Posts Tagged Agroforestry

National Bamboo Mission Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand, the land of temples, abode of Lord Shiva and Guru Gobind Singh alike, is now all set to pioneer bamboo agroforestry, due to its unique geographical location, stretches of well drained alluvial soil in the Terai belt and abundance of water- both, ground and rain.

The recently revised bamboo policy, with its de-classification as a timber (erstwhile) to its correct botanical classification of a"Grass", offers a window of opportunity for bamboo based enterprise. Government is thus focusing on developing bamboo based industry clusters, in areas endemic to bamboo, where, Uttarakhand fits the bill very well.

The task may seem Herculean, but it is surely possible to create Bamboo Based Clusters of Industry in the state of Uttarakhand, and to my mind we will need to focus on the following areas.

  • We will first need to set up a pilot unit( s )-  ( both, for agro-forestry as well as value addition endeavors )-Under the helmsman-ship of Forest Research Institute, Dehradun, with regional centers at various state agricultural universities, including GBPUAT- so that farmers get acquainted with bamboo as a crop. Some farmers, who pioneered undertaking bamboo agroforestry earlier, did not have a pleasant experience because of lack of proper markets at that point of time, when bamboo was still a regulated commodity. In light of the de-regulation, and prospects of bamboo industry coming up- we would have to do the confidence building exercise- where FRI, GBPUAT and other Universities/Institutions will need to show the way and bear the Olympian torch- for both aspects of Industry development- agriculture/agro-forestry (the source of raw material) and value-addition (product development and marketing). FRI, GBPUAT and other Universities, will perhaps, need to liaise with lead institutions like NID, IPRITI etc. to evolve suitable products and suitable markets. A collective effort is imminent to make this Bamboo Mission a reality.

Collectively,

  • We will need to research bamboo utilization in paper industry, and work on developing linkages between farmers and the paper units ( for example Century in Lal Kuan). I believe, bamboo requires a different production line, so Century will only do so, if it is assured of sustainable supply of bamboo . Maybe, a buy-back rate could also be fixed to build up confidence of the farmers.
  • We will need to develop nurseries of elite plant material to cater to the requirement of extension. The endemic bamboo species, which grow well in Uttarakhand are Dendrocalamus Strictus, B. Balcooa, B. Nutaans, Bambos and  Hamiltonii ( mid altitude). Oliverii  and D. Stocksii were recently introduced and have been found to be performing well. The forest areas have primarily Strictus. For enterprise based cultivation and extension excellent clones have been developed by FRI and GBPUAT, amongst other regional Institutes. Farmers/growers must try to procure these elite clones- namely, Balcooa, Nutaans, Oliverii and Stocksii for the plains and Hamiltonii for the hills. Each of the above elite clones has specific applications, so a judicious selection needs to be done, for choice of planting material.
  • Nurseries should be preferably vegetative- because survival rate of rhizomes is lot better than cuttings, or TC. We will need to develop local nurseries- to minimize transport and incidental damage-for the plant requirements of projected plantation program in the vicinity. Getting Plants from a distance is a messy and cost intensive affair, not to mention the transit damage, and the issue of acclimatization
  • Planting Schedules will need to be optimized- and Nursery production geared up to provide plants at the RIGHT TIME. There is no point having the plants in July-- because the best time to plant is Feb !!!!! . However, where water is a scarcity, or planting is to be undertaken in rain-fed area, the next best option is, indeed Pre-Monsoonal- but again, the choice of planting stock should be non other than RHIZOMES- because they have a higher chance of survival.
  • There are pockets of Bengali and Bihari immigrants /migrants in Uttarakhand, where weaving clusters could be developed. The native art of weaving existed, but died a natural death because of paucity of bamboo, due to forest restrictions. In light of the revision of Bamboo Policy, there is every likelihood of bamboo being available. We will probably need to establish weavers clusters and nurture them, till they can sustain themselves.
  • Construction industry- Fully solid or thick walled species have a great utilization in the construction industry- may it be the scaffolding, or cheap housing.
  • Hand Made Paper could also be made.
  • Furniture- Industry- requires specialty bamboo- and Uttarakhand could follow suit.
  • Logistics-paperwork for Inter-state movement of bamboo- There is still a lot of confusion amongst farmers, with regards to inter-state transportation of bamboo. Though, its been reiterated , post de-regulation, that the "permit-regime" has been archived, but there are still loop-holes, probably because of lack of understanding of the ordinance, or else, lack of will for proper implementation.
  • Farmers undertaking bamboo as a crop- would need to have it duly registered in their land records (khasra). This document is said to be a valid proof of origin of bamboo on private land.
  • To encourage extension and emergence of bamboo based enterprise, the Government could relax the Land Ceiling Slabs for bamboo agroforestry. It could be on the lines of the Tea Industry- where land is attached to the production Unit, and the ceiling is lifted. Its classified as an Industry. A similar scheme could be devised to encourage bamboo entrepreneurship.  
  • Energy- I have been following this topic but I gather bamboo based ethanol or bamboo based briquettes are not economical, as compared to other sources of fuel. Hopefully I am wrong. !!!!! 

