Kowie Bamboo Farm, South Africa
Turning off the main road that leads inland from the coastal highway, the landscape is one of extensive rolling hills with perfectly straight row upon row of pineapples. This is Bathurst, a small agricultural town in South Africa’s Eastern Cape.
A brightly coloured sign breaks the browns and greens of the landscape and indicates the entrance to the Kowie Bamboo Farm, with a field of bamboo swaying in the wind behind. This vision so starkly contrasts the surrounding landscape that it never fails to attract curious visitors, who, despite the “private” signs, can’t help but feed their curiosity by driving down the bamboo-lined entrance to this 485-hectare bamboo farm. This is the first commercial bamboo farm in Africa and the only one on the continent to hold FSC certification.
EcoPlanet designed the bamboo farm as a showcase of landscape restoration. What began as an out of the box vision has, over an eight-year period, turned into a determined labour of love. An immense amount of nurturing, built on years of trial and error, shaped this landscape into a diverse forested ecosystem, integrating bamboo with swathes of protected and indigenous thickets. Eleven families were given the right to live within the farm's boundaries, which is also home to the largest dam in the area. Once used for irrigation, the dam now serves as a microcosm wetland ecosystem with fish eagles regularly seen soaring over the water.
For EcoPlanet and its partners, this FSC-certified farm has set the foundation and provided the knowledge base for bamboo forests, managed under strict sustainability frameworks, to be scaled up across the African continent and beyond.