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Development of the bamboo sector in Ecuador: harnessing the potential of Guadua angustifolia

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The bamboo species Guadua angustifolia has a long cultural tradition in the coastal lowlands of West Ecuador. Despite its excellent mechanical properties and versatility, it has mostly been used as a raw material for low-cost housing, while further product development has been very limited until now. In the last years, a Guadua revival seems to have occurred and improved building techniques together with other commercial applications are slowly getting momentum. This article analyses the actual development of the bamboo sector in Ecuador and its future perspectives, including the pitfalls and bottlenecks. The analysis is based on the experiences and observations of the authors as representatives of INBAR in Ecuador between the beginning of 2001 until the beginning of 2003 and their interviews with various stakeholders. The bamboo sector in Ecuador is still in the initial stage of development and the first investments in artisanal workshops and in industrial applications are now being developed. However, the production chain is hardly organized, the actors lack strategic planning and the activities in the different stages of the chain are not synchronized. The challenge is to link the processing industry to a rural supply system benefiting the impoverished part of the population. The management and primary processing of Guadua culms could become an important income source for Ecuador's rural poor, provided that they are supported in the acquirement of basic skills and the development of small enterprises. Moreover, planting Guadua has several environmental advantages and, thus, may offer a win-win scenario resulting in genuine sustainable development. This article tries to answer the question if Ecuador is on the right track towards such development and whether this trend stands on its own, or could be exemplary for other countries in South America with large bamboo resources.


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