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Curing Bamboo

Our attempts to switch over to agroforestry of bamboo to substitute wood for our handicrafts took me to , and Bangalore, where I had the pleasure of meeting some rare breed of "bamboo connoisseurs". The 5 day seminar offered insights into novel methods of bamboo preservation and product development.

To a layman, bamboo epitomizes "a poor mans timber"- an ambivalent "pole"- being utilized in almost all rural activities- may it be construction, fencing, fishing or agriculture.

Why preserve bamboos?
Natural Untreated Bamboos are classified as GRADE 3 timber material. However, when properly treated it turns out be a very fine timber, in ways, stronger than steel and ALL HARDWOODS. In its treated state- Bamboo is classified as GRADE 1 Timber- along with Sagwan and Sal. Thus, treating bamboo becomes a necessity. 

These techniques include non-chemical and chemical methods, some of which I have already discussed in one of my earlier blogs.

Sap Displacement, smoking, white-washing, storage in water.
Chemical treatment methods (CCA), Boric acid / Borax

Treatment in heated oil / oleo-heat-
I am intrigued by the simplicity and functionality of this process. Where-as, other processes may involve a time span of at least a few months, from the time of harvest to a fully dried and treated bamboo, the oil process renders a ready/treated and duly de-hydrated and de-starched bamboo, in a matter of hours!!! I am trying out various combinations- to study the costs involved, as well as to minimize chemical deterioration and the associated fire hazards
.

Would appreciate comments/observations on this method . 

Outer/Exterior Protection

Lacquer vs Varnish- Both lacquer and varnish are used to provide a finish to wooden furniture, but they are different in ingredients and how they are made.
Varnish is made from resins that are mixed with thinners or other solvents to remain liquid. On the other hand, lacquer is made by dissolving cotton and nitrocellulose in solvents.
• Varnish is always transparent, whereas lacquer can be made to give tinted finishes.
• No flattening agent is added in lacquer, whereas varnish can produce semi glossy and even satin finishes because of the presence of flattening agents.
• Lacquer being quick drying, it is applied mostly by spraying whereas varnish is applied using a brush.

Varnish is a resin(natural or synthetic) dissolved in oil and does not contain pigments. It produces hard film. Where as lacquers are quick drying coatings made of nitrocellulose dissolved in solvent with pigment added for color.

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Planting Material for Bamboo Agro-Forestry

The selection and availability of the right genotype(s) of Bamboo, is one of the prime bottle-necks in establishing an Agro-Forestry plantation system.

It's a dilemma I am currently encountering.

I am considering bamboo as a plantation crop on my farm, and have been researching suitable genotypes. I have been in touch with many institutions- private, a well as government, NGO's, universities, traders, sellers, growers etc.

I have come to realize, with dismay, that most private institutions have their own sales agenda and specifically evolved sales pitch.  Thus, I have ruled out buying blindly from any of them.

Universities and Government bodies are safer. However, they can only offer to sell what exists in their bamboo- herbarium, which, at times is just a chronology of research trial plots, without extensive trials.

In light of above uncertainties,  I have decided to stagger the plantation endeavor.

Instead of buying outright, I am now establishing a small trial plot, where I am planting all shortlisted varieties that I have collected during my Pan-India travels.

I would rather wait for 3 years than waste the effort and the land, with a wrong choice of planting material.

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