The move is part of the government’s effort to restore the degraded forests and increase forest cover
Uganda targets to plant 375,000 hectares of bamboo, as part of the strategies to increase forest cover countrywide.
The 10-year project which is to kick start in the financial year 2019/20 is to cost sh297bn.
It is going to be implemented by the ministry of water and environment through the National Forestry Authority (NFA). It will be funded by the Dutch-Sino Program through the International Centre for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) with support from the government.
This was revealed at the review and validation of the national Bamboo Development Strategy workshop at City Royal Resort Hotel in Bugolobi, Kampala.
The consultant of the strategy, Dickson Council Langoya, said currently Uganda has only 67,000ha of bamboo in protected areas.
He stressed that under the strategy, they want to increase the growing bamboo with an additional of 375,000ha outside protected areas and on private land.
Langoya said the move is part of the government's effort to restore the degraded forests and increase forest cover.
"The country is already implementing the program of forest land restoration where Uganda has committed to restoring 2.5m hectares of land and 15% of NFA land for restoration should be for bamboo," he added.
He stressed that under the project, 28-30% of bamboo should be on the government land and 72% on private land.
Langoya said the strategy focuses on promoting bamboo planting for livelihood development, sustainable management and utilisation of bamboo, encourage bamboo growing as a sustainable resource, adopt bamboo for watershed development, forest and landscape restoration; and climate change mitigation and adaptation among others.
The strategy also focuses on the return of investment; improved knowledge management, education and research in bamboo and improving governance and institutional arrangement.
Langoya said Uganda already has two types of Bamboo including; the highland bamboo found in mountain regions like on Mt Elgon, Kisoro, Kabale, Mgahinga and Rwenzori area; and the lowland bamboo mainly found in Northern Uganda and West Nile region.
He explained that unlike other tree species, bamboo is regarded as grass and regenerates quickly in a short period of time with big economic benefits on top of conserving the environment.
"It is very good for climate change mitigation and adaptation because of its fast growth. Worldwide, the bamboo industry has about $3bn a year (market) and Uganda could contribute from that trade," he added.
The NFA executive director, Tom Okello Obong, said the strategy is aimed at streamlining the management and conservation of bamboo.
"Uganda is picking interest in bamboo upon realisation of the importance of bamboo as a crop. It has a very big importance to the social contribution and environment of the country. It has been proven in countries like China and India where they have had bamboo for the last 40 years," he noted.
He said, unlike other trees, bamboo can be used for conserving the environment and can produce over 10,000 products.
Okello said they intend to use bamboo for landscape restoration, restoration of river banks, wetlands and fragile ecosystems among others.
He explained that bamboo has an elaborate fibrous root system which can stop erosion, mudslides and landslides.
"Bamboo grows very fast depending on the various species. In five years you can harvest and you can harvest it continuously because it propagates without planting another seedling like other tree species," he expounded.
Langoya noted that bamboo is an indigenous crop in Uganda but they want to modernise it and add value for industrial productions like producing paper to create employment among others.
In 2017, the World Trade Organization estimated that Uganda might be importing paper worth $300m.
Okello said if the country has enough bamboo, they expect investors to establish industries like that of paper to create jobs.
"We want to see how we bring bamboo to farm level so that farmers can easily access it. We want to establish farmers groups within the protected areas which we can use to propagate bamboo outside the protected areas. We shall support them financially and planting material depending on the resource envelop," he added.
Bamboo seedlings can be accessed the Namanve national seed Centre and other private seed centres in Kyaliwajjala and Bombo. A seedling of bamboo costs between sh3,000 and sh8,000. Okello said they intend to produce more seedlings to reduce on the cost.
He said there is a high demand for bamboo, yet very few farmers are engaged in management and plantation.
Statistics from Uganda Bamboo Association shows a membership of 400 including individuals and institutions among others.
"Little has been put on development, management and trade in bamboo in Uganda," he added.
According to the UN Comtrade database 2014-16, that annual trade of bamboo from Uganda stood at $304,000 for import and $203,672 for export.
"There is a huge potential that bamboo can offer for production of timber substitute for the production of timber substitute products, energy, fibre, furniture and craft products among others," he added.
The commissioner forestry sectors support department (FSSD), Margaret Adata said bamboo development can make a significant contribution towards restoring the 2.5m ha by 2035. Uganda's forest cover has reduced to approximately, between 9-12% as by 2015 with an annual loss of 122,000ha from 24% forest cover in 1990.
Jayaraman Durai from INBAR said there is a need to develop standards to manage the bamboo industry for sustainability for steady industrial development and environmental conservation.
"That is why this strategy is important. We need to look at the overall goal and guiding principle, and the stakeholders in the value chain. We want to make planting material available and affordable," he said.
Facts about Bamboo
Bamboo can be propagated through producing seeds, stem or stems with roots.
It takes about six months to a year in a nursery bed. It takes three to five or seven years to mature for harvest, depending on the species.
Bamboo species can grow anywhere apart from two types (mountain bamboo and low land bamboo).
Bamboo is spaced depending on the size ranging from 3ft to 7ft. It can be planted in most soil types but generally grows best in a moderately acidic, well-drained, moist, fertile loamy soil and sandy loam soils.