It is said that Nepalese culture demands bamboo from birth to death and everything in between. We use bamboo as scaffolding material, as food, for music, for carrying things and for writing.
Nepal has more than 80 species of bamboo. In fact, for only 0.1% of the earth’s land area, Nepal has 5% of the world’s bamboo, which means even more the rich biodiversity of the Himalayan nation.
Most types of Nepalese bamboo are found in the wetter parts of the central and eastern part of the country between 50 and 4000 m, with Ilam, Dhankuta, Bhojpur and Taplejung having the strongest stems.
The global bamboo market is worth $ 72.10 billion and Nepal may be a key player in the international bamboo and cane trade. Bamboo also has enormous potential for rural enterprise and poverty reduction.
Bamboo promotes sustainable and integrated farming systems and is also an excellent resource for income generation and employment. One hectare of bamboo can earn a farmer at least 400,000 rupees per year.
The beauty of bamboo is that it grows quickly, requires little maintenance, can grow on the edges of forests, and requires only a modest investment.
Some Nepalese communities, like the Dom Dalits of Tarai, depend entirely on bamboo and make a living from weaving nigalo mats. Many Rai and Limbu communities in the east also depend on bamboo and are expert weavers of doko and dalo for the local market.
Bamboo has been recognized as an “international commodity” and the plant has been widely used to build homes, resorts, and galleries. The 12th World Bamboo Congress to be held in Taiwan in September has again been postponed due to the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic. But events like World Bamboo Day on September 18 each year underscore the plant’s economic and ecological importance.
In terms of quality, Nepalese bamboo is as good, if not better, than most. And we are still finding new uses for this versatile plant. For example, bamboo is the best “carbon sink” for greenhouse gases, producing 35% more oxygen than other trees, and each hectare of bamboo absorbs 12 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.
For the Japanese, Taiwanese, Chinese, Thais and Nepalese, bamboo shoots are a staple. Nepal produces at least 102 tonnes of tama and each household consumes about 46 stems per year. It is a good source of fiber, carbohydrates, vegetable fats, protein and vitamin B.
Strong yet flexible and incredibly versatile, bamboo is a great alternative to wood. With a tensile strength of 28,000 per square inch, it is even a stronger building material than steel. Bamboo houses only need one-eighth of the energy that concrete needs to create building materials of equal capacity. To top it off, it’s also the fastest growing plant in the world and can be harvested in three years for construction. This regenerative capacity and its yields, which can be up to 25 times greater than that of wood when properly managed, make bamboo an environmentally friendly choice. Bamboo houses, light and elastic, are also earthquake resistant.
In a country as vertical as Nepal, bamboo is also excellent for soil conservation. Cultivated in mixed crops, it is naturally less likely to cause soil erosion than monoculture. Bamboo creates a carpet-like underground structure, effectively sewing up the ground, it is perfect for fragile river banks, deforested areas, seismic areas and mudslide prevention.
Bamboo has been used to make paper since the 2nd century. At one point, this renewable resource was used to make 70% of Indian paper.
Ancient Ayurvedic and Chinese healing traditions used the medicinal properties of bamboo. In acupuncture, the bamboo secretion is powdered and hardened and used internally to treat asthma, cough, and as an aphrodisiac. Black bamboo root is used to treat kidney disease. In Ayurveda, bamboo manna is a rejuvenating herb for sore throats.
Based on a original article in Nepali Times by Sraddha Basnyat.