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Commodities at a glance: Special issue on bamboo

This report discusses the general uses of bamboo and explores its potential as a modern building material. It also highlights the benefits developing countries could derive from developing bamboo sector through its use in downstream industries.

A major component of this report is a comparative analysis of the physical and mechanical properties of bamboo relative to traditional building materials. The construction industry uses man-made building materials such as cement, concrete, steel, bricks and concrete blocks, as well as a wide range of natural building materials such as timber, bamboo and clay. Selecting the material to use for a specific application depends on several factors, including strength (ability to withstand different external loadings), availability, durability, affordability, cost-effectiveness and aesthetics.

Given the environmental challenges created by timber, steel and concrete, modern construction puts emphasis on using materials that have a low impact on the environment. Bamboo is among a few materials that have potential to replace conventional materials in construction because of its low environmental footprint.

The aim of this report is to help fill this information gap by providing information on the properties of bamboo. This could encourage greater use of bamboo as a building material and foster the cultivation and trade of bamboo species that have strong potential in construction. In addition, building with bamboo could facilitate plans by governments to provide affordable housing for millions of people in developing countries because it is cheaper than conventional construction materials and widely available.

This report has six additional chapters following this introductory chapter.

Chapter 2 provides background information on bamboo related to growing conditions and the growth cycle, geographical distribution, characteristics and uses.

Chapter 3 provides information on the historical uses of bamboo and an analysis of its physical and mechanical properties. It also highlights the opportunities and challenges for using bamboo as a building material.

Chapter 4 examines value addition in the manufacturing chain of bamboo products used in the construction industry.

Chapter 5 provides information on international trade in bamboo products, including those used in construction.

Chapter 6 examines the economic, environmental and social impacts of the bamboo industry.

The final chapter highlights policy issues associated with bamboo development and draws lessons from the study in the form of policy recommendations to assist commodity-dependent developing countries in their efforts to achieve inclusive economic growth and sustainable development.

03 Mar 2022