Restoring the landscape with bamboo
The damage humanity has inflicted on the planet is accelerating, with around 40% of the earth’s surface degraded, as revealed by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in the Global Land Outlook 2. About 3 2 billion people in the world are threatened in terms of their livelihoods, their well-being, their access to food, water, energy and security by the degradation of forests, farmlands and rangelands. In this context, the UN report also reveals a vision of potential landscape restoration on around 5 billion hectares by 2050 that brings various benefits such as a 5-10% increase in crop yields. in developing countries, the ability to store 17 gigatonnes more carbon than unrestored land could in 2015, and a slower decline in biodiversity and natural areas.
The year 2021 has seen the start of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which runs from 2021 to 2030, with the aim of preventing, stopping and reversing the global harmful effects of landscape degradation. In 2011, the German government and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with support from the Global Partnership for Forest and Land Restoration, launched the Bonn Challenge to restore 150 million hectares of degraded land to by 2020. The New York Declaration on Forests further endorsed the challenge to restore 350 million hectares of land by 2030. Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation is the international initiative the most important related to forest landscape restoration which aims to slow, halt and reverse forest loss and degradation. Contributing to many of these global initiatives, several nations around the world have set their national targets. For example, the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative is an African country-led initiative to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030. Similarly, ECCA30 is a regional initiative that aims to restore 30 million hectares of degraded and deforested land in Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia by 2030.
In Nepal, 3.16 million hectares (or 11.81 percent of the total area) have been affected by the degradation process. According to a 2015 report titled Crop and weather conditions released by the Lalitpur Agricultural Extension Directorates, Agriculture suffered a loss of Rs 2.36 billion due to floods, landslides and drought in 2015, which is equivalent to more than 10% of the budget of the Ministry of Agriculture for that year. The government of Nepal started a plantation program in its first five-year plan (1956-61) to rehabilitate the degraded lands of the country. In addition, Nepal has participated in several frameworks and initiatives related to landscape restoration and endeavored to achieve conservation goals. Tarai Arch Landscape, Himalayan Sacred Landscape and Kailash Sacred Landscape are government landscape management and restoration programs in Nepal. In addition, other programs are implemented by a consortium of international and national organizations.
Uncontrolled development activities have wreaked havoc on the conservation of lands that people around the world are advocating for nature-based solutions to these development challenges. Indeed, so often, nature has the solution. It’s just a matter of identifying and adopting the right one appropriately. With this wisdom, when it comes to landscape restoration, bamboo is a sustainable nature-based solution that can improve people’s well-being and benefit the environment.
In the 21st century, we need to reassess the plants we use and how we use them. Bamboo is a perfect material for rehabilitating degraded lands as it can grow on poor soils, sloping lands and under various climatic conditions. Bamboo is well known for its faster growth, with a growth rate of 1 meter per day in some species. It has evergreen leaves, a dense canopy and many culms which intercept rainfall, reduce its kinetic energy and thus prevent soil erosion. In addition, there is a high production of bamboo litter which, together with a dense canopy, maintains the microclimate to facilitate the restoration of degraded lands. Faster growth and high bamboo biomass thus accelerate land restoration.
Additionally, bamboo’s rhizome, an extensive fibrous root system, holds the soil firmly and prevents landslides, flooding and erosion. The root system is shallow, with the greatest concentration at a depth of 0-30 cm, therefore useful in preventing erosion of topsoil. Even when natural calamities like fire destroy the aboveground biomass, the plant can live on the belowground biomass of bamboo. Added to this are the water regulating functions of the bamboo forest. Infiltration and percolation are favored by bamboo roots. Unlike natural forests, bamboo forests have the greatest capacity for groundwater recharge.
Due to the great potential of bamboo, many countries like Cameroon, Ghana, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Madagascar, Vietnam, China, Kenya and the Philippines are adopting it as a priority species for restoration. landscapes. In 2014, member countries of the International Bamboo and Rattan Organization (INBAR) pledged to restore at least 5 million hectares of degraded land using bamboo.
In Nepal, although many projects have used bamboo for landscape management and restoration, few programs explicitly endorse bamboo for land restoration. Despite being rich in bamboo, Nepal’s bamboo-based economy contributes only 1-2% to the national GDP due to government indifference, lack of support to farmers, disordered market and insufficient skills. Additionally, there is no detailed inventory of existing bamboo forest estates, and people’s perspective on the use of bamboo for landscape restoration is not documented. Such limitations hinder efforts to understand the need to restore, improve productivity, and develop bamboo clusters to support landscape restoration.
Globally, landscape restoration is receiving significant attention from many initiatives, evidencing that there is no better alternative than a nature-based solution to reclaiming land. degraded. Many countries have rightly identified bamboo as a means of landscape restoration. But Nepal is still lagging behind in exploiting the bamboo sector. In this regard, an appropriate government policy, environment and institutional intervention can favor the sector. In addition, international and national institutions related to bamboo are also expected to help Nepal achieve its conservation goals.