Eastern Cape bamboo initiative up and running

A small co-operative, based near Stutterheim in the Eastern Cape, has been granted R2 million to develop a bamboo plantation.

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Nolusindiso Herber, chairperson of the Ndakana Wood Products Co-operative, an integral part of the Eastern Cape Development Corporation’s (ECDC) bamboo initiative, said the funding was granted through the Local and Regional Economic Development Fund (LREDF). She said funding would allow the co-operative to plant thousands of bamboo plantlets on land in the Ndakana area by September next year.

“The R2 million will be used for an expansion project in which 40 000 bamboo plantlets will be planted,” said Herber. “In a year’s time we should have planted our first 100ha of bamboo in Ndakana.” The fund, an initiative of the Department of Economic Development and Environmental Affairs and Tourism (Dedeat), was facilitated by the ECDC, which launched the R1 million testing phase of the bamboo initiative in March last year.

The ECDC has since funded the establishment of two bamboo handcraft co-operatives in the Ndakana and Cintsa areas. Bamboo trial sites of 1,2ha near Uitenhage, 5ha at Centane Village in the former Transkei and 5ha at Ndakana Village near Stutterheim were set up. Later, 3 500 plantlets of the Bambusa bambos variety and 2 500 of the Bambusa balcooa variety were planted at the Centane and Ndakana sites.

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“We have planted several bamboo species, and subjected them to very harsh conditions so that we select the most adaptable bamboo for dryland farming,” she said. Herber said that for additional income during the experimental phase, the organisation had successfully implemented an intercropping programme and would incorporate this concept into their newly funded expansion project.

At this stage there is no definite plan for the bamboo grown in Ndakana. Project manager Sarel van der Walt said they hoped to sell it locally to an activated carbon producer, or for biomass use, but said that if there was no market by the time the bamboo was ready for harvest, they would export it as raw material.