Work currently being undertaken by the Government to develop a policy for Jamaica’s emerging bamboo industry, could be completed by year-end.
State Minister for Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams, who has oversight for the sector, tells JIS News that the Ministry, which is piloting the initiative under its Bamboo Products Industry Project (BPIP), is in the process of preparing a final draft for perusal by all stakeholders. These include the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA). With the engagement advancing through several stages, Mrs Ffolkes-Abrahams says the Ministry’s Industry Division is now working on ensuring that “there is consensus among the various stakeholders.”
Director of Special Projects, Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ), which falls under the Ministry, Gladstone Rose, is optimistic that the policy could be ready by the end of 2015. Mr. Rose, who also chairs the Bamboo and Indigenous Materials Advisory Committee (BIMAC), believes that when the policy is completed “it will be a ‘win-win’ document that is acceptable to everyone participating in this public-private sector partnership.”
The policy’s development forms part of the administration’s overall strategy to better position Jamaica to tap into the lucrative international market for bamboo products, estimated to value over US$20 billion. This is being done by facilitating the commercialization of products through value chain development from managed bamboo cultivations, targeting the manufacturing of by-products, such as organic charcoal, clothing, fabric, board/plywood, air and water filters, and edible bamboo shoots.The BPIP’s implementation is consistent with the Government’s Job Creation and Economic Growth Strategy, focusing on the development and growth of key productive sectors, specifically agriculture, and rural development.
Mr. Rose also advises that the Ministry, through the BSJ and BIMAC, has commenced development of a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) training and certification programme in Bamboo Technology, as well as an industry product standards regime. He tells JIS News that work to develop the NVQ programme commenced in July, and is being undertaken in partnership with the National Council on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET)/HEART Trust/National Training Agency (NTA). “The HEART Trust/NTA will be working with us to develop the standards for this training programme, which will be used in developing the curriculum,” he outlines.
Mr. Rose anticipates the curriculum’s completion by the end of the first quarter of 2016, and full programme implementation at designated HEART academies islandwide, by the end of 2016. He points out that participants will receive regionally recognized certification on completing the programme.
As a precursor to this, some 15 residents of Peckham and surrounding communities in North Western Clarendon, where a major multi-million bamboo project is being implemented, are currently receiving training in bamboo harvesting and pre-processing techniques. Mr. Rose says that based on expressions of interest from several regional countries about the NVQ, consideration will be given to developing a Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) training and certification programme, to accommodate them.
As it relates to product standards, he tells JIS News that work commenced in 2014, resulting in nine standards being developed to date. This is being led by the BSJ’s Bamboo Products Standards Technical Sub-Committee (BPSTC), comprising representatives from the public and private sectors, and academia, among other stakeholders.
Mr. Rose underscores the importance of establishing guidelines to inform stakeholders at all levels of the industry on best practices, in relation to product quality and standard, in keeping with global market demand. “We are ensuring that we establish global standards for these products, which are being determined by the technical committee. We will look at the needs of the market and the need for standards, and then we will seek to adapt to standards deemed suitable for us, or write standards…where these do not exist,” he explains, pointing out that in instances, guidelines will be sourced from the International Network of Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR).
INBAR is an independent inter-governmental organization, established in 1997, to develop and promote innovative solutions to poverty and environmental sustainability, using bamboo and rattan. Its membership is open to United Nations member states and inter-governmental organizations, and currently comprises 41 countries, including Jamaica, which joined in 2012. The Secretariat is based in Beijing, China, which is also the location for its East and Southeast Asia Regional Office. Other regional offices are located in New Delhi, India, for South Asia; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – East Africa; Kumasi, Ghana – West Africa; and Quito, Ecuador – Latin America and the Caribbean.
Having developed nine bamboo-related standards since 2014, Mr. Rose says “we are seeing where we could develop an additional 50 new standards over the next three years.” Expressing how “very pleased” she is with the bamboo industry’s development, so far, Mrs. Ffolkes-Abrahams says that the “sky is the limit.” She points out that with the “right resources” in place to fuel its growth, the sector has the “potential to develop and grow beyond what we can even think (of) right now.”
Source: JIS News
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