Sat | Dec 3, 2016

Ja embarks on commercial bamboo production

Published:Monday | September 8, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Houses made from bamboo? Far-fetched? Not at all, for Jamaica is to embark on large-scale production of bamboo for the construction of low-cost houses and value-added products such as furniture and charcoal. This, however, is for the export market.

The aim is to tap into the lucrative global market for bamboo products, which is estimated at US$10 billion, with the potential to reach US$20 billion by next year.

The project is being spearheaded by the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ), and involves collaboration with the Bamboo and Indigenous Materials Advisory Council (BIMAC), a national committee with public- and private-sector involvement, the Jamaica Information Service is reporting.

It quoted special projects director at the BSJ, Gladstone Rose, as saying that technologies provided by international partners will help Jamaica in maximising the potential of bamboo.

"These technologies will help us to make bamboo plywood, bamboo wood. The board can be used to make students' desk and chairs; just about any product that can be made from trees," he states.

Local architects, engineers and builders who were trained in building techniques in Colombia have constructed a 260-square-foot bamboo-framed house, which was on display at the Denbigh Agricultural and Food Show last month in Clarendon.

This demo house, which is earthquake resistant, can last for at least 100 years, and can be sold for half the current cost of low-income houses.

In explaining the building process, Rose said that the bamboo is used to "replace the steel that would occur in a block and steel house. Steel is only used in the joining of the house ... . During an earthquake, it would have the necessary resistance to crumbling,"

He says that a concrete mixture is then applied to the bamboo frame, and then rendered on both sides, giving the appearance of a block and steel house. "But, it is a bamboo-reinforced house. The technique can also be used so that the bamboo is revealed, depending on the taste of the buyer," he pointed out.

Rose said the BSJ was conducting training of persons to be employed in the industry, which will last until the end of November, and was setting up three bamboo factories across the island.

The agency is also ensuring that persons can grow, preserve and harvest the bamboo for its various uses.

"It can be planted just like planting cane for sugar. The potential for export is great, and you can get jobs created, and be assured of the creation of industries", he stresses.

Acting Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Derrick Kellier, is calling for persons to desist from chopping down bamboo for use as yam sticks.

"We are collaborating to spread the word: Stop destroying the existing bamboo reserves, so that we will have them for use," he states.

enormous potential

He said that bamboo offered enormous potential for farmers and others. "It is a very fast-growing plant, and as soon as the industry gets going, when persons see the economic value, they will start putting in their own acreages. It grows on marginal lands as we have seen across the country, so we are well poised to take full advantage of the industry," Kellier said.

President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society, Senator Norman Grant, says bamboo "is an industry whose time has come".

"There is a potential where we can develop a US$15-million industry by exporting bamboo as charcoal. We are excited about that and we will continue to develop a new industry that will add to the economic landscape of Jamaica," he stated.

Member of BIMAC, Downie Walker, said that already, a charcoal water filter, made from bamboo, has been developed, and arrangements are being to export the filter to sections of Miami.

"It is patented, and we might be able to supply bamboo charcoal as water filter, and as replacement for the coconut (shell filters)," Walker said.