United Nation Development Programme resident representative Shigeki Komatsubara says the $1.2 million (about K1 billion) Afribam Bamboo Plantation in the country will boost the economy through sustainable charcoal production.
He said the plantation has potential to save Malawi’s forests as it can produce charcoal and timber for the next 100 years.
Komatsubara said this after touring the AfriBam Giant Bamboo Farm in Mchinji last Thursday.
He said: “This is the largest bamboo plantation in southern Africa and is environmental-friendly. It will be producing charcoal for energy needs for many years to come and combat climate change.”
Komatsubara said they started working on the project with Forest and Garden Services, managers of the plantation in 2015.
He said UNDP contributed $595 847 (about K506 million) towards financing of the 200-acre plantation through the Malawi Innovation Challenge (Micf), while Forest and Garden Services pumped in $669 284 (about K568 million).
“You can see the results of our collaboration. The plantation has great potential to help Malawi produce charcoal and timber. Bamboo is less labour intensive and saves forests,” said Komatsubara.
Afribam Bamboo Plantation managing director Grant Blumrick said they produce about 350 kilogrammes of bamboo everyday which is sold for both industrial and household use.
He said currently they are working to establish a processing factory to get the best value from the bamboo farm.
Said Blumrick: “We have proved that if you grow the right variety of bamboo, you can be see big returns within three to four years. There is great industrial demand for bamboo in the country.”
He said the trickle-down effect of the project is that apart from creating jobs, the farm is training locals in the surrounding area to establish their own small bamboo farms.
Ministry of Trade director of trade Charity Msonzo said the project will greatly contribute to the country’s foreign exchange earnings.
“This is a big project not only as an alternative source of fuel but because it is reducing deforestation.
It will also help boost foreign exchange through products exported.” she said.
Malawi is one of 27 countries throughout Africa that have committed to restoring more than 100 million hectares of degraded and deforested landscapes as part of the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative.