In Ngada Regency, central Flores, thousands of people live in villages close to forest areas that are home to dense thickets of old bamboo. These towering green poles were not planted by the villagers, however, but by their ancestors. Before their involvement in EBF’s Bamboo Village program, most women in Ngada Regency had never propagated a bamboo seedling, but now their perspectives and participation are seen as the key to climate change mitigation.
According to global advocate Women Deliver, the first steps toward sustainably tackling the climate crisis are to ensure that girls and women are recognized for their environmental solutions and have a seat at the decision-making table. Across the world, it is women who most often determine their family’s consumption of resources, and they also contribute significantly to agricultural production, land management and conservation. The UN has found that in rural regions where subsistence farming is common, women and girls are the primary providers of food, water and fuel.
Climate change directly impacts the availability of resources and makes tasks normally performed by women increasingly difficult. Combined with existing gender inequalities, it will come as no surprise that women and girls are disproportionately impacted by climate change and comprise the majority of climate migrants.
Further, according to climate change policy analyst Nina Jeffs, women’s participation in addressing climate change generates more effective and equitable climate outcomes. “Research demonstrates that due to socially prescribed gender roles, women assess risk differently to men and typically prioritize the welfare of their families and communities in resource-management decisions,” she writes.
This disproportional impact and urgent need to recognize women’s contributions and solutions is the driving force behind the joint statement published by the Scottish Government and UN Women at COP26, calling for the role of women and girls to be advanced in addressing climate change. It is also why EBF is now taking a ‘gender mainstreaming’ approach to its Bamboo Villages.
Gender mainstreaming is a strategy to achieve the goal of gender equality. According to the UN, its aim is to ensure that gender perspectives and gender equality are central to all project and program activities — development, research, advocacy, dialogue, legislation, resource allocation, planning, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation.
EBF incorporates gender mainstreaming through its Mama Bambu program, which provides space for women to be physically present in every decision making process regarding bamboo conservation and utilization in Ngada, while amplifying their views on the sustainable use of bamboo. Bamboo helps mitigate climate change in Indonesia in various ways, from carbon sequestration to environmental restoration.
Monica Tanuhandaru, EBF’s Executive Director, has said that she hopes the gender mainstreaming approach will be used by Indonesia’s provincial and central governments so its benefits can me multiplied. “The women in the Mama Bambu program build their knowledge of how to look after forests, restore the land, and plant bamboo. In the longterm, it should become a national strategic project that could make a huge contribution to the development of Indonesia, borne from the hands of women.”
Welcome to another of our Bamboo Pioneers, a series where we shine the light on people who are bamboo giants. This time we talked with Ibu Desy Ekawati, our long-time collaborator.
Desy Ekawati is an Indonesian bamboo activist who works at the Research and Development and Innovation Agency of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and also a member of the Board of Advisors for the Environmental Bamboo Foundation. Her journey to promote Indonesian bamboo began more than ten years ago when she was engaged in the development of non-timber forest products. At that time, Indonesia held an international seminar that discussed strategies and challenges for the sustainable use of bamboo as a non-timber forest product, and Desy was the chairman of the seminar organizing committee.
The international seminar opened the eyes of many people, including Desy, to how advanced the use of bamboo is in China and India. Since 2010, China’s flourishing bamboo industry has become one of the pillar sectors in the country’s forestry industry and also a key in the country’s efforts to establish a low-carbon economy.
Indonesia, as the third largest bamboo producer in the world, has tremendous potential. Indonesia is home to more species of bamboo and has a wider land area to grow bamboo. But ironically, most people in Indonesia think bamboo has no value and therefore the potential of bamboo is not widely known.
“Supposedly with this potential, our industry can be more advanced and our people can be prosperous,” said Desy. Indonesia’s bamboo development is indeed a bit behind when compared to China, which 40 years ago started a movement for the welfare of bamboo farmers. “China has only one goal: to build the people’s prosperity with bamboo”, she continued.
