German Development Service (DED), Development Worker, Germany
On the island of Negros, Philippines, a bamboo development project creates new livelihood opportunities for smallholder farmers and their communities. Traditionally, bamboo has been used in the Philippines for countless domestic purposes, such as farm utensils, fishing gear and housing material. More than 50 species of bamboo are accounted for in the Philippines. It naturally occurs in the remaining forests but is also present in lowland and upland agricultural environments. It can be found on riverbanks, along boundaries and in small groves. Despite its cultural importance and its availability, bamboo has never gained commercial importance in the local economy. The project presented makes use of this indigenous plant. A neglected resource has been turned into a value added product which generates additional income. Main actor is a local non-profit organisation, the Buglas Bamboo Institute, which gives focus on bamboo development in rural communities. This sector approach includes different strategies. Extension work plays a major role; farming communities are organised into self-reliant village organisations. These groups are considered partner organisations rather than beneficiaries. Technical training capacitates farmers to produce quality bamboo poles; this includes bamboo stand management, post harvest treatment, and processing into semi-finished bamboo products. All activities are carried out in individual farms or village bamboo centres. Aside from extension work, a research unit of the institute develops appropriate bamboo technologies. Most bamboo products from the villages are bought from a subsidiary company of the institute which is manufacturing high quality bamboo products, like furniture, construction components and novelty items. A unique scheme of support, income generation and profit has gradually evolved between the three parties involved. Terms of trade follow consistent principles of fairness, transparency and predictability. This empowers farmers and their organisations and creates rural enterprises. Income generation contributes to a savings scheme which helps to instigate further livelihood activities. The various steps of building up self help organisations and creating bamboo based business opportunities are being discussed; furthermore, the relationship between the development organisation as change agent, the grass root organisations and the trader/buyer are analysed. Lessons learnt will be presented.
Keywords: Alternative livelihood, bamboo, self help organisations