Bamboo Villages: Reaching the full heights


In late 2020, Yayasan Bambu Lingkungan Lestari/Environmental Bamboo Foundation (EBF) launched a massive bamboo seedling and planting program in 21 villages across 7 regencies in East Nusa Tenggara.

The community-based program aimed at: (1) producing seedlings for rehabilitating degraded land and protecting water sources; (2) providing the participating villagers with an alternative source of income via cash-for-seedling scheme; (3) preparing the villages for Green Economy
initiatives with bamboo as the main material.

EBF introduced the family-based nursery as the main approach. It enggaged local women, mostly housewives, as the primary actor in the seedling program. These women cultivate teh seedlings in the yards of their respective houses, thus, ensuring that the activity would not disrupt their work in managing the household.

These women proved to be a passionate and resilient bamboo advocates. They succesfully completed their tasks despite various hindrances, including the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic and Tropical Cyclone Seroja.

To a large extent, they admitted, that the program had assisted them in overcoming the negative impacts of COVID-19 Pandemic. As the pandemic raged on through 2021-2022 the povertystricken East Nusa Tenggara must deal with a new and massive surge in unemployment while households had to deal with rising costs and loss in revenue.

The cash incentive provided by the program to the participating women had enabled them to survive the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic. In some households, the money provided the much-needed school tuition for their children, in others it gave them a seed money to start
new business ventures.

Throughout the duration of the program (2021-2023) these women have achieved a remarkable results: more than 3.1 million seedlings produced, over 1.8 million seedlings have been planted in 1,000 hectares of degraded land and watershed area.

The achievement has made them famous. They are fondly called Mama Bambu (Bamboo Mamas) and Presiden Jokowi visited Ngada on June 2022 simply to converse with them.

EBF has also carried out program in Bali and East Java. In these two regions, the communitybased seedling and planting program is funded by private sectors and aims at protecting two major watershed areas: DAS Brantas in East Java and DAS Yeh Penet in Bali. Both watershed areas provides vital water supply hundreds of thousands farmers and households.

At present, EBF has engaged 286 villages and manages active programs in 8 provinces. The program has benefited 8,000 individuals and produced a total of 3.5 million seedlings.

Yet, behind these numbers lie a tapestry of individual struggles and personal stories of those who drive changes: women, farmers, weavers, construction workers.


“Bamboo is an integral part of our culture. If bamboo goes extinct because we fail to replant and sustain it then our culture will also degrade,”
–Astrid Lusiana Embu

Wolowea village in Nagekeo regency, East Nusa Tenggara, is steeped in ancient traditions and customs, including an annual festival to honor the ancestral spirits. A huge mound up in the hill some 2 kilometers away from the village center is believed to be the seat of these spirits. Dances are performed and the origin story of the village is recited during the ritual on the mound. But before   that, the procession of the villagers must cross through four bamboo bridges constructed over a river running along the perimeter of the village.

“The bridges must be repaired and maintained on a regular basis. Without a sustainable supply of bamboo poles my children and grandchildren would not be able to maintain these bridges, thus, may put the future of our ritual and tradition in a bad place,” Astrid added.

The village has a spacious bamboo forest but not until the arrival in 2021 of the Environmental Bamboo Foundation (EBF) that the villagers began to learn best practices in managing the forest in a sustainable way as well as in seedling and planting bamboos.

The program also provided the participating women with an additional source of income.

Raimunda Mogi of Wolowea recalled how in 2021 she created and cultivated around 8,000 bamboo seedlings and received 20 million Rupiah in cash incentive. It was a sizable amount of money for her.

“In 2022 EBF provided us with a weaving workshop and a training on agroforestry, how to cultivate food plants and vegetables alongside bamboo. Both are very beneficial for us because we could sell the weaving products and vegetables for added income,” she explained.

Both Astrid and Raimunda are part of Mama Bambu (Bamboo Mamas), a group of more than 500 women who spearheaded the massive bamboo seedlings and planting program in East Nusa Tenggara.

The program has not only transformed Bamboo Mamas into a passionate and dedicated conservation actors but also, through the cash incentive, into an active and influential participant in their respective households’ decision-making process.

East Nusa Tenggara is a predominantly patriachal society, in whicg women are generally confined to the traditional, submissive role. EBF paved a new path by insisting that the incentive should not be disbursed in conventional way—through the village chief —but through the bank account of the respective participating women. EBF facillitated the women to open their bank account and assisted them in the basics of financial literacy.

