Bindura or lowland bamboo is an indigenous, solid stemmed bamboo. It is known for its rapid growth rate and can grow over 7m tall in tight clumps that form a thick bamboo forest over vast areas.
The cultivation and use of bamboo by smallholders can be very economically and environmentally beneficial as it locks in carbon, prevents erosion and improves the soil. The plant provides a wood and energy substitute for trees addressing deforestation and presenting multiple income generating possibilities for rural communities.
BIZ is setting up a seed bank and raising bamboo seedlings to scale up cultivation of bamboo as well as supporting the production of marketable goods such as bamcoal – a high quality bamboo charcoal for household and commercial use, bamboo furniture and smaller products for the home.
Where it does well: Bindura bamboo is native to Africa, and found from Senegal to Ethiopia and south to Zimbabwe. Ethiopian bamboo stands possibly constitute 65-80% of the total area under Bindura bamboo in Africa.
In Zimbabwe, it is found in the N, E, C and W parts of the country, locally common, along banks of watercourses, in damp places at bases of hills and on slopes of wooded hills, often on termite mounds.
Planting – harvesting time – what is harvested: Bindura bamboo can be domesticated on farms. It grows with a minimum annual rainfall of 350-800 mm and 3-7 dry months. BIZ has established cultivation trials to confirm information on propagation (from seeds, seedlings/wildlings, cuttings, and rhizomes/offsets), establishment, crop management, harvesting methods and yields.
Stems older than 6 years are used as fuel, those 4–6 years old as building material, and those 2–3 years old have value for weaving and furniture making. Stems can be harvested without affecting the plant’s capacity to regenerate.
Average yield per clump: Clump diameters range from 1 to 8m, and clumps may contain 20–200 stems. According to literature, under cultivation, Bindura bamboo yields upwards of 15 tonnes of biomass per annum.
The stems are used as an alternative to fuel wood (comparable energetic value to wood) and can be transformed into charcoal, briquettes, and biodiesel, and can be pulped for paper-making and textile production.
Young shoots and leaves can be eaten as a vegetable.
The leaves (fresh and dried) are also browsed by livestock.
Bindura bamboo is used in windbreaks for soil erosion control, water retention and for rehabilitating degraded lands.
Local markets include tobacco farmers, housing/construction, vegetable growers (bamboo for stakes) and craftspeople (carpenters and weavers), (Asian) restaurants and tourists; export markets include South Africa, Botswana and Zambia, Europe, China and Japan. The world export market is valued at USD 2 billion (2011).