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Humanitarian Bamboo Inception Report: The use of Bamboo in the current response in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

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1. Executive Summary

This inception report is intended to share initial findings and recommendations on improving the use of bamboo in the current Rohingya response in Cox’s Bazar.

This inception report includes:

• an explanation of the Terms of Reference (TOR), it’s limitations and the process that have been undertaken;

• a short summary of observations and recommendations from the field; and

• conclusions and recommendations for next steps moving forward.

As defined in the TOR, a separate technical paper has been developed, to provide specific technical guidance on how to best improve the durability and strength of bamboo within the camps. This is primarily intended for Shelter/NFI Sector partners involved in the procurement, treatment, distribution or use of bamboo in the camps.

The technical report includes:

• detailed recommendations on the steps involved in improving the durability of bamboo used in the camps, including:

  • supply management, species selection, procurement, transport, storage and handling, pest damage, treatment options, design and construction, community capacity, strategy, maintenance and disposal.

From the rapid assessment conducted by HBC, there are a number of key findings that have been highlighted throughout this inception report, including:

• the total national supply of bamboo is diminishing over time, whilst demand is growing. This is creating a growing national deficit;

• bamboo quality is generally poor and inconsistent throughout the camps;

• only 2 species of bamboo are actively being used in the response, despite approx. 33 known species of bamboo in Bangladesh, 9 - 10 of which are widely available and appropriate for use in construction;

• extensive bamboo knowledge exists within the camps, at the Bangladesh Forest Research Institute (BFRI) and at local universities; and

• many camp residents have relatively high levels of knowledge about bamboo, but with some noticeable gaps in design and construction.

One of the primary concerns is that the current level of bamboo quality is extremely low, with high levels of pest infestation. This is due to a number of factors that need to be urgently addressed, including:

• a sense of urgency and a lack of agreed specification and quality control procedures are causing agencies to accept almost any bamboo that suppliers will provide;

• agencies have procured bamboo in bulk during the monsoon period which is laden with sap and very attractive to pests;

• there is no clear ground separation of bamboo to reduce rot and pest infestation;

• bamboo joint quality / detailing is inconsistent; tensile joints are often poor quality.

Now is the perfect time to address these issues, however, it will take a concerted effort across multiple agencies and multiple sectors. Bamboo is fundamental to nearly every sector, and not prioritising bamboo replacement, and increased durability will bring considerable risk. Bamboo replacement needs to be the highest priority for the Shelter / NFI Sector, particularly if shellers are expected to survive strong winds. More durable materials (such as treated bamboo) are required, to provide long-lasting solutions that are better able to resist climate challenges within the camps.

Considering the current context, treatment alone will not be enough to ensure quality and durability. In addition to the treatment of bamboo, a combination of other factors must also be addressed concurrently, including:

• improved Quality Control (QC) measures;

• bamboo ground separation;

• improved strength of joints (particularly tensile joints),

Steps must also be taken to: improve supply management, species selection, transport, storage and handling, design, treatment, construction, and maintenance. A full list of recommendations for improving durability can be found in the technical report.

Immediate recommendations for the next steps forwards include:

  1. Update the response strategy to prioritise replacement of damaged and weak bamboo, with treated bamboo or durable materials. This must include improved quality control, ground separation of bamboo, and improved joint strength;

  2. Setup a common cross sector bamboo working group and resource centre;

  3. Individual agencies, regardless of their size, to start treatment programs immediately.
    Immediate recommendations for the next steps forwards include: