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The Eastern Cape Development Corporation is the visionary steward of development assets in the Eastern Cape. Together with its private and public stakeholders, it has identified the bamboo industry as being of strategic importance for the development of the province – most importantly for the creation and sustainability of jobs, and to quell the poverty experienced by rural communities. As a result, the testing phase of the sector has been initiated, and the corporation has begun to engage with potential investors and participants in the industry.

This brochure introduces the Eastern Cape as a strategically attractive location to bamboo investors, and presents bamboo as an opportunity to interested or existing agriculturalists in the province.


Originating in China 7,000 years ago, bamboo has long since been recognised as a valuable plant to humankind. Having been utilised in the historic crafting of arrows, paper, building materials and books, modern technology has opened vast opportunity to use the plant as a renewable resource across a wide range of economic sectors including: • • • • • • • • • • •

Nutrition: human consumption of shoots; livestock consumption of leaves (SA growth: 20% p.a.) Construction: both weight bearing structures and aesthetic finishes Paper-making Flooring Bio-fuels: the replacement of fossil fuels Personal care: extracts used in hair and skin products Carpentry: furniture Creative industries: Arts and crafts Agriculture The manufacture of electric batteries The use of bamboo ash to polish jewels

China and India, the world’s leading bamboo producers and exporters, cultivate and harvest 11.4 million and 5.4 million hectares of bamboo respectively. Only five African countries (mainly Nigeria and Ethiopia) grow bamboo on a surface area of 2.7 million hectares, 4.7% of the continent’s total agricultural area. South Africa exports R9.8 million worth of bamboo and rattan products annually, and imported R120 million worth of bamboo and rattan between 2007 and 2010. First target is to substitute imports with locally manufactured bamboo products.


...bamboo has long since been recognised as a valuable plant to humankind.


R120 million





Bamboo possesses qualities that make it a material of high importance in an era of environmental sustainability, productive innovation, and the research of alternative energy sources. Some of the important qualities of the plant are: • • • • • • • • • •

Rapid growth of 0.3 to 1 metres per day Produces greater biomass in its lifecycle of 50 years than any other known plant (four times more than Eucalyptus, while using 15ml of water per day as opposed to 4-12 litres) Absorbs toxic elements present in soil, and enhances soil stability Provides a windbreak (high density plantation), and hence reduces soil erosion Is able to grow in marginal and degraded soils Constitutes a viable replacement for wood in construction and carpentry High density plantation in ideal conditions could yield 40 tons per hectare in year four, and 700 tons p.a. from year seven Is a renewable resource and sustainable feedstock that produces and negates the need to utilise food resources for fuel-making Requires minimal capital investment Nutrition – shoots for food and leaves for fodder

The Eastern Cape:

A plantation of


QuickFACTS in the Eastern Cape

• • • • • •

No formal bamboo industry currently exists in the Eastern Cape, providing an open door for first-movers Ongoing extension of bamboo product line requires additional supply on a local and global scale An established timber-processing industry well positioned for downstream bamboo value-addition Eastern Cape, as an agricultural province, enjoys readily available and affordable labour The bamboo industry will provide employment suitable for all people, including women and youth, and hence is of strategic importance to provincial government The growing of bamboo for commercial markets will enhance rural economies

Wide availability of fertile land in a strategic location The province is the largest in South Africa, and is ripe for timber processing investment due largely to the availability of an estimated 100,000 hectares of land suitable for the cultivation and growing of bamboo plants. The province possesses the third largest commercial plantation area in South Africa, and presents substantial expansion potential in the realm of forestry and timber processing. Currently, 170 000 hectares are occupied by commercial forestry plantations, and 130,000 hectares by indigenous natural forests. Furthermore alien timber such as wattle could be replaced with bamboo plantations This land is positioned in proximity to Sub-Saharan African markets via multimodal road, rail, air and sea logistics. Three of South Africa’s eight ports, namely the Ngqura Port in Port Elizabeth, the Port Elizabeth Harbour, and the East London Port (the only river port in South Africa) are found in the Eastern Cape, making for a convenient linkage to global market access.

A development priority of government Bamboo, together with plant fibre, is a development priority for provincial government. It is seen to be a sector that will add value to the existing agriculture in the province, and will provide a mechanism by which to integrate rural subsistence farmers into the commercial mainstream.The South African government has approved a 10-15 year Forestry and Timber Expansion Project aimed at developing 100,000 hectares of new forests in the east of the province.


Current projects and

OPPORTUNITIES in the Eastern Cape

Bamboo pilot plantations

- Ndakana, Centane & St Albans

In March 2011, ECDC launched the testing phase of the bamboo initiative in the Eastern Cape. Three locations were identified for the testing, which cumulatively received R1 million funding to establish the viability of the growing and processing of bamboo in the province. Ndakana Village near Stutterheim in the former Ciskei, Centane Village near Butterworth in the former Transkei, and St Albans near Port Elizabeth will collectively comprise over 500 hectares when the project reaches full scale. Activity on the three sites has already commenced, and the project is proving to be a success thus far. The Ndakana arm of the project comprises a 216m² bamboo nursery that has been established for the hardening of bamboo plantlets prior to planting. 6,000 plantlets – 3,500 of the bambusa bambos variety, and 2,500 of the bambusa balcooa variety will undergo the requisite hardening process before being planted to the Ndakana and Centane sites during the spring of 2011.

Project goals Job creation Already, 10 new jobs have been created as a result of the project, with a further 37 to be created as the testing phase reaches maturity.

Community benefit ECDC’s strategy is to empower communities economically. As a result, community trusts will be established, and will form a mechanism for ownership to provide sustainable wealth creation in historically marginalised areas. In addition to this, 50% of all members of local co-operatives will be women.

Small, micro and medium enterprises (SMMEs) Other opportunities for SMMEs include the growing of cash crops on the plantation, as well as a carbonisation project to be run by the Ndakana Wood Products Co-operative.

Creative industry opportunities In anticipation of bamboo harvests at Ndakana and Centane, plans for local ‘cottage industries’ are being established for the making of bamboo mats, baskets and allied products to provide residents with self-employment and income generating opportunities.

Investment opportunity Investors in the following classifications are invited to discuss their proposals with the Development Projects Unit of ECDC: • Furniture • Building materials • Textiles • Renewable energy (biomass) • Foreign buyers • Processed bamboo (flattened for export)


The Bamboo Symposium

An initiative by ECDC.

ECDC invites interested parties to contact ECDC’s Development Projects Unit: Tel: + 27 (0) 43 704 5606 | Email:

ECDC_Bamboo_July 11