How To Start Bamboo Farming And Production In Nigeria

How To Start Bamboo Farming And Production In Nigeria | Image Source: Pixabay

Bamboo, a non-wood plant commonly found in forested zones of Nigeria has been long ignored along with its potential economic and environmental benefits being underestimated for years. The commercial value of bamboo farming has remained unexploited, leaving its production at a substantial level.

Common uses for bamboo in Nigeria are for scaffolding, yam vine staking, soil erosion control, firewood, and building of ornamental huts. However, bamboo production has more value to contribute to the economy in the long run.

The bamboo plant is a major export product and revenue source in countries like India, Thailand, Indonesia, China and the European Union. The tropical climate of the country is favourable but there has been no reasonable record of its bamboo exports over the last decade. As a result, its long-standing membership in the International Network of Bamboo and Rattan has become redundant.

The exponential rise in the global demand for the wood and fibre of this plant has made it obvious that farmers and agropreneurs in Nigeria stand to gain a lot from bamboo farming.

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What Is Bamboo Farming About?

Bamboo farming and production is the preparation, planting, maintenance, and eventual harvesting of the bamboo plant for domestic and commercial purposes. These are perennial tree-like, grass plants that can grow as tall as 80 feet. Some cultivated species can grow up to 3 feet in one day and can last up to 70 years.

Depending on the variety, the maturity of bamboo plants spans over three to five years after cultivation. Most bamboo plants thrive on soils that are unsuitable for other crops and are popular in tropical countries like India, China, Nigeria, Cameroon, Togo, Rwanda and much more.

Bamboo farmers are residual income earners as the plantations continue to yield without replanting, year after year.

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Business Opportunities In Bamboo Farming Around The World

The numerous foreign and local business opportunities for bamboo farming are:

1). Construction Business Opportunities:

The immense strength and light-weight characteristics of bamboo have made it a useful and inexpensive scaffolding and roofing material. Steadily, it has taken the place of wood in building and bridge construction over the years.

2). Furniture Making:

Eco-friendly, durable and easily manipulated, bamboo canes are perfect for light-weight indoor and outdoor furniture. Bamboo fixtures are currently trending and furniture makers are in clamouring for more bamboo wood. Its resistance to swelling and scratch marks make it perfect for making chairs, tables, privacy screens, flooring, blinds, stools and other wooden furniture.

3). Textiles And Production:

The fiber/pulp from bamboo is processed into the natural fabric, rayon. Bamboo rayon has that soft or silky texture and appearance most people want for their clothing. In addition, the bamboo fabric makes good towels, rugs, and beddings because of its comfortable feel and cleaning ease.

4). Utensils Production:

Flexible, anti-odour and durable utensils can be manufactured from bamboo. Eco-friendly, anti-microbial plates, cooking equipment, baskets, racks, toothpicks, chopsticks and cutlery are available in bamboo. The biodegradability of these utensils has only increased its demand in recent times. Decorations and ornaments like room dividers, picture frames, beautiful Tiki huts, bamboo huts for bars and restaurants are also bamboo products.

Other commercial uses for bamboo are;

  • Yam farming; Bamboos are good vine stakes for yam cultivation. Vine twines trained to climb staked bamboos.
  • Weapons like blow guns, bows, and arrows.
  • Musical instruments such as local drums and flutes.
  • Firewood and charcoal production.

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Facts And Benefits Of Bamboo Farming And Production

