Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State (BGRS) has the highest proportion and area of natural bamboo forests in Ethiopia, mostly lowland bamboo (Oxytenanthera abyssinica).
In BGRS, bamboo resources were poorly managed and wasting away.
There is a lack of bamboo-focused training among foresters, and local bamboo value chains are under-developed.
We characterize the existing bamboo business models, and the state and non-state actors influencing the sustainable management of bamboo resources and bamboo value chains.
We identify the support needed by small-scale enterprises, including training in business and bamboo-specific technical skills, access to financing adapted to their capacity and needs, improved infrastructure and market linkages, and land use planning that accounts for the economic and environmental values of bamboo resources.
We document the perceptions, practices and policy options in managing lowland bamboo [Oxytenanthera abyssinica] in Benishangul Gumuz Regional State (BGRS) in Ethiopia, particularly to enable small-scale enterprises (SSE) to become more active in this field. This region hosts the largest extent of natural bamboo forests in Ethiopia. There is a recent push to realize bamboo's economic and environmental potential in Ethiopia, which puts SSEs as crucial actors. There is little or scattered published information on local perceptions and practices surrounding natural bamboo forest management and options for realizing bamboo's potential from a subnational/local perspective in Africa, including in Ethiopia. In 2018, we conducted a literature review, spatial analysis, participatory mapping, and interviewed experts working in governmental and non-governmental organizations and local stakeholders in BGRS. We find some consensus of the environmental importance of bamboo. In contrast, there is some debate at the subnational level about the economic importance of bamboo, leading to decisions favouring other land uses. Bamboo forests in this region suffer neglect, as they are perceived to be ‘owned by no one and used by everyone’ and will continue to be there without management. Lack of market-driven opportunities, bamboo-specific training among foresters, data on economic contributions of bamboo, and regulations or guidelines to support existing laws have prevented effective management of the bamboo resource. There are multiple bamboo management approaches that open economic opportunities for SSEs in the region. There needs to be more clarity on how to secure land use rights over bamboo forests, accessible financing, market linkages, business training, and low-tech/low-cost technologies to encourage the development of bamboo SSEs.