General Bheke Cele, the Deputy Minister of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries & Agriculture (DAFF) visited EcoPlanet Bamboo Southern Africa for a full day visit along with a team of specialists and technical experts.
General Cele was given a private introduction to EcoPlanet Bamboo Group and the family of EcoPlanet companies in South Africa - the Kowie Bamboo Farm, EcoPlanet Core Carbon and EPB Laboratories, before a tour of the company's nursery and plantation. Rather than limit to the areas of best growth, General Cele was shown the full range of challenges that come with attempting to grow bamboo at commercial scale. Many of these challenges, barriers and the limitation that comes with poor availability of relevant and scientifically rigorous data, are often ignored by bamboo enthusiasts, resulting in many misconceptions about the plant.
Time on EcoPlanet Bamboo Southern Africa's plantation was followed by a tour of the EcoPlanet Core Carbon manufacturing facility, and EPB Laboratories, the company's R&D and testing laboratory, both co-located on the Eastern Cape farm. Highlights included discussions around the importance of vertically integrated industrialization of bamboo, combining not only development of the resource base with plantations, but the considerable work that EcoPlanet Core Carbon has achieved in developing the markets for bamboo as an alternative fiber within existing supply chains and markets.
General Cele noted the range of job opportunities that EcoPlanet Bamboo has created in this area, which span from unskilled laborers through the high technical specialists including PhDs in Chemistry and other related subjects. This range of positions mirrors EcoPlanet Bamboo's investment into ensuring a diverse and multifaceted company that is laying the groundwork for the indsutrialization of bamboo as a sustainable alternative fiber.
General Cele agreed with the company's desire for bamboo to only ever be planted on degraded land, and expressed support for ensuring this framework is enacted at the government level, limiting planting to certain land categories, which are deemed unsuitable for the production of food crops.
General Cele expressed extreme gratitude for everything that EcoPlanet Bamboo has achieved and the significant investment that the company has undertaken into the development of the full life cycle trio of companies. He proclaimed the Kowie Bamboo Farm as the pioneer for the development of a broader and larger bamboo industry within South Africa.
The government visit came at good timing. EcoPlanet Bamboo Southern Africa's pilot plantation in the Eastern Cape recently moved into a new phase - the steady state of maintenance. Now fully planted, the farm continues to thrive, proving that if done correctly, bamboo can be a valuable tool in the restoration of land denuded through overly intensive chemical agriculture.
See photos of General Cele's visit to the Kowie Bamboo Farm, EcoPlanet Core Carbon and EPB Laboratories facilities here: