From grass to grass

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Monday, March 30, 2015


WHO would have thought raising grass is challenging? I mean, they seem to be growing all over the place without human intervention. Why bother?

Those needing TLCs are grass that produce seeds known as grains such as corn and rice. The grains separate relatively easily from the parent plant and so can be collected.

Other grasses include sugarcane. Now also think bamboo, a non-timber forest product. Or from planting sugarcane, plant bamboos. Take it from Provincial Economic Development and Investment Center OIC Jojo Amugod.

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When the provincial investment code was passed last year, Mr. Amugod said they thought of other commodities available in Negros Occidental.
Before that, Darlene Casiano and Edgardo Manda enlisted me to help promote bamboo plantations in Negros Occidental. Near the end of the year 2013, Ed came to Bacolod to provide insights on the national bamboo situation

Darlene and I talked to Rafael “Lito” Coscolluela, the investment and incentives consultant for building the provincial green economy.

If that had been a multi-million real estate transaction, Darlene and I would be rich by now from our respective commissions. We clinched the deal. There were basically no objections to the concept of raising bamboo to boost and diversify the provincial economy.

Tough luck, though. Ours were a labor of love for the province. The important thing is that the province has embraced bamboo that could be marketed and came up with the idea of boosting the bamboo industry.

Before anything else, however, the provincial policy-makers had to establish baselines. Based on the resource-mapping that the province had conducted, there exist four bamboo species in Negros Occidental with 60,000 bamboo timber planted in the towns and cities.

To further develop the value chains in the bamboo industry in the province, Mr. Amugod’s office intends to hold a bamboo design contest to give Negrense designers a chance to showcase their ingenuity in making crafts out of bamboo.

For most of us in civil society, we considered bamboo in ecological – not economic – terms. In a concept note for a proposal, Dr. Ramon Razal, former Dean of the UPLB College of Forestry, included a research component by experimenting not only with pure bamboo stands but also developing stands where local timber tree species will be grown side by side with the bamboo. This is a pioneering effort as there has been no report on the interplanting of bamboo with trees.

This will lend itself to studies that determine effects on the growth performance of the bamboo, changes in carbon stock, what trees will be found to be compatible with bamboo, determination of the suitable planting distance between trees and bamboo, nature of silvicultural interventions, as well as effects on the watershed value (ability to stabilize the soil and improve soil water holding ability of the area planted to bamboo) overtime.

In that 2013 workshop, Ed Manda, president of the Philippine Bamboo Foundation, pointed out the value chains of bamboo. From barbecue sticks, bamboos can be used as alternatives to timber, skateboards, portraits of the Holy Family and picture frames, shawls, fans, footwear, kitchen utensils and baskets, cans of beer and food items, including shoots. In other words, we are limited only by our imagination.

From sugarcane planter to bamboo planter, a very good idea. Save the world and get rich in the process. Heck, even Gucci bags use bamboo handles.

(bqsanc@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on March 30, 2015.

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