Agri Business

Bamboo cultivation may be promising for farmers in Maharashtra

Rahul Wadke Mumbai | Updated on August 11, 2020 Published on August 11, 2020

Farmers in Maharashtra looking at bamboo cultivation as a supplementary income and in some areas mainstay for their livelihood. Bamboo experts say that every year almost 40,000 farmers are taking up bamboo cultivation and their numbers are rising.

In the British era, bamboo was classified as a tree but the Modi government in 2017 reclassified bamboo as a grass, which has made private cultivation, harvesting and transportation much more easier. Converting the reed into furniture and other value-added items is seeing a boom. In the coastal Sindhudurg district about 10,000 farmers are cultivating bamboo in a big way.

Bamboo expert and founder of Konkan Bamboo and Cane Development Centre (KONBAC) in Sindhudurg, Sanjeev Karpe, said that the KONBAC along with partner companies are employing 650 full-time artisans for making bamboo furniture and other items of everyday use.

Indian bamboo is expanding its footprint across the world and KONBAC has already completed major interior decoration projects even in the Maldives. Bamboos would also be extensively used in the first phase of the new terminal (T2) project at the Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru. The terminal is currently under construction, he said.

Bamboo has also been used for the internal ceiling construction, spanning almost 25 soccer fields at the Madrid International Airport in Spain. It is the second-largest airport in Europe.

Karpe has been working on Bamboo since 2004. His first initiative was with the technical help from the Beijing, China-based, International Centre for Bamboo and Rattan. He said that today, the farmers by simply planting bamboo can have an extra income of ₹1-2 lakh per acre.

Low maintenance

Bamboo groves just require water and moist air. It does not suffer from any major pests or insects attacks. Chemical fertilizers are also not required for their growth. Natural fertilizer such as cow dung and foliage of other trees is enough. The prices of bamboo have not fallen over the years due to the steady demand.

The idea is to mainstream the cultivation of bamboo as 99 per cent of the bamboo grown in the country is in the forest. The buying, processing and transporting of such forest products are weighed down by cumbersome rules of the State Forest Departments coupled with remote buying locations. Good quality and consistency for making products cannot be achieved from bamboo harvested from the forest, he said.

In Sindhudurg, if you want to plant fruit trees such as mangoes or cashews, you have to clear other trees and then plant the fruit trees. But bamboo can be planted even between the existing trees. In the event of a fire in the field or the plantation due to some accident, bamboo has its innate ability to regenerate and again grow green shoots next year, so there is no need for replanting. After two years of unhindered growth, the bamboo grove can again be harvested with a minimal labour force, Karpe said.

Karpe pointed out that bamboo is a very hardy grass, which even survived the nuclear blast at Hiroshima, Japan in 1945.

Carbon-friendly grass

Farmer leader and former Chairman of Maharashtra Agriculture Price Commission, Pasha Patel, said that planting bamboo makes immense ecological sense as it is a fast-growing grass, which can capture the carbon faster than any other tree. Sequestration of carbon in the environment would definitely have a beneficial impact on the Earth.

Patel has already set up a tissue culture lab for bamboo and is in the process of gathering farmers for planting large bamboo groves along the riverbanks of Manjara in Latur district. Cultivation of bamboo by the farmers along the river banks will prevent soil erosion. The Manjara river is a tributary of the Godavari and a major lifeline of the rain deficit Marathwada region of Maharashtra, which has a high suicide high rate among farmers.

Framer Michel Dsouza from Kolgaon village in the Sawantwadi taluka, Sindhudurg district said that he has planted bamboo over 35 acres as mango and cashew trees yields are dropping over the years due to erratic climate. Only in its initial stages, the plantation needs to be protected from monkeys as they love to eat green tender shoots of bamboo.

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Published on August 11, 2020
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