THE first successful commercial bamboo plantation in Africa can revolutionise commercial industries for a sustainable future
With the world looking for more sustainable industries that do not adversely affect the environment and also create jobs, EcoPlanet Bamboo has established a pilot farm at the outskirts of Bathurst that ticks all the boxes.
The Kowie Bamboo Farm represents the first successful commercial bamboo plantation in Africa and has become a showcase for South Africa, setting the platform for bamboo to become the first viable commercial tree- free, deforestation-free fiber in the country.
TotT was invited for a tour of the farm and met with general manager Samantha Wilde and business development manager Adriaan Potgieter.
Wilde explained that the company is dedicated to creating triple bottom line returns; economic, social, and environmental – through its bamboo plantations globally. Sustainability is addressed all the way from the growing of the bamboo on the farm itself, to the products targeted, which aim to reduce deforestation and provide an alternative to single use plastic. Potgieter explained “Our bamboo products are truly sustainable. We control the value chain from our Forest Stewardship Council certified raw bamboo through our proprietary clean technologies to produce our bamboo products”.
Imagine the effect on the environment if all plastic straws, take-away containers and polystyrene cups could be replaced by processed bamboo which is 100% biodegradable.
The reality is EcoPlanet Bamboo is close and has designed these products. Potgieter said they were in negotiations with major companies in South Africa to stock the products and so join the movement to operate their business in a sustainable, responsible manner with its focus on preserving the world’s natural resources. Bamboo can also be processed to make textiles, toilet paper, cosmetics and charcoal air and water purifiers.
EcoPlanet Bamboo Southern Africa is part of a larger, international company, EcoPlanet Bamboo Group, with bamboo plantations and additional operations in Nicaragua and Ghana and others under development.
Walking around the beautiful farm one gets absorbed by the possibilities that bamboo has for use to individuals, and multiple industries across the world. If bamboo can be developed and processed to replace timber in everyday products like toilet paper, one can imagine the significant effect it would have on reducing deforestation.
EcoPlanet Bamboo was formed following extensive research and is the brainchild of Troy Wiseman, an American and Camille Rebelo, a Kenyan, who wanted to found a company with social, environmental and economic value.
“Bamboo is a grass, not a tree,” explained Samantha Wilde, the general manager of EcoPlanet Bamboo Southern Africa. “It therefore does not grow as single trunks but rather in clumps with multiple culms, and, if managed correctly, new culms emerge each year.
“When harvesting, not all of the bamboo is taken, and the plant itself continues to grow for up to a century. This means that, after harvesting, the area around the plants is virtually undisturbed, leading to far less disruption of the ecology than, for example, when a forest of pines is cut down.”
“There are over 1600 species of bamboo, some growing in cold, dry environments, others in high rainfall, tropical areas. We focus on two types of bamboo that are naturalised for South African conditions, Bambusa balcooa and Oxytenanthera abyssinica, which are suited to this climate.”
From December 1, locally interested persons can find EcoPlanet Bamboo’s 100% natural charcoal air purifiers and water filters at Pick n Pay, their 100% chemical free bamboo charcoal soap range at Nature’s Way and the entire range at Leach Pharmacy.
Of the 482ha of farmland, EcoPlanet Bamboo uses just 350ha for planting, the rest being reserved for conservation of indigenous bush as well as the community living area. EcoPlanet Bamboo employs around 30 staff, some of whom live on the site with their families and dependents.