Cutting Bamboo is Saving Forests in Zimbabwe
Lush tracts of bamboo spread across southeastern Chipinge district, where the tall plant is increasingly regarded as green gold by villagers. They are harvesting it commercially while helping preserve Zimbabwe's fast-dwindling forests.
Bamboo is native to Zimbabwe, according to Bio-Innovation Zimbabwe, a research organization specializing in underutilized plant species. The giant grass stays green all year round, and its woody, hollow stem grows again rapidly after it is cut down.
In countries like China, bamboo has long been an industrial crop, but it is only now gaining popularity among agricultural entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe who are promoting it as an alternative to traditional timber.
For villagers like Natalia Sithole, a 27-year-old mother of three from Mount Selinda in Chipinge, growing bamboo has proved a reliable safeguard against poverty.
Sithole, who started eking out a living from bamboo at the age of 17 after having her first child, sells the plant to people around the country who use it to make products, earning her about $120 weekly.