The increasing demand for bamboo in Lamwo, a district in Uganda, has raised concerns among residents, particularly those who rely on bamboo for their livelihoods. Bamboo, a versatile and durable material, is used in various applications, including construction, furniture making, and even as a source of income through craftwork. However, the surge in bamboo harvesting is causing worries about the sustainability of this resource.
Denis Okello, a resident of Agu Village, Dibolyec Parish, Lokung East Sub-County, has been crafting items like chicken coops, granaries, and seedling fences using bamboo. While these products are in demand and provide him with a source of income, Okello and others like him have noticed an increase in bamboo harvesting over the past five years, which threatens their livelihoods.
The demand for bamboo has grown in part due to the depletion of other trees used for charcoal production. Bamboo, especially the lowland bamboo species, is native to Africa and has become an essential resource for various industries, from construction to paper and fabric making.
In Lamwo, the bamboo forest covers an estimated 30 square kilometers in various sub-counties. George Obol Otira, the chief of the Padibe clan, is concerned about the overexploitation of bamboo, which has led to the indiscriminate harvesting of immature bamboo, reducing forest density and causing encroachment.
Bamboo forests play a crucial role in controlling soil erosion, retaining moisture, and providing fertile land for agriculture. They also host wildlife and help in carbon sequestration, mitigating the effects of global warming. However, the unregulated harvesting of bamboo threatens these vital ecological functions.
To address these concerns, some suggest enacting bylaws to control bamboo harvest, ensuring its sustainable use and preservation. There is also potential for mass bamboo cultivation, offering opportunities for income generation through carbon credits, a tradable permit for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
While Uganda has launched a bamboo strategy to plant and manage bamboo forests, its mass implementation has been slow. The lack of certified seedling nurseries for bamboo compared to other tree species remains a challenge.
Despite these concerns, Sisto Ocen, the Lamwo district chairperson, believes that the natural bamboo growth in the district is abundant and doesn’t require additional planting.