By ANTONIO G. PAPA, Ph.D.

Beema bamboo, a high yielding variety of bamboo, was developed through tissue culture by Dr. Nambi Barathi, the founder-director of Growmore Biotech Limited, based in India. It is a thorn-less and high yielding clone of Bambusa balcova.

Uses of Beema bamboo

According to Dr. Barathi, “Beema bamboo has many uses as follows: for the construction of buildings, production of paper pulp, energy power generation, strip board, charcoal production, biofuel, carbon sink, oxygen emission, toxic sequestration, and furniture and handicrafts making.”

The titular advantage of Beema bamboo over other species is that “its culm is thickly-walled”, Dr. Barathi added.

Beema bamboo poles. PHOTO BY DR. BARATHI

Bamboo house. In the Philippines, rest houses of well-to-do families and the houses of many rural dwellers, especially in the farm areas, are made of bamboo and are roofed with either nipa or cogon grass. Sometimes, bamboo is also used for roofing. It is called “kalaka” or “calaca” –– where the two halves of bamboo are fixed together upside down and its in-between is being covered by a one-half bamboo downside until the whole roofing is closed using the same process.

Furniture and handicrafts. The country is also known as an exporter of furniture and handicrafts made out of bamboo. 

Reports from the Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD) state that: “In the year 2000, the total export of bamboo furniture alone is valued at (free-on-board [FOB] Value) US$ 3,180,533.00. In the same year, the Philippine handicraft exports (i.e., gifts, toys, and housewares) is valued at (FOB) US$ 448.82 M (this value includes other materials like rattan). 

For housewares, the major exports are baskets made from bamboo and rattan. The handicraft sector provided the bulk of the total export sales generated from 1991 to 2000 with a contribution of US$7.6 B or 73 percent. Bamboo, which is traditionally processed into handicrafts, has a forecasted demand worldwide amounting to US$8B.”

DOST-PCAARRD added that “the Philippines exports bamboo furniture to more than 50 countries, including the United States of America (USA), Spain, France, Italy, Netherlands, Cyprus, Japan, Germany, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Sweden among others. The USA is the only biggest market capturing about one-third of the total export.”

Biomass power production. Beema bamboo produces the highest biomass as compared to any other tree plantation. Biomass Power Project of 1MW can sustainably produce electricity for several years with 200 acres (80 hectares) of Beema bamboo energy plantations cultivated under high density plantations.

Charcoal production. It was reported that Beema bamboo is more advantageous to use because of its low ash content.

Climate change mitigation. To mitigate climate change or global warming, planting Beema bamboo is the best solution. Do you know why? Dr. Barathi advanced the following significance of planting Beema bamboo:

  1. Bamboo absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen into the atmosphere 3to 4 times higher than many other trees;
  2. One bamboo tree generates plenty of natural oxygen sufficient for more than one human being’s daily requirement;
  3. Grows more than one foot a day and covers with good canopy faster than any other tree and cooling the surroundings;
  4. Every part of bamboo is used to make varieties of products;
  5. Bamboo can replace the wood for all applications such as paper, flooring, furniture, charcoal, etc.;
  6. Bamboo co-polymer plastic replaces 50 percent of plastic which is essential but not eco-friendly;
  7. Bamboo effectively cleans the water pollution of the septic tank discharge and factories effluent by its natural affinity for nitrogen, phosphorus and heavy metals; and
  8. Bamboo enriches the soil naturally and prevents soil erosion.

Beema bamboo plantation in Romblon

In the Philippines, the first Beema bamboo nursery and plantation was established at Romblon State College (RSC) now Romblon State University (RSU) in Odiongan, Romblon, after the procurement of 1,000 tissue-cultured Beema bamboo saplings from Growmore Biotech Ltd. of Dr. Barathi, through RSC’s Romblon Bamboo Research Center, Inc. (RBRCI) in 2009. It was initiated by Dr. Merian P. Catajay-Mani, then director for Research of RSC and now the president of RSU.

Beema bamboo nursery in Marinduque

In Marinduque, Dr. Mani, president of Marinduque State College (MSC) from September 2015 to July 2020, established a bamboo nursery with 28,000 saplings as part of the project dubbed the “Carbon Neutral Garden and Oxygen Park.” It is a collaborative endeavor of MSC, Department of Health (DOH) in MIMAROPA Region and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in partnership with the Local Government Units of Boac and Mogpog, the Provincial Government of Marinduque and the Congressional District of Marinduque.

Read: Climatic and cultural requirements for growing Beema bamboo