Dear Minister of Forestry and Natural Resources,
December 15 to April 15 is the National Forestry Season.
The Department of Forestry in your ministry, has set a nationwide target of planting about 40 million trees throughout the 2021/22 season.
Such a number of trees has been planted or surpassed in the past, but there is nothing much to write about because it is one thing to plant a tree and another to look after it until it grows to replace those we keep felling wantonly.
To compound the situation, we have been planting trees every year without protecting existing forests under siege. This does not show any seriousness on our part as a nation.
Perhaps, the talk about climate change was more of an academic sermon than a talk about the reality on the ground as illustrated by irregular rainfall patterns and unusually high temperatures experienced at the start of this rainy season.
It is against this backdrop that I write you to consider including bamboo seedlings in 2021/22 season or in the immediate future.
There are many reasons why this can make a difference.
Firstly, bamboos, especially Oxytenanthera abyssinica are drought-resistant and resilient. They can withstand and are well adapted to long dry seasons and irregular rainfall patterns.
The big bamboo can grow in areas with a minimal annual rainfall of between 350-800 milimetres.
This means we can be assured of higher survival rates irrespective of the worsening effects of climate change.
Another beauty about bamboo is that unlike trees, where even the fastest-growing species can only be harvested after 15 to 25 years later, bamboos can be harvested continuously from three to four years.
This means that bamboo can be a reliable source of revenue and green cover for the country if planted widely.
This is because bamboos, just like trees, have important uses. Apart from being a source of firewood and charcoal, they are used for making building materials, furniture, boards, paper, food, beverage, fibre, clothes and traditional medicine.
We also need bamboos to be part of tree-planting season because their green cover can sequester four times as much carbon dioxide as hardwood trees.
Essentially, this means that bamboo plants help a greater deal than trees in checking global warming by reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, producing the oxygen we breathe.
It is recorded that bamboos take 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide per hectare in a wild environment, 60 tonnes in a farmed environment compared to just16 tonnes per hectare for trees.
Bamboos are naturally known as amazing water purifiers because of their ability to successfully filter dirty or heavy water. This means that heavily polluted water in city-splitting rivers such as Mudi, Lilongwe, Likangala and Lunyangwa can be cleaned up by simply planting bamboo plants along its banks.
Bamboo shoots grow quickly, outgrowing weeds. This slashes the cost of care needed for the survival of their seedlings.
Bamboos are known to creates 35 percent more oxygen than trees.
It can therefore make sense to plant bamboo seedlings on all bare hills and places in cities such as Blantyre, Zomba, Mzuzu and Lilongwe.
This is because industrial and other economic activities in these cities have polluted air thereby denying residents fresh air.
Bamboos are also used for controlling soil erosion. It is excellent in gully or riverine areas as a tool for erosion control.
To control the loss of soil, plant bamboos at five metres by five metres or 400 plants per hectare.
Now is the time, Honourable Minister, to try bamboos. After all, some companies in the country have the capacity to locally produce bamboo seedlings.