By Patrick Jaramogi
For several years the Bagisu from Mbale and the slopes of Mountain Elgon have enjoyed Kamalea (bamboo shoots) as a nice delicacy sauce. However, new innovations (emerging from China) indicate that Kamalea is not just food but has a wide range of use.
New Vision has established that Uganda will soon stop the importation of toothpicks from China, one of the products of bamboo.
A team of Chinese officials from the China National Bamboo Research Center (CBRC) are currently in the country to collaborate with government of Uganda to set up bamboo satellite villages.
Environment state minister, Flavia Munaaba who led a team of technicians to China last year to learn the intricacies of the modern technology said bamboo would cease being a waste.
“For years we have only eaten the sheath of bamboo (kamalea) and made rudimentary hand crafts but after we visited China we learnt a lot and that is why this team is here to help us boost this technology,” she said at the side-lines of the visit by the Chinese team to Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI) on Monday.
Munaaba told New Vision that the Chinese had donated a tooth picking plant to UIRI for manufacture of toothpicks.
“The plant is here all that we need is for an interested party to come and get started because UIRI is at the moment making test samples,” she said.
She said uses of bamboo range from edible bamboo shoots to construction, medicine, bamboo fabric or biofuel.
Munaaba said bamboo panels, especially floors are on demand all over the world, because they have the texture of marble and the elegance of wood.
“Bamboo products are strong, durable, smooth, clean, and resistant to humidity.
As government we have already partnered with the Chinese government to manufacture these here because we have the raw materials,” she said.
The Chinese delegation inspecting mats and curtains made from bamboo
The UIRI Bamboo project officer, Julius Turyamwijukya said they have made 5 million toothpicks using local bamboo since they returned from China.
“Another plant is in Kabale because it is near the bamboo forest in Kisoro. All we need now is an entrepreneur to inject in money for buying raw materials and use the plant at UIRI,” said Turyamwijukya.
David Ebong the National Forest Authority (NFA) board chair, the government body set to spearhead the bamboo satellite villages said the Chinese have earmarked $10 million (shs245b) for putting up bamboo value addition plants across the country.
“Apart from being eaten as food, bamboo is used in China for making furniture, utensils (chopsticks), paper, curtains, mats, shirts, musical instruments and décor,” he said.
He said UIRI had so far made over 1000 meters of mat from bamboo.
“With the funds, medicine extracted from bamboo will be manufactured here and exported,” said Ebong.
Liquids from bamboo can also be used to treat infections due to its important nutrients.