By Borja Blanco Mendez, EBPP Social Business Volunteer
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. This proverb couldn’t match better what East Bali Poverty Project (EBPP) is doing through its different community empowerment programs with the youth and impoverished communities of Desa Ban.
This article is not about fishing (apologies for the expectations), as these isolated hamlets don’t have an easy access to this resource. Nevertheless, their sloping and sandy lands in the mountains are the best possible environment for growing the most versatile plant in the world: bamboo.
Bamboo is a grass that can grow up to 1.5 meters per day, and when sustainably harvested, a single bamboo plant (clump) can provide between 15 and 30 poles per year for a period of about a century. That means, that 1 single bamboo plant can provide wood during 4 generations!
Since 2006 East Bali Poverty Project, with the collaboration of different partners, donors and volunteers, has created a bamboo training centre and has planted more than 60.000 bamboo clumps in the lands of the supported communities, involving and training their land owners and community leaders so that they can take advantage of this natural resource in a sustainable way for their whole life and for the future generations.
After over ten years planting and managing bamboo plantations, this organization and the people from Desa Banare ready to answer the next big question: We have grown many fishes, so, how do we use our fish for more benefit? Or in this case… How dowe get the most value out of our Bamboo?
Bamboo EMpower program
The US based Emerging Markets foundation (EMpower) has been supporting EBPP since July 2015, aiming to empower the youth, junior and senior students from the 6 EBPP’ schools.
The bamboo program prioritizesthe bamboo business skills development with the mission of motivating and training the youth to start up their own bamboo businesses and become the future leaders of their communities’ sustainable economic development programs.
It was in January 2016 when the senior students started learning 3 different bamboo handicraft techniques,and now, about to finish the first part of the program, some of these amazing students will be representing their communities in the Green School Eco Festival event, on 10th and 11th June 2016, to show their awesome products (100% made with manual tools and 100% made of bamboo). There, they will have the opportunity to interact, meet new people and discover what other organizations are doing to protect and improve the environment.
For the second part of this program, starting in July 2016, and following again the philosophy of learning by doing, more training will be provided using the bamboo as a reference, in a wider range of subjects, like business planning, organization, product design, human resources, etc.At the same time, a crowdfunding is being launched right now on GlobalGiving UK, to develop a small workshop with the equipment needed to make high quality bamboo products in an artisan and mechanically assisted way.This workshop, open to the communities, would work both as a bamboo handicraft R&D centre and as a specialized training centre for the students willing to improve their woodworking skills.
A social enterprise to serve the communities: VEBACON
Vebacon (Vetiver-Bamboo-Consulting) is the social business that EBPP is starting up, under the same principles as the foundation, with the mission of helping the most vulnerable people of the Desa Ban area initially, to develop their economies in environmental respectful ways. Hence, all potential profits would be reinvested in benefit of these impoverished communities.
This Social Enterprise will serve as a vehicle for the isolated hamlets of Ban village, to reach high value added markets and to get the feedback from these markets, and will provide,at the same time, consulting and training services in Vetiver Systems Technology (VST), bamboo clump management and environmental rehabilitation.
Every piece of the puzzle is fitting. The development of social businesses within the communities is the beginning of a self-sustainable social and economic system in these poor villages, and the opportunities are just growing from the earth. Can you help us to harvest them?