What can investments do with bamboo? Nature-Based solutions leading the way forward

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22 December 2021

What can investments do with bamboo? Nature-Based solutions leading the way forward

A bamboo agroforestry project in Indonesia demonstrates how investing in nature-based solutions can lead the way in tackling climate change, deforestation, and biodiversity loss.  

Despite having the fourth largest population in the world, Indonesia contains 10% of the world’s tropical forests, 60% of Asia’s tropical forests, and a significant amount of the world’s remaining virgin forest stands1. A whopping 144 million hectares, or 75% of Indonesia’s land area, is classified within forest boundaries. Within this, 45% of the land is managed for timber and forest production, and 21% is allocated to other conversion uses1. As such, secondary forest products, such as plywood, timber, rattan, and paper make up the most important non-oil exports, accounting for 25% of total industrial exports1. Although the exploitation of natural resources was once the primary goal of Indonesia’s forest management plans, there has been a shift to instead support a forest-based industry, protecting the environment and sustaining the yield of the forests1. This has come with the realization that these forests provide a multitude of ecosystem services to humans, mitigate climate change through CO2 sequestration, and are home to a massive amount of plant and animal species. Thus, their value is substantially greater than the provisional services that the forest provides to people through wood for building, selling or fuel.  

The Environmental Bamboo Foundation finds approximately 34 per cent of Indonesian villages are located on the fringe of forests and rely heavily on utility of forest resources and services2. Coupled with a changing climate, the livelihoods of such Indonesian communities are at risk. In East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia, a local farmer illustrates such impacts “In the past during the hot season we could still plant because it still rained, now there’s nothing. We can’t predict the rain and the heat now. The heat is extreme”3. In line with local observations, scientific findings state with high confidence that heat extremes have increased while cold extremes have decreased, and these global trends will continue over the coming decades4. 

Although tropical forest resources and services are not easily replaced once they are lost, the Bamboo Village initiative, a flagship project of the Environmental Bamboo Foundation, instills hope for green recovery through bamboo agroforestry and demonstrates the necessity of investing in nature-based solutions (NbS).  

Bamboo Agroforestry as a solution 

The Bamboo Village initiative reveals how investments in nature-based solutions can contribute to addressing the triple planetary crisis. The development of bamboo forests as sustainable alternatives for timber, contribute to climate mitigation, reducing deforestation of tropical forest resources, and provide resources and pathways out of poverty for vulnerable communities in Indonesia.  

“Bamboo is a gift from our ancestors. I just have to plant it. So (that) we can safeguard it for my grandchildren’s future…and my grandchildren will live well.” 3  

Bamboo as a crop has unique climate mitigating and adapting powers that can contribute to reaching the 1.5-degree global warming ambition in the coming decade. Investments in bamboo agroforestry contribute to offsetting carbon emissions globally, as each hectare of bamboo forest can absorb 50 tons of CO2 per year2. Bamboo can also heal watersheds during extreme heat and mitigate flooding, as one hectare of bamboo performs the same as a 5,000-liter water holding tank on the topsoil2. Additionally, the web-like root system acts as a natural windbreak during storms.  

Bamboo forests environmental resiliency has a multitude of associated human benefits. Bamboo has greater raw material yields at 10-30% annual increase in biomass when compared with 5% for typical trees in the region2. Thus, bamboo creates opportunities for farmers to transform their local community and introduce this product into the market as a raw good, a fuel, or a low-impact building material, creating sustainable village-level business. If managed appropriately, bamboo continually regenerates, and can grow in a wide variety of soils. Bamboo has the potential to truly transform a community, as it is extremely efficient and reliable resource.  

The future of nature-based investments 

The Bamboo Village initiative demonstrates what investments in nature-based solutions can accomplish. Strategies include strengthening restoration economy through incentivizing drivers for investment, standardizing bamboo agroforestry, and planning for governance of natural resource value chains. Success within this project has continued through the COVID-19 pandemic, which can be attributed to the initiative’s focus on social aid programs that are part of the Indonesian Government’s COVID-19 relief packages. These strategies are demonstrated to be effective and should be replicated and scaled up in similar NbS initiatives.  

While the Bamboo Village initiative has made noteworthy and immense progress, there is a need for additional investments, policies, and regulatory government support to reach its full potential. Highlighting the achievements of this initiative demonstrates the opportunity for success within NbS investments, yet it is one project among many that needs to be scaled up to address the triple planetary crisis. According to the 2021 State of Finance for Nature report, published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), overall global investments in Nature-based solutions need to triple by 2030 and increase four-fold by 2050 from the current levels to tackle the interlinked climate, biodiversity, and land degradation crises5. The report calls for a transformative change away from ‘Business-as-usual’, urging governments, financial institutions, and businesses to overcome this investment gap by placing nature at the heart of economic decision-making. With Indonesia’s upcoming presidency of the G20 countries, Indonesia has a unique opportunity to organize and share internal NbS success stories such as the Bamboo Villages initiative, with the goal of influencing future G20 NbS action to meet the established investment gap.   

Background on UN-Land Use Finance Programme 

The UNEP Land Use Finance Programme is under the Climate Finance Unit to proactively unlock and scale up blended financial initiatives to transform land use to meet targets set by the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development goals. The programme publishes a monthly newsletter presenting all interesting news and publication from the climate finance industry. Click here to subscribe. 

1. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Indonesia, n.d. Available from: https://www.fao.org/3/w7730e/w7730e07.htm (Accessed 12.9.21). 

2. Environmental Bamboo Foundation. Impacts. n.d. Available from: https://www.bambuvillage.org/impact/ (accessed 12.9.21). 

3. Environmental Bamboo Foundation. In the Eye of the Storm: Restoring Degraded Lands in East Nusa Tenggara. 2021. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YfsQusDhG3M (Accessed 12.9.21). 

4. IPCC. Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, A. Pirani, S.L. Connors, C. Péan, S. Berger, N. Caud, Y. Chen, L. Goldfarb, M.I. Gomis, M. Huang, K. Leitzell, E. Lonnoy, J.B.R. Matthews, T.K. Maycock, T. Waterfield, O. Yelekçi, R. Yu, and B. Zhou (eds.)]. 2021. In Press. (Accessed 12.9.21) 

5. United Nations Environment Programme. State of Finance for Nature 2021. 2021. Nairobi. [Accessed 12.9.2021). 

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