  • Bamboo plants are native to the tropics but tolerant to colder regions.
  • Nigeria has one of the best climatic conditions for bamboo farming but production has not been commercialized.
  • Bamboo export value has been exploited in Asia and some European countries.
  • Most bamboo varieties are resistant to drought, pests, and diseases and thrive in most soil types.
  • Bamboo is a renewable alternative wood plant that lasts up to 70 years.
  • It is a low maintenance grass plant; requires little water, fertilizers, insecticides or fungicides to survive.
  • Bamboo farming is a great long-term investment. It is eco-friendly, long-lasting and self-replanting.
  • It prevents soil erosion when planted around the erosion-prone land.
  • Shoots of bamboo plants have a high nutritional value. Each shoot contains essentials minerals and vitamins like iron, nicotine acids, riboflavin, potassium, protein, amino acids, vitamin B1, calcium, dietary fiber, and phosphorus.
  • Bamboo contains astringent properties that are used to produce herbal solutions for staunching blood from wounds.
  • Bamboos are a source of inflammatorily and bacterial herbal remedies.
  • Bamboo farming produces an alternative wood source for construction, furniture, and utensils.
  • Bio-degradable clothing and textiles are made from bamboo pulp or fiber.
  • Bamboo is a source of charcoal for heat, cooking or roasting.
  • Good for the digestive system as its seeds are laxative and the young shoots are appetite boosters.
  • Bamboo is grown for its use in the treatment of leprosy, diabetes, cancer and skin diseases.
  • Bamboo treats respiratory-related problems like phlegm accumulation and laryngitis
  • While there over 1,200 varieties of the bamboo plant, it can be grouped into two main categories; non-invasive clumping and invasive running bamboo
  • Bamboo leaves are adequate fodder for herbivore farm animal while fresh bamboo shoots are used as a vegetable, pickles, and the south-eastern Achara soup.

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Types Of Bamboo Farming

There are two main types of bamboo farming:

1). Running Bamboo Farming:

Running bamboo farming is the cultivation of the invasive varieties of bamboo. The varieties in this group are strong, durable and rapid-growing bamboo capable of thriving in all climatic conditions. It is the most commercially grown bamboo in the world. It is taller, wider and has more foliage than the clumping bamboo varieties.

Farmers and Landscapers find it hard to contain growing invasive bamboo as its roots invade uncultivated areas of farmland. The aerial culm of runners develops through an unconstrained underground stem network. The rhizome structure of this bamboo type is monopodial; long and horizontal.

In favourable climates and soil conditions, properly cultivated bamboo groves like Plasmodium Vivax (P. Vivax) produce fresh shoots that reach towards the sky. Young culms grow over a foot a day, emerging from the ground in the shooting season. Rhizomes that extend horizontally below soil surface are found 6 inches above the ground.

To control underground running bamboos rhizomes, surround the plantation or farmland with a concrete fence or metal sheeting. The barriers’ base should be 4 feet below the soil surface and at least 4 inches above the ground. The shallow depth of bamboo roots makes this control technique highly effective. Another method of controlling running bamboo is to prune the roots annually or dig trenches around the roots.

Some varieties of running bamboo are; Phyllostachys nigra, Phyllostachys bambusoides, and Hibanobambusa tranquillians.

2). Clumping Bamboo Farming:

Clumping bamboo farming involves cultivating the non-invasive clustered bamboo species. The varieties in this category are slow-growing, hedge-forming bamboo plants which require no population control methods. Unlike the running bamboo, growing clumpers form a circular bunch of delicately curving culms that stretch from its small root formation. The rhizome structures of clumping bamboos are pachymorphial; culms are formed from upturned rhizomes.

Foliage growth is moderate, only gaining 1 or 2 feet in height each year. At maturity, its growth span is between 15 to 20 feet—depending on climatic conditions. Expert bamboo farmers recommend partial sunlight for young clumpers and full sunlight for grown plants.

Clumpers are low maintenance bamboo varieties that can be planted in containers for natural privacy screens or outdoor plant décor. Under good climatic conditions, clumping bamboos will grow fast and mature in about 4-6 years. Varieties of clumping bamboo include; Fargesia nitida, Fargesia robusta, and Fargesia ‘Rufa’.

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How To Start Bamboo Farming And Production In Nigeria: A Step by Step Guide

1). Acquire Knowledge:

Farmers or agropreneurs interested in bamboo cultivation need to acquire more than just the basic knowledge of cultivation and management process. If possible, seek out the expertise of an experienced bamboo farmer or consultant. The appropriate training and information are invaluable in bamboo farming.

