Bamboo to reverse land degradation in Pakistan
“Bamboo can be a critical part of Pakistan’s ongoing efforts to reforest degraded land as well as create jobs and reduce poverty,” said Muhammad Umar Farooq, the director of Rangeland Research Institute, National Agriculture Research Center Park Road Islamabad.
“Bamboo is like gold for poor farmers. Our farmers use it for sheltering, ski folding and use them as roofs, furniture, mats and decoration pieces. They can earn 1000 to 3000 rupees daily per person right from the fields to the factories.” Umar Farooq told us that they specified the planting requirements to the farmers, such as the plant-to-plant distance. “If the number of plants per acre is more, then the production will be improved.”
Landslides, wind erosion and desertification are converting irrigated lands. In Pakistan, around 27 thousand hectares of land face deforestation per year. Umar suggested that all the associated departments coordinate and address the issues through bamboo plantation.
“I prefer bamboo because it is a fast-growing plant. Trees like pine take 20 to 25 years to meet the requirements. Bamboo is a plant which can fully grow in 4 to 5 years. Within 4 years, 18 to 20 smaller plants can be grown around the bamboo, and these smaller plants are very beneficial in land holding. After the rainfall, the soil will not erode, the plants' root system will be holding the soil. Similarly, when melted glaciers cause floods and hit the plants, they still hold the soil and protect it from erosion.” He said.
Bamboo industry in Pakistan is not well-organized. However, things will change as Pakistan became a permanent member of The International Network of Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), an organization headquartered in China that promotes environmentally sustainable development using bamboo. Umar Farooq believes that there will be more Pak-China cooperation in the bamboo industry in the future.
“The industry can produce different products. For example, China is producing bamboo floors, and even bamboo fiber--the world’s most expensive fiber. If we take guidance from them and give attention to the bamboo sector under the umbrella of INBAR, we can enhance the economy of the country.” Umar Farooq noted.
China is home to over 800 species of bamboo, and ranks first in bamboo research worldwide. Umar Farooq suggested joint research on bamboo germplasm. “China exports 65 percent of the world’s bamboo. We are not even exporting 1 percent compared to them. They have a diversity of bamboo plants, so the exchange of germplasm is very important.” He added.