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By Norland Rosendo González
Hmm…, I couldn't hide my skepticism, but Julio León Cabrera, a native of Cienfuegos who knows a world about bamboo without being an academic agronomist, did not let me make a second gesture of doubt. «Go to Holguín, there 11 years ago they built a test house and cyclone Ike did not knock it down, what do you think? And since it was the first it is quite rustic compared to the wonders that exist in Colombia, India and China.
"The second one (a year later) is a gem, even the gutters that cover the electrical cables are made of cañabrava, and a few tourists pass by every day to see it because they don't believe it the way you do."
—It's that the bug gets into the bamboo very quickly…, I replied.
—That happens because they don't know how to cut or cure it well. The first thing is to select the cane that you are going to take, it must be mature, at least three years old, and cut it during the dry period, in the last quarter. Then comes the drying, in the shade, placed vertically, separated from the ground, that is, on some support, and about 28 days (a lunar cycle).
«If you do that like that, you will see how it lasts and resists. The other thing is the chemical substances that people throw at it and that science has created, of course; but, if you do not comply with the first, there is no product that stops fungi and insects. "
Many still consider bamboo a pest as harmful as the marabou, a useless plant that should be extinguished and when they see it grow far from the riverbanks, they enter it with the mocha or the ax and do not stop until the seedlings are knocked down.
Fortunately, the group of defenders of this grass grows. The Cienfuegos Botanical Garden has a collection of the 28 best species in the world and is in a position to contribute to their spread in the rest of the country, says Julio León Cabrera, who works there as a conservation specialist.
Given the lack of wood and energy, as a consequence of the massive and illegal deforestation that the forests of the planet have been subjected to, some experts have already come to say that bamboo is the Green Gold of the 21st century.
Among its environmental benefits is the ability to absorb up to 30 tons of carbon dioxide per hectare per year -one of the gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect-, it controls soil erosion, especially in water basins and is home to a great biodiversity in the places where it grows.
THE "LOCO" OF BAMBOO
Without much knowledge about this plant, but encouraged by the defense that Dr. José Fernando Martirena, from the Center for Research and Development of Structures and Materials (CIDEM), of the Central University Marta Abreu de Las Villas, Leonel Sarduy Cabanes made 6 years ago in Manicaragua the first bamboo nursery in Villa Clara, and one of the forerunners in the country.
"That's the best I've seen in Cuba," León Cabrera had warned us a few days before visiting him.
«At the beginning, we went to workshops at the University or they came to train us, we made relationships with the Botanical Garden of Cienfuegos, and little by little we got into this world. We also received visits from foreigners interested in promoting this grass and from the Swiss Development Cooperation Agency (SDC), which is leading a project for the expansion of the crop and its use, ”recalls Sarduy Cabanes.
"When people discover that it is not just another bush, and that it may be the best alternative to guarantee essential constructions in agriculture, perhaps it will even be necessary to regulate its cut, because we are going to run out of seedlings", he warns.
From this nursery, belonging to the Efraín Hurtado CCS (strengthened), about 20 thousand positions come out every year for the Villa Clara Integral Forestry Company. According to the needs of the clients, they guarantee the species, and they already have some Guadua seedlings, one of the most recognized on the planet for its economic benefits.
“Two people work here. From Sunday to Sunday, and from seven to seven. On May 2, while people were resting at home on holiday, we were looking for positions and we brought 5,000 in tow, because not a cart was on the street. Some who crossed us on the road said: "there go the two crazy ones."
“But in the field, any crop requires sacrifice and a lot of work. If that's why they are going to call me crazy, then welcome to the adjective. And laughs. The worker who helps me leaves every month for a thousand pesos. Madness has its charm, right?
"And no chemical fertilizers, everything is with cow dung, water from the Arimao river and sweat, because the drops run down your face and sometimes fall into the bags when the sun throws pinpricks in the middle of the morning."
With 1.4 hectares, granted by Decree Law 259, Leonel has managed to supply Villa Clara with bamboo seedlings, and if they hire him more, the more he produces.
OF SUCH STICK, SUCH HOUSING
In China for 5,000 years they have used bamboo, one of the symbolic plants of their culture, to such an extent that they even consume it in soups, sweets, salads, given its high content of proteins and minerals. They have developed technologies to take advantage of the entire plant, so many entrepreneurs in America believe that it is difficult to compete with them in this area.
However, in Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico and other Latin American nations promote programs to promote the cultivation and use of bamboo, both in large-scale projects and local development.
These experiences are supported by Cuba, which recently held the Regional Bamboo Conference at the Hanabanilla hotel in Manicaragua, with the assistance of foreign experts from 8 nations. There, images and stories of Holguin houses built with a high component of said