The cash incentive and the fact that they have an absolute control over its use had provided the Bamboo Mamas with a sense of achievement, which in most cases influenced the power dynamic in the their respective households. Moreover, the program’s success and waves of acknowledgent from the media, high-ranking officials and even the president, had bestowed the Bamboo Mamas with an elevated sense of confident that motivated a large number of them to play a bigger role in the villages’ activities and program.

“It seems that there is little interest among the youths to learn about traditional weavings. Most of the weavers are of the old generation,”
–Apolonia Ona

Apolonia Ona was 19 years-old when her mother started teaching her the art of bamboo weaving. She quickly learned how to weave bamboo paraphernalia for rituals as well as how to carry on her shoulder two 3 meter-long bamboo poles from the nearby forest to her village.

“A Nginamanu woman must know how to weave bamboo objects because our traditional rituals require such objects,” she said, referring to the name of her village in Ngada regency, East Nusa Tenggara.


Now, Apolonia is a senior figure among the members of Subinana Weavers, a group of 20 adults and 12 teen bamboo weavers. She transferred her knowledge to the young girls of her village, including her daughter.

Trainings provided by EBF had provided these weavers with skills to create new, contemporary products, ranging from bamboo bags to wallets and baskets.

The trainings are part of EBF initiative to develop village-level bamboo industry and to create a sustainable, eco-friendly alternative to the plastic planting bag. EBF’s massive seedling and planting program consumes a huge number of plastic planting bags. They are cheap in price but definitely very expensive in ecological consequences.

Through the trainings the Subinana Weavers learned to craft bamboo planting bags. EBF would purchase the planting bags, thus, create a stable stream of income for the women.

Plastic planting bag is sold at 1,000 Rupiah per piece while EBF purchases the bamboo planting bag at 5,000 Rupiah per piece.

“EBF has also assisted us in reaching out to prospective buyers and markets as well as in seedling and planting bamboo to increase our stock material,” she said.

“I am sure the bambbo seed that I plant today will bring benefit to my children and grandchildren”

A housewife with three kids Arini is a very active individual. Besides her primary job as a Quran teacher, she is also an organic farmer and member of various women organizations. Her latest role is being a bamboo advocate.

When EBF launched a seedling and planting program in Claket village, Mojokerto Regency, East Java, Arini was one of its earliest participants.

“I have always wanted to better myself, to learn new things and to contribute more to my family. This seedling and planting program gives me an opportunity to do so,” she said.


The program in Claket is a collaborative effort between EBF and MBI (Multi Bintang Indonesia), the country’s largest beer brewery, to protect, conserve and improve the water quality along Brantas Watershed. Brantas is the second longest river in Java island and more than 18 million people residing along its watershed.

“The program has made me aware on the importance of the watershed for our life and on efforts that we could do to protect it. I believe that what we are doing now will create a significant
impact in the future,” she said.

Kuswanto is another villager that was deeply touched by the program. A youth leader in Mligi hamlet, Kuswanto offered his ancestral land as the site for the seedling center.

“The program has increased our knowledge on bamboo and its ecological benefits and this is the reason why the program received an enormous support from my fellow villagers,” he said.

The program has also inspired Kuswanto to introduce bamboo tourism in Surodadu waterfall, the village’s main attraction.

“Planting bamboo around the waterfall will enhance the its attractiveness and at the same time increase its environmental quality,” he said.

The new knowledge on bamboo and its benefits has also motivated the locals in the neighboring village of Warugunung to transform a 1.2 hectare of bamboo grove into Pasar Keramat, an open-air traditional market that sells traditional foods and crafts with bamboo token as the main currency. Held twice a month, this market soon turned into a cultural hub with colorful art performances that drew thousands of visitors.


“Technical skills and knowledge on bamboo construction would open job opportunities for young people, particularly those living in villages with a big bamboo resource,”
–Fransiscus Sem

Bamboo has been used for centuries in Indonesia as a construction materials. Traditional houses from various ethnic groups in the archipelago share one important similarity: the extensive utilization of bamboo, from supporting pillars and woven walls to roofing.

Unfortunately, this architectural legacy is in a constant decline due to the domination of modern construction materials. Concrete and cement are viewed as not only stronger and more durable but also more prestigious than bamboo.

The decline of bamboo-based architecture has led to the loss of the traditional bamboo building knowledge. The number of construction workers and architects who possess that knowledge is continuously dwindling. To mitigate this problem, EBF organizes a series of trainings, two of which had taken place in Kupang and Labuan Bajo, aimed at providing the local youths in East Nusa Tenggara with the required skills to construct bamboo buildings.