“We can actually be more successful with all the potential of bamboo that we have,” said Desy. Moreover, in Indonesia, there have been many bamboo activists, industries, and even village-owned enterprises that sell environmental services from existing well-maintained bamboo forests. Desy referred to the Nusantara Bamboo Community, the Association of Indonesian Bamboo Entrepreneurs (Perpubi), & industry players who use bamboo for incense products from Rajapolah West Java, and the Boonpring climate village in Malang Regency, East Java.
Has Indonesia also started the ‘bamboo for people’ movement?
Indonesia’s extraordinary bamboo potential needs to be managed and directed properly to be able to provide the best benefits for the welfare of the people. Unfortunately, currently, there is no instrument that can be used to integrate various bamboo utilization activities, in the fields of industry, arts and culture, or nature conservation.
“There is a community-based effort that aims to improve the community’s ability to use and manage bamboo sustainably. This movement is called 1000 Bamboo Villages and started in 2015,” explained Desy. The idea of 1000 Bamboo Villages was sparked when she had a discussion with Arief Rabik about the concern about the lack of interest from the community and the government in the sustainable use of bamboo.
The 1000 Bamboo Villages Program empowers rural farmers in Indonesia to become land restoration champions while driving a village-based bamboo industry. This community-based bamboo utilization program was built with the people-public-private partnership framework which seeks to integrate bamboo utilization activities from the upstream to downstream sectors.
“We want bamboo to become an economic driver starting from the community to the national level through a community-based movement, where bamboo remains a commodity that belongs to the community and not an industry controlled by the private sector,” added Desy.
After 1000 Bamboo Villages, what’s next?
The 1000 Bamboo Villages program is currently being carried out by the Environmental Bamboo Foundation with its extensive network in several pilot villages in Indonesia. The Environmental Bamboo Foundation has established a ten-year roadmap of 1000 Bamboo Villages to drive village-level bamboo agroforestry and push the restoration economy.
Like in China, we need political will and policy will. Political and policy support are the two things we need to support 1000 Bamboo Villages to run well as expected. “The visit of the President of the Republic of Indonesia, Bapak Joko Widodo, to the Turetogo Bamboo Campus in Ngada, East Nusa Tenggara shows a clear political will and emphasizes the attention from the highest leader in our country,” said Desy.
The political support shown by President Joko Widodo has opened the door to promote the replication of 1000 Bamboo Villages throughout Indonesia. Furthermore, we need policy will to ensure the movement is well integrated to achieve common goals.
The availability of regulations to support cross-sectoral bamboo development is very crucial. In addition to complementing the sectoral regulations that are currently available, these regulations will serve as directions for the implementation of the Indonesia Bamboo National Strategy and also regulate the roles of cross-sectoral stakeholders.
“This is a reminder for us, the bureaucrats, non-governmental organizations, and bamboo activists to accelerate the development of a national strategy for the sustainable utilization of bamboo as a manifestation of Indonesia’s policy will.”
What’s the Indonesian Bamboo National Strategy like?
The Indonesian government recognizes the great potential of bamboo and is developing a national strategy for the smallholder bamboo industry. This document will serve as a common reference across sectors and stakeholders in the development of integrated upstream-middle-downstream bamboo in Indonesia.
The Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s Research Development and Innovation Agency initiated the drafting of this bamboo strategic plan. A study team has been formed to examine the integrated development of bamboo covering economic, social, cultural, ecological, environmental, policy and regulatory aspects. Composed of researchers and policy analysts with various fields of expertise, the Team produced a draft of Stranas Bambu in early April 2021.
The draft of Indonesia’s Bamboo Development National Strategy focuses on how to integrate upstream, middle and downstream sectors, while still based on the community that has become part of the management and utilization of bamboo.
Indonesia’s Bamboo Development National Strategy will cover the management and utilization of the upstream sector, such as community-based bamboo planting using social forestry schemes. While in the middle and downstream sectors, the document will include efforts to create markets, and build a business model that connects farmers and companies as off-takers to enable People-Public-Private Partnerships implementation.
Big dreams for Indonesian bamboo
“Currently, there are very few references about Indonesian bamboo and I would love to see there is more research on bamboo to be the basis for policy formulation for sustainable bamboo use in Indonesia,” said Desy. She firmly believes that bamboo can provide real benefits to the community.
