 years. Unlike trees, the bamboo not only has green leaves but also a green stem which means increased photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is a process that converts carbon dioxide into organic compounds, especially sugars, using the energy from sunlight. A single bamboo clump at 3 years old can sequester as much as 950Kg CO2. This is the highest rate for any soil grown plant. 

6) How do communities benefit

The bamboo provides high protein feed for the goats and cattle kept by the communities. The bamboo provides a fuel for cooking and heating instead of coal or cutting of indigenous trees. As a fast growing biomass source it opens up the opportunity for value added manufacture which offers a direct enterprise opportunity as an out-grower or participant in the manufacturing process.  

7) Rat infestations

The reason why India and China experience rat infestation is that in that country several bamboo species flower en mass and produce thousands of tons of seed. This provides a huge food source for the rats which results in mass breeding. The problem that follows the mass flowering is that all the bamboo clumps that flowered die within 12 – 24 months. This results in a huge shortage of bamboo shoots for eating. 

8) Can we buy plants

FTFA is selling individual plants. Plant purchases are structured as follows for the planting programs:

  • FTFA’s carbon projects as off-sets or donations to the less privileged. 
  • Community Enterprise Development multi-crop planting programs.
  • Individuals may also purchase plants directly.

Bamboo HelmetInteresting facts about bamboo!!

  1. Bamboo charcoal will maintain a constant heat longer than hardwood charcoal.
  2. In 1880 Thomas Edison filed a patent for an electric lamp device that included the following description: "Filament of carbon of high resistance, made of bamboo as described, and secured to metallic wires."
  3. In Hiroshima, Japan the only plant to survive the radiation of the1945 atomic bomb was a bamboo. The incinerating heat destroyed trees and other plant life. Everything except one bamboo grove was destroyed. The grove has since been removed, but culms from the grove are preserved in a museum in Hiroshima.
  4. Bamboo, when used as fire wood, produces more BTU per weight than hardwood and makes less ash.
  5. Ethanol and liquid diesel can be produced using bamboo as the raw material. Diesel has been produced in South America since 1947.
  6. During WWII bamboo was used as reinforcement for concrete instead of steel. Clemson University conducted research on bamboo as reinforcement for concrete until the mid 1950's.
  7. Because of the strength to weight ratio of bamboo it was used for some of the first airplane designs. However, due to the difficulty of joining pieces at the time it lost out to other materials.
  8. In 1902 bamboo was used as the stylus or needle for phonographs.
  9. Bamboos grow from sea level to more than14,000 feet.
  10. Bamboo leaves have approximately 6% silica content.
  11. Bamboo can produce 2 to 6 times as much cellulose per acre as pine. Pine or mixed forests increase 2 to 5 percent per year in biomass. Groves of bamboo increase 10 to 30 percent each year.
  12. Bamboo is the favorite food of elephants and buffaloes in India, pandas in China, giant gorillas in Africa. This is just a small list of wild and domestic animals that prefer bamboo where available.
  13. Bamboo has the potential for use in the creation of a new type of auto -- one with no engine, radiator, transmission, gas tank, muffler, tail pipe, pollution or battery. The battery energy storage can be replaced by a high density super flywheel made out of bamboo. In 1974 Dr David Rabenhorst of John Hopkins University proposed such a car. The use of the flywheel propulsion in vehicles had been in use in Switzerland and the Belgium Congo from 1953 to 1967 in public buses.
  14. In South America there is evidence of a bamboo dwelling built over 9,500 years ago.
  15. The longest bamboo suspension bridge was built across the Min-Chiang River in China. First built over 1000 years ago, when it was damaged, ferry boats were used until 1803 when the bridge was rebuilt. The bridge was 850 feet long, 9 feet wide and supported by 10 woven bamboo cables 6 inches in diameter. In 1974 the bridge was replaced by a steel cable bridge.
  16. The development of gun powder in China included the siliceous skin of bamboo in addition to many other ingredients.
  17. Bamboo culms, either in the grove or as cut poles, will produce an electrical current when stressed (bent). This is true with both tension and compression.
  18. The tensile strength of pleated bamboo cables is as strong as or stronger than a steel cable of the same size. Hemp rope loses 20% of its strength when wet while bamboo cables increase in strength by as much as 20% when wet.
  19. During WWII the US Army Quartermaster Corps used bamboo to make crates for air dropping supplies to troops in Burma. Bamboo was plentiful and strong enough to withstand the drop without breaking apart. There is an example on display in the Fort Lee US Army Quartermaster Museum just outside of Petersburg, Virginia.
  20. Ski poles used by the Army in the Second World War were made out of bamboo. Guadua from South America was the main variety used.


Bamboo benefits:

  • Combats soil erosion
  • Reforests areas denuded of vegetation caused by demand for cooking fuel
  • Removes heavy metals and other pollutants from polluted water
  • Responds to climate change through carbon sequestration
  • Provides shade and creates windbreaks for food crops. Can be grown as a living fence to keep animals in or out
  • Provides food for humans in the form of shoots and animal fodder in the form of leaves
  • Assists in capturing water allowing it to percolate instead of flowing away
  • Can be planted as noise barriers and windbreaks
    Bamboo bicycle
  • Develops greener more aesthetically pleasing settlements and a better living environment
  • Provides a habitat for wildlife and improved biodiversity
  • Contributes to economic development and creation of jobs at a local level
  • Increases environmental awareness through communities locally and from publicity nationally
  • Creates opportunities for communities to enter the New Green Economy and so creates rural wealth instead of the standard poverty relief programmes
    Bamboo bicycle
  • Provides communities a sustainable clean source of cooking fuel protecting indigenous trees from destruction
  • Creates opportunities for rural industrialization to reverse the urban migration trend
  • Provides opportunities for rural communities to become energy independent
  • Is a proven successful way to fight rural poverty in a environmental friendly way