In the 6th ThinkBamboo Podcast, Christophe Rat and Thibaut Fung from BambooNeem in La Réunion, a French overseas region in the western Indian Ocean, join as guests. Both entrepreneurs, an engineer and architect, embarked on their bamboo journey six years ago. While working on renewable energy systems in the Indian Ocean, they encountered the immense potential of bamboo. This newfound passion led them to design and construct using bamboo extensively.
Christophe & Thibaut from BambooNeem in La Réunion
Video Interview Summary Quick-Links:
[00:00] Intro : Bamboo Neem promotes bamboo in La Reunion
[05:31] Bamboo can help develop sustainable agriculture and industry
[10:46] Developing a sustainable bamboo industry
[14:47] Promoting bamboo as a resilient industry
[19:31] Developing bamboo culture for building material
[23:44] Bamboo has potential for continuous harvest and regenerative approach
[28:20] Working with architecture and engineering schools to promote bamboo
[32:30] International bamboo workshop to be organized next year
Location: Isolated oversea french Island – La Réunion
La Réunion stands as an isolated island, reliant on expensive imports, rendering it unsustainable. Nonetheless, two bamboo species, Bamboosa vulgaris and Dendrocalamus giganteus, native to the island, offer hope. The founders aim to endorse bamboo’s utilization in construction and farming, seeing it as a vital connection between agriculture and the island’s industry, fostering sustainability on La Réunion.
2030 Bamboo Plan For La Réunion
The founders’ approach is a global scheme, a grand plan, The 2021-2030 sector plan for Reunion Island, for developing bamboo on the island, which is an island of around 2,500 square kilometers and has a population of around 800,000 people.
They have determined the viability of initiating a bamboo planting campaign, covering 2% of the present agricultural lands. These parcels of land, situated on the periphery of existing agricultural areas and amounting to around 1200 hectares, have remained unoccupied until now. La Réunion is one of the best places to plant bamboo and grow it, and they have a existing genetic of around 120 types of bamboo on the island in a specific place called La Bambusaie du Guillaume, which is a botanical garden and bamboo nursery that has been developing bamboo for the last 13 years.
Download the 80 pages-PDF “SECTOR PLAN BAMBOO 2020-2030” document : Bamboo for an agricultural transition, architectural, and societal; Bamboo, driving force local resilience; Bamboo, a resource future.
Different species of tropical bamboo are also available at the bambusaie du guillaume, including certain species, recognized for their quality in bamboo construction, such as Asper, Oldhami, the Bambusa Bamboo, the Guadua, …
The first step in their approach is to present their global scheme for bamboo plantation to the local authorities. They are also working with different kinds of farmers all around the island and have already established experimental plantations at different microclimates on the island to evaluate the growing of bamboo scientifically. Their approach is a polyculture approach, which is something between permaculture and setting up bamboo within existing crops to improve soil, shade, topsoil, water retention, and other factors that can help to develop a sustainable way of farming.
Bamboo for the community
The founders share that they are very much interested in developing a bamboo industry on the island, which would help create jobs and provide livelihoods for the people. They believe that bamboo can be used in a variety of products, such as building materials, furniture, and textiles. Bamboo can be used to make high-quality products, and the founders have already developed bamboo products, such as lamps, chairs, and tables.
They also talk about the challenges they face in promoting bamboo on the island. One of the challenges is that people on the island are not aware of the potential of bamboo, and they need to be educated about the benefits of bamboo. They also face challenges in terms of funding and support from the government. However, the founders are very optimistic about the future of bamboo on the island and believe that they can make a difference in promoting sustainable development on the island through bamboo.
The founders’ goal is to promote the use of bamboo in buildings and agriculture and develop a sustainable way of farming. They believe that bamboo can help develop a sustainable way of farming and could be an intricate link between agriculture and industry. Their approach is a polyculture approach, which is something between permaculture and setting up bamboo within existing crops to improve soil, shade, topsoil, water retention, and other factors that can help to develop a sustainable way of farming. They also talk about the challenges they face in promoting bamboo on the island, such as the lack of awareness and funding.
Education & Training
Education is key in promoting bamboo as a viable construction material. Christophe and Thibaut involve local people in understanding the uses of bamboo in their own homes and gardens, which leads to more people being interested in bamboo constructions. The promotion of bamboo as a building material faces significant challenges in La Réunion. The region currently has no building code, which makes it challenging to construct houses or industrial buildings using bamboo. However, Christophe and Thibaut believe that promoting bamboo’s cultivation will eventually lead to the creation of rules and regulations.
Goal: 240,000 bamboo in 10 years
Bamboo cultivation is an essential aspect of promoting bamboo as a building material. BambooNeem plans to increase its bamboo nurseries and growing operations to plant 240,000 bamboo plants in 10 years. The goal is to reinforce the agricultural system without modifying it too deeply.
Quick calculations show that this will result in a total of 240’000 bamboo clumps, with produce around ten mature canes per clump, which can be harvested annually and continuously for 70 to 170 years.
The annual potential production is about 10 bamboo clumps. That is 2.4 million bamboo clumps per year. 240,000 bamboo plants, in plantation represent a significant and easy to implement carbon sink. If we consider the second third of the cane to supply the energy sector (while the first third goes to construction, and the third third to agriculture), at the rate of 15 kg of ligneous matter at a humidity rate less than 40%, this potentially represents 36,000 tonnes of bamboo energy.
Main Focus: Food, Construction & Energy
BambooNeem focuses on three main applications, including eating bamboo shoots, bamboo constructions, and bamboo charcoal. Eating bamboo shoots is common in Asia, but not many people consume them in La Réunion. BambooNeem aims to change this by promoting the health benefits of bamboo shoots and incorporating them into local cuisine.
Bamboo constructions are another main application of bamboo. BambooNeem promotes bamboo constructions in La Réunion despite the lack of building codes. They believe that the cultivation of bamboo will lead to the creation of rules and regulations in the future. Bamboo constructions are sustainable, cost-effective, and provide excellent insulation, making them ideal for tropical climates. Their journey in promoting bamboo as a building material is not without its challenges. The lack of regulations and resources is a significant obstacle, but Christophe and Thibaut remain optimistic. They believe that promoting bamboo cultivation and its applications will eventually lead to the creation of regulations and the establishment of bamboo as a mainstream construction material.
Bamboo Deck & Pergolas
Bamboodeck&pergolas is a brand belonging to bambooneem.re.
The company’s operations revolve around a craft center dedicated to the design and manufacturing of bamboo structures. Additionally, they also operate a training center that hosts 5 to 6 training sessions per year on bamboo structure design and production. Furthermore, Bamboodeck&pergola provides technical and logistical support to workshops conducted in collaboration with the Reunion School of Architecture. These workshops bring together 150 student architects annually for a week-long program focused on the design and construction of bamboo structures. The students work under the guidance of Thibaut and Christophe, alongside the school’s teachers.