Following is excerpted from a report in Economic Times.

… Bamboo, one of the most important forest produces in Orissa, is mostly used as raw material for the paper industry. However, it has great potential in Orissa for its multiple uses if managed well. Orissa has 9% of the country’s total bamboo forest cover and 7% of total growing stock of bamboo.

According to a study done by the Beijing-based International Network for Bamboo and Rattan, the market potential of bamboo and bamboo products from Orissa is more than Rs 600 crore per annum. This could increase at double the existing rate at 3.9%.

The state will require to produce 6.45 lakh tonne of raw bamboo every year to meet the demand of increasing market of bamboo. The state produces only 1.8 lakh tonne per annum. Bamboo in forest areas of Orissa grows as a mixed crop associated with sal and other species.

The mixed bamboo forest area is spread over about 17,795 sq km and pure bamboo forest (occurring mostly as bamboo brakes) is about 375 sq km. There are about 13 species of bamboo available in the state. The study says some 13 lakh villagers, most of them tribal, are directly dependent on bamboo production and business related to bamboo and its products.

“The maximum annual earning from current livelihood options — working in agricultural land, as labour and making bamboo handicrafts — in the surveyed villages is Rs 10,000. “Involvement in bamboo plantation and primary processing of bamboo by tribal communities can provide additional incomes up to Rs 12,000 per year. The potential of bamboo as a sustainable livelihood solution to the community in Orissa is thus a reality,” according to the study.

Orissa Bamboo Development Agency (OBDA) with support from National Bamboo Mission (NBM) and National Mission on Bamboo Application (NMBA) has already started promoting many alternative uses of bamboo like house building materials, particle boards, corrugated sheets, mat boards, ply boards, handicrafts, furniture, energy and charcoal, textile fibre and food.

The fresh young shoots (karadis in local name) procured from the forests by the tribals are also used as food and for adding taste and flavour in many regular dishes (after drying, locally known as hendua). Besides, most of the species of bamboo available in the state have edible shoots.

These shoots are of very high nutritional value, with low fat and considerable content of fibre, vitamins, and cellulose and amino acids, which make them a food item with great market potential. Meanwhile, OBDA has joined hands with Xavier Institute of management to explore the potential of bamboo and bamboo products from within and outside the state, according to Prof Neeraj Kumar, a faculty of rural management.