“Bamboo is a very promising commodity, for both industry and conservation. If bamboo can be used sustainably by the community, then bamboo will be the future of Indonesia”.
As one of the champions currently overseeing the preparation of the Indonesian Bamboo Development National Strategy, Desy Ekawati realizes that an orchestra for the future of bamboo is being assembled. Activists, industry players, and bamboo enthusiasts are longing for an orchestra that harmonizes various efforts for the sustainable utilization of bamboo, the welfare of the people, and the future of Indonesia.
The Environmental Bamboo Foundation (EBF) has joined forces with SEAD Plant, signing an MOU in June 2022 to facilitate transfer of knowledge between the two organizations with the aim of growing the Bamboo Village Initiative in South East Asia. This is the first time EBF has ventured outside of Indonesia to forge formal ties with an organization with similar aims and vision.
The cooperation between SEAD and EBF will help to share key lessons learned between communities in both countries in the hope of developing a village-based bamboo industry. The similar climates and agricultural traditions of the two countries make this a very natural partnership.
EBF aims to create more partnerships with the ASEAN region as each have longstanding relationships with bamboo and bamboo-based village industries.
SEAD and Environmental Bamboo Foundation share the same lifelong mission to restore heavily degraded lands with bamboo; one bamboo forest at a time. The path we both walk down may not always be a straight one, with ongoing challenges and human skepticism but the goal to empower the rural ‘rakyat’, one ‘kampung’ at a time ignites our passion to serve the communities.
SEAD stands for Stewards of Environmentally-Aware Development and is an environmentally-focused company specializing in the utilization of bamboo as a sustainable solution for the built environment, land restoration and community empowerment. SEAD is based in Perak, Malaysia.
EBF is a non-profit organization that since 1993 has studied and showcased bamboo as a social, ecological and economic solution for indigenous and local communities. Together with the local government and rural communities, EBF is currently intensively developing village-based bamboo industry and bamboo agroforestry villages in NTT. EBF has also started initiating the program in the provinces of Bali, East Java, West Kalimantan, and Central Kalimantan. In 2021, EBF assisted 388 ‘Bamboo Mamas’ in 21 villages in 7 districts in Flores and succeeded in creating and caring for 2.5 million bamboo seedlings.
“Land degradation has caused Indonesia to become the fifth largest carbon dioxide emitter in the world,” said Rabik, one of the speakers at the Kuala Lumpur Architecture Festival’s (KLAF) Datum: KL conference held earlier this month.
“And the people who suffer the most are the rural communities, smallholder farmers and the very poor,” added Rabik, who also sits on the Advisory Board of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030.
EBF Appreciates Jokowi’s Gift of a Spedagi Bamboo Bike to Australian PM
The Environmental Bamboo Foundation (EBF) appreciates President Jokowi’s gesture to invite Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to ride a bicycle and gift him a Spedagi bamboo bicycle during the meeting of the two leaders of the countries Monday (6/1) at the State Palace, Bogor.
“Mr. President has started diplomacy on bamboo bicycles. The gift of bamboo bicycles shows that the President is supportive of the community-based bamboo industry and products made in Indonesia by using them as a tool of diplomacy,” said EBF Executive Director, Monica Tanuhandaru.
EBF is a non-profit organization that since 1993 has studied and showcased bamboo as a social, ecological and economic solution for indigenous and local communities. Together with the local government and rural communities, EBF is currently intensively developing village-based bamboo industry and bamboo agroforestry villages in NTT. EBF has also started initiating the program in the provinces of Bali, East Java, West Kalimantan, and Central Kalimantan.
Currently, EBF is collaborating with Spedagi, the name of the bamboo bicycle designed, produced and developed by Singgih Kartono, a product designer who has won several international awards. Later, the result of this collaboration will produce a bamboo bicycle made of bamboo planted by the community in Flores, NTT.
In 2021, EBF assisted 388 ‘Bamboo Mamas’ Bambu in 21 villages in 7 districts in Flores and succeeded in creating and caring for 2.5 million bamboo seedlings. “This gift giving bike is the second good news for us this month. The first good news was the President’s visit to the Turetogo Bamboo Campus, which is the center of education, research and innovation for EBF, and on that occasion the President bought a Spedagi bicycle that was on display,” added Monica.
During a visit to the Turetogo Bamboo Campus in Ngada, NTT, President Jokowi had the opportunity to chat with the Bamboo Mamas and Singgih Kartono. On that occasion, Singgih showed the work of the Dalanrata series of bamboo bicycles (road bikes) designed for use on the highway. President Jokowi then bought a a Dalanrata bicycle, and a few days later ordered an additional unit to be gifted to the Australian PM.
Tough and Environmentally Friendly
Spedagi is a bicycle with a frame made of bamboo, while the other elements are quality components obtained on the open market. Although made of bamboo, the power of the Spedagi bicycle cannot be underestimated. The Dalanrata series has been used by Indonesian cyclists to complete the most prestigious long-distance cycling event in the world, the Paris-Brest-Paris Randonneur in 2019. Two Indonesian cyclists (Salman Faridi and Vidi Widyastono) using Dalanrata successfully completed the 1,200 km route. Dalanrata has also successfully completed the Java Landscape bicycle tour from Anyer to Banyuwangi (1,400 km) in 2022.
“Bamboo bicycles are strong, visually more beautiful than other materials, and also more comfortable because bamboo has the ability to absorb vibrations, the bamboo cells are like micro-suspension,” said Singgih Kartono.
Singgih started designing bamboo bicycles in 2013 after he felt “slapped” by seeing the existence of bamboo bicycles in a number of countries that do not have bamboo though Indonesia, which is rich in bamboo resources. Using the potential of bamboo growing in his village in Temanggung, Central Java, Singgih then began designing and producing bamboo bicycles under the Spedagi banner. His company trains and educates village youth to make bamboo bicycles. In the international design arena, the Spedagi bamboo bike has made a name for itself. In 2018, the Spedagi bamboo bike won the Gold Prize at the prestigious Good Design Award event in Tokyo. The Spedagi bamboo bicycle has also become an elective subject at the Tokyo Zokei University design education institute.
“In the context of the bamboo program in Indonesia, we need symbols and icons to spark people’s love for bamboo. Good and cool products, both functionally and aesthetically, such as bamboo bicycles, will have an important role in revitalizing the bamboo industry at a village level,” he explained.
Bamboo Bike Goes Global
YBL’s Senior Advisor, Noer Fauzi Rachman, pointed out that the President’s move, by giving the spedagi as a souvenir, signifies the contribution of nature and the Indonesian people in the international diplomacy arena.
“Remembering World Environment Day, June 5, 2022, this gift is important to mark the ability of Indonesian citizens to innovate new technology by using environmentally friendly materials, producing modern goods based on community-based industries,” he said. This kind of diplomacy, according to him, will be very important and interesting for Indonesia to show in the context of the upcoming G20 meeting.
“There is a continuation of this bamboo bicycle diplomacy which is also important. Namely, creating new ways of viewing and appreciating bamboo, and developing strategies to revitalize existing agroforestry into sustainable bamboo forests, which are able to supply the need for continuous use of bamboo. Bamboo can be a modality in various cultural promotions, including in the context of overcoming poverty by eliminating structural and cultural barriers that hinder the growth and development of rural communities, including women, children and youth. Bamboo really has the potential to be a solution. We are looking forward to what will happen with this momentum,” he said.
In the midst of heavy rains that hit Ngada, the President of the Republic of Indonesia, Ir. H. Joko Widodo and First Lady Iriana Joko Widodo took the time to visit the Turetogo Bamboo Campus on Wednesday afternoon (1/6) and greet the Mama Bambu, women pioneers who have spearheaded the bamboo nursery and reforestation program in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT).
The nursery and reforestation program using bamboo is a collaboration between the NTT Provincial Government and the Environmental Bamboo Foundation (EBF). The program involved 388 Bamboo Mamas in 21 villages in 7 districts in Flores. In 2021, the Bamboo Mamas succeeded in propagating and caring for more than 2.5 million seedlings. The number of seedlings is sufficient to rehabilitate 72,000 hectares of critical land.
This program is part of a long-term effort to develop bamboo agroforestry villages in NTT. The Bamboo Agroforestry Village program uses bamboo as a conservation plant (restoring critical land, protecting water sources, preventing landslides, absorbing carbon) as well as a plant to improve the welfare of rural communities through the smallholder bamboo industry.
The presidential entourage arrived at the Turetogo Bamboo Campus in Ratogesa Village, Golewa District, at 15.20 WITA and was immediately greeted by EBF leaders, including EBF Chair, Arief Rabik, Executive Director Monica Tanuhandaru, Senior Adviser Noer Fauzi Rachman, Senior Adviser Sarah Lery Mboeik, and bamboo taxonomy expert Prof. Dr. Elizabeth Widjaja. Also present were Singgih Kartono, the creator of the Spedagi bamboo bicycle, the Regent of Ngada, Andreas Paru, the Governor of NTT, Viktor Bungtilu Laiskodat (VBL), and the Chair of the NTT PKK Mobilizing Team, Bunda Julie S Laiskodat. VBL and Bunda Julie are the main supporters of this bamboo nursery and reforestation program.
President Jokowi then listened to Arief Rabik’s explanation about laminated bamboo, a processed bamboo product that has a shape and strength similar to wood. With the potential of bamboo that NTT has, this province has the opportunity to become a center for producing laminated bamboo. The global market demand for laminated bamboo will continue to increase because laminated bamboo is a more sustainable, environmentally friendly and lower carbon alternative than wood.
President Jokowi then spent a long time talking with the nine Bamboo Mamas who were the representatives of Bamboo Mamas throughout Flores. Of these nine women, five are from Ngada and four are from Nagekeo.
“Mr. President asked about the number of seedlings we produce, the price of seedlings, how to propagate the seedlings, and how long it takes to maintain the seedlings until the each plant has 25 leaves,” said Wilhelmina Bhoki (51), a Bamboo Mama from Genamere Village, Bajawa.
Wilhemina Bhoki couldn’t hide her joy at meeting and conversing with Jokowi.
“I’m very happy, since I was born, this is the first time I’ve been able to meet Mr. President,” she said.
So happy, Wilhelmina and the other Bamboo Mama asked for an opportunity to take a photo with President Jokowi and the First Lady.
“We asked for a group photo, and I was next to the President, very proud,” she said with a smile.
In his conversation with EBF Senior Adviser Noer Fauzi Rachman, President Jokowi asked what support he could provide to encourage the creation of NTT as a center for community based bamboo industry. Noer Fauzi Rachman describes the need to have a National Bamboo Development Strategy to accelerate the creation of a people-based bamboo industry throughout Indonesia.
“Mr. President stated that he is ready to help and support these efforts,” said Noer Fauzi Rachman.
President Jokowi and his entourage left the Turetogo Bamboo Campus at 16.00 WITA.
The Turetogo Bamboo Campus was inaugurated in May 2021 and aspires to be a center for education, research, innovation, and cultural exchange about bamboo. So far, the Turetogo Bamboo Campus has carried out a number of educational activities and workshops on the nursery, planting and sustainable management of bamboo forests. The campus is equipped with a number of facilities, including a study building, lodging, bamboo preservation installations, bamboo gardens with local plants, as well as an example of the Sustainable Bamboo House building–a residence made of laminated bamboo with a knock-down system. Rumah Bambu Lestari can be an alternative for social housing, post-disaster temporary housing, public facility buildings, and tourist resorts.
EBF was founded in 1993 and has consistently campaigned for bamboo as an ecological solution and an economic solution in village development. Currently EBF is working with villagers in NTT, Bali, East Java, West Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan in developing bamboo agroforestry villages.
Bamboo can only be grown in 80 countries. Indonesia has at least 176 species of bamboo out of a total of 1620 bamboo species in the world. 105 of those endemic species of bamboo in Indonesia cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
Although it has a huge wealth of bamboo, it turns out that Indonesia does not have many bamboo researchers. Professor Elizabeth Anita Widjaja is a pioneer and perhaps the only bamboo taxonomist in Indonesia. Since 1970, Elizabeth has identified at least 100 variants of 160 species of bamboo in Indonesia.
Elizabeth’s love for bamboo began when she was a student and was involved in research on grasses. Over time, Elizabeth discovered that bamboo is a magical species of grass that has many uses. Yes, you read that right, bamboo is actually a species of grass that can grow to a height of up to 30 meters. Like other grasses, all bamboo has a flexible stem texture and can bend easily.
The woman who gave names to bamboo
Elizabeth’s beginnings in the world of bamboo taxonomy began with research for her thesis. While researching black bamboo as the best bamboo species for making angklung (traditional musical instruments of West Java), she realized that there is only one scientific name for four different species of black bamboo. At that time black bamboo or Gigantochloa verticillata (Wild) Munro is the only name known for four different species: awi hideung, awi ater, awi gambong, and awi mayan.
Elizabeth then became more serious in studying bamboo taxonomy. Thanks to Elizabeth’s taxonomy, the four species of black bamboo were then given new names, some even being named after her last name. Awi ater became Gigantochloa atter, awi gombong became Gigantochloa pseudoarundinaceae (Steud) Widjaja, awi hideung became Gigantochloa atroviolacea Widjaja, and awi mayan was named Gigantochloa maxima (Poir) Kurz.
Until now, at least 160 species of bamboo have been identified and classified by Elizabeth. Of that number, 100 species are the results of her findings.
The importance of research for the use of bamboo in Indonesia
The use of bamboo in Indonesia is still not optimal because the government has not paid enough attention to bamboo. Many people think that bamboo is a weed because it is not easy to kill a bamboo clump.
Bamboo has a high survival rate. Even when burned, bamboo can still grow back. Even after experiencing drought during dry season, bamboo will grow again. The extraordinary resilience of bamboo means that it has excellent potential to be planted on dry and degraded lands.
”There are many opportunities for bamboo utilization such as for fiber, renewable energy, preventing erosion, for water conservation, and others. Therefore, we need more research on bamboo,” said Elizabeth.
Research is not only needed to find out the various benefits of bamboo, but also to invent better technology for its sustainable utilization and to increase the added value of bamboo.
“Until now, Indonesia has not carried out a detailed inventory of the bamboo population. Bamboo inventory data using drones and remote sensing is still not sufficient to provide information about the potential of bamboo. Especially if the bamboo lives underneath a tropical forest canopy.” The lack of information related to the bamboo stocks means we unable to know for sure how big the potential of bamboo for industry is in Indonesia.
Bamboo cultivation will not become a priority unless entrepreneurs in Indonesia feel the need for it. In fact, many industries in the world are starting to look at bamboo as a key raw material. For example, the textile fiber industry which has become more popular lately in Indonesia. Currently, Indonesian bamboo textile makers still rely on imported bamboo fibers.
Likewise, bamboo paper is very much in demand for painting. The price of bamboo paper is very expensive because it has high artistic value. Not to mention the benefits of bamboo for medical use. Research to uncover better technology in processing bamboo for various benefits is very much needed.
“I hope the use of bamboo can be increased but it must be balanced with better knowledge and technology to support sustainable utilization,” said Elizabeth.
The capacity of the bamboo industry must be calculated carefully, including the availability of bamboo raw materials. Bamboo cultivation is very important to ensure its availability for the industry and of course for its ecological and land conservation role. Agricultural technology research is needed to support bamboo cultivation for industry.
For Elizabeth’s dedication and achievements in the world of bamboo taxonomy, she received various awards, including The Best Young Scientist from LIPI in 1997, Satya Lencana Karya Satya in 1997 and 1998, Bintang Jasa Utama from the President of the Republic of Indonesia in 2000, and the Harshberger Medal by the Society of Ethnobotanists, India in 2001.