2). Sufficient Capital:

Another thing to do before cultivating bamboos is to gather adequate finances required to sufficiently run a bamboo plantation. The farming budget should include money to buy and prepare farmland, cash to hire farm machinery and farmhands, and money to purchase the best variety of bamboo seedlings, fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides.

3). Suitable Land:

Bamboo cultivated for commercial purposes requires considerable space of land. Soil testing should be conducted to check for acidity. Liming is a vital step in preparing non-acidic soil types for bamboo farming. The right soil-balance ranges from 5.5-7.5 pH level. A water-retentive soil in areas with modest rainfall and sufficient sunlight are crucial factors for its survival.

4). Select The Right Bamboo Species:

The species of bamboo selected should be uniform with the purpose for which it is cultivated. It should also be suitable for the soil and climatic conditions of the farmland’s location. Ask pertinent questions from trusted suppliers to double check and prevent unnecessary risk. Find the best varieties of bamboo seedlings or node cuttings from seedlings distributors or an agricultural facility around living areas.

5). Propagation:

Plant seedlings or node shoots of clumping bamboo 3 to 4 apart to provide adequate space for foliage spread. On the other hand, running seedling would do well with a 5 to 7 space width. However, for faster but less dense foliage, few varieties are planted 5m or two feet apart. Planting bamboo side by side will hinder growth rate.

Running bamboo grows fast, adding a minimum in a year while clumping lag behind at 1 foot per annual growth rate. It’s important to note that the rate of bamboo growth depends on the climatic condition of its location.

6). Maintenance And Harvest:

Bamboo farmers enjoy cultivating the plant because of its resistance to drought, pests, and diseases. It is also highly adaptable to most soil types but patience is required in the cultivation of this crop due to its perennial nature.

It’s important to know the right maintenance process for a particular bamboo variety to ensure high yield at harvest. Although this plant requires little moisture, areas of moderate rainfall or bi-weekly irrigation in drier climates will likely be the difference between bountiful and mediocre yields.

Farmers might find that certain varieties of bamboos are invasive, hard to control, and might need to constantly prune or cut down leaves and roots every year. Herbicides should also be applied to discourage competition between weeds and bamboos.

Apply organic manure to the tilled soil before planting bamboo shoots or seedlings and then water thoroughly. To enhance growth, NPK can be applied every third or fourth week in a month.

Using a pruning saw, each farmhand should harvest three to six years old bamboo plants by cutting the canes at the base level. After harvest, place canes in a safe place to dry for at least two weeks before selling or using them.

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Challenges of Bamboo Farming

  • Ignorance regarding the benefits of commercialised bamboo farming.
  • Inaccessibility of high-quality seedlings or node shoots for commercial bamboo farming.
  • Lack of management and maintenance skills or training on proper bamboo cultivation.
  • Inadequate knowledge of bamboo cultivation practices.
  • The absence of bamboo research facilities in Nigeria is a major reason for its disuse.
  • Due to poor marketing strategies, commercializing this produce has been challenging.
  • Lack of a detailed list of information on the basic materials used for commercialised bamboo farming.
  • Invasiveness of certain varieties of bamboo makes it hard to find a land big enough to contain it.
  • Bamboo does not give room for crop cultivation. It is competitive and will often outrun other plants.
  • Uprooting a bamboo plantation is labour intensive and back-breaking. It consumes time and energy. Avoid this problem by planting on poor soils.

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Conclusion

Bamboo farming is a lucrative venture for people looking for long-term agricultural investment opportunities. The plant is inclined to grow in tropical regions of the world and adapts to almost all kinds of climates and soils in Nigeria. For now, bamboo is more profitable as an export product in Nigeria because its commercial value isn’t fully recognized.

With sufficient knowledge for proper cultivation and enough starting capital, producing bamboo is a fairly easy process in Nigeria.

 

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What are your thoughts on how to start a bamboo farming and production business in Nigeria or Africa? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

 

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