Fransiscus Sem attended the training in Labuan Bajo. The participants of the training were later tasked with the construction of M’baru One, the bamboo building that won the EBF’s 2022 National Design Competition on Bamboo Ecolodge.

“It was a very informative experience. I have known bamboo since I was a kid but have never realized its true potential as a construction materials. The training and the ensuing experience in building Mbaru One convinced me that I could build a career in bamboo construction,” he said.


“By 2024 I hope that all buildings’ pillars and tables in this regency are made of bamboo”
–West Manggarai Regent,

Edistasius Endi EBF and the community-based bamboo agroforestry program have enjoyed a growing support from the government, the private sector, donors, and most importantly from the peop

One of the most important steps that the EBF and its partners would take in the coming years is on renewable energy. The state-owned oil and gas giant Pertamina has engaged EBF as a partner in its effort to transition to renewable energy. EBF considers East Nusa Tenggara with its huge bamboo resources as the site for Pertamina’s endeavor to produce bamboo-based bioethanol , bio-char and bio-mass power plant.

However, this project is certainly not a silver bullet. EBF must find ways to sustain and replicate those succesful programs to the other parts of the nation.

Bringing economic prosperity and ecological sustainability to the rural regions of Indonesia is the main objective and to be able to do so EBF must build a large base of supporters and

What’s happened in 2021 

Despite our concerns in the time of COVID19, our Bamboo Village Initiative strategy has proved its relevance in the last year and has made huge strides. We are gaining support at a national level more rapidly than planned. We have been astounded at how much interest and support has been offered, especially from the public sector. One unforeseen alignment has been our strategy’s inclusion in social aid programs that are part of the Government’s COVID19 relief packages.

We’re happy to share our key achievements during the last 18 months:

— Presidential recognition: We were able to personally meet and gain significant support from the President. The President has instructed follow ups for the development of a National Strategy for bamboo.
— We’ve initiated 20 Bamboo Village in East Nusa Tenggara Province, activating 8,400 farmers. The province became the first in the world to officially endorse the strategy with a 5 year signed commitment to fund another 180 villages.
— East Nusa Tenggara Province became the first example of a major public funding for the Bamboo Village Initiative, with secured funding of Rp 8.6 billion (USD 614,000) to expand women-focused family nursery programs. This will unlock the possibility of getting public funding, with a total future commitment of Rp 650 billion (USD 46.4 million).
— The women-driven seedling program in East Nusa Tenggara became a financial “cash for work” program, allowing participating women champions to earn an additional income of Rp. 800,000 (USD 56) per month.
— Exceeded our bamboo planting targets: more than 500,000 bamboo seedlings in East Nusa Tenggara; 50,000 seedlings in East Java; 150,000 in West Kalimantan; and 100,000 in Bali.
Launched Turetogo Bamboo Agro-ecology Campus, providing a learning hub and focal point for farmers, educators, researchers, architects, and artists to advance the cause of bamboo.
— Created maps of social forestry allocation in 245 administrative villages in East Nusa Tenggara, East Java, and South Sulawesi.
— Carbon sequestration model for Dendrocalamus asper is underway: completed the data collection for carbon storage calculation and laboratory analysis for one province.
— Sharing knowledge on online webinars with the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, including topics such as Gender, Environmental Conservation and Climate Change
— For COP26 in Glasgow, the Foundation and the Ministry of Forestry and Environment will present 2 sessions on bamboo featuring speakers from across the globe.

Unlocking the social, environmental, and economic benefits of Bamboo

As Bamboo Villages expands, restored landscapes unlock a multitude of benefits. Retooling forestry production towards bamboo will result in a net reduction in deforestation while encouraging biodiversity and meeting global demand for food, fuel and fibre, and improving communities’ quality of life in rural areas. 

Climate Benefit 

Bamboo agroforestry is a strategic resource for climate change mitigation. Each hectare of bamboo forest can absorb 50 tons of carbon dioxide every year. In contrast, a typical bamboo clump acts as a 5,000-litre water holding tank on the topsoil, healing watersheds and mitigating the risk of flooding while serving as a natural windbreak during storms.

Social Benefit

In Bamboo Villages, Restoration Economy works in full swing. Villages in close proximity thrive in synergy, making production and processing costs significantly reduced, efficiencies of scale achieved, best practices learned, and the system overall becomes more resilient.

Our goal is to progressively grow Bamboo Villages to reach the full heights of its environmental, social, and economic potential. As our scope broadens, we will increase our carbon storage capacity, restore more degraded lands, and eventually provide a sustainable alternative source of income to millions of people worldwide.

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