Keen to tap its natural resources as a way to boost its struggling economy, Guyana struck a multi-million-dollar deal with Norway in 2009.
Under the deal, Norway agreed to pay up to 250 million dollars over five years, if Guyana, a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country in South America, maintained a low deforestation rate.
"It is a plant, it does photosynthesis, but it happens to be the fastest growing plant in the world so the absorption of CO2 by bamboo forests is quite significant.” --Dr. Hans Friederich
It was the first time a developed country, conscious of its own carbon-dioxide emissions, had paid a developing country to keep its trees in the ground.
The initiative was developed by the United Nations and called REDD+ (for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation plus conservation).
The main aim was to allow for carbon sequestration – the process involved in carbon capture and the long-term storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Trees are thirsty for the potent greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, soaking it up during photosynthesis and storing it in their roots, branches and leaves. Each year, forests around the world absorb nearly 40 percent of all the carbon dioxide produced globally from fossil-fuel emissions. But deforestation increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as trees are burned or start to decompose.
Most of the other Caribbean countries do not have the vast forests present in Guyana, but one expert believes there is still a huge potential to sequester carbon.
While the bamboo plant can be found in abundance in several Caribbean countries, the director of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), Dr. Hans Friederich, said its importance and the possible role it could play in dealing with climate change have been missed by many of these countries.
“Bamboo and rattan, to a lesser extent, have been in a way forgotten as mechanisms that can help countries both with mitigation of climate change and with adaptation. And I think, certainly for the Caribbean, for Jamaica, both aspects are important,” Friederich told IPS.
“Mitigation, because carbon is sequestered by bamboo. It is a plant, it does photosynthesis, but it happens to be the fastest growing plant in the world so the absorption of CO2 by bamboo forests is quite significant.”
“The stems are thin but, over a period of time, the total sink of CO2 from a bamboo forest is actually more than the average from other forests. We’ve tried this, we’ve tested this and we’ve measured this in China and that’s certainly the case over there,” he added.
As far as adaptation is concerned, Friederich said bamboo also has a key role to play.
“For example, helping local communities deal with the effects of climate change in relation to erosion control, in relation to providing income in times when maybe other sources of income are no longer there or have been affected through floods or droughts or other environmental catastrophes,” the INBAR official explained.
“So, bamboo really is something that should be included in the overall discussion about climate change mitigation and adaptation.”
INBAR has facilitated a trip to China for a group of Jamaicans, to show them how the Chinese are using bamboo as a source of energy, as a charcoal source – to replicate that intelligence and that experience in Jamaica and help the island develop a bamboo industry.
In 2014, the Jamaica Bureau of Standards announced the country would embark on the large-scale production of bamboo for the construction of low-cost houses and value-added products such as furniture and charcoal for the export market.
The bureau also facilitated training exercises for people to be employed in the industry, and announced plans to set up three bamboo factories across the island.
The agency said it would also offer incentives for people to grow, preserve and harvest the bamboo plant for its various uses.
The following year, the bureau and the Small Business Association of Jamaica (SBAJ) collaborated to establish the country’s first ever Bamboo Industry Association (BIA).
The BIA’s mandate is to engage and heighten awareness among owners of properties with bamboo, about the potential economic values to be derived from the plant, of which there are more than 65,000 hectares of growing across the island.
“We believe in changing the nation…so we are here to make an impactful difference in the lives of the average citizen of this country,” SBAJ President Hugh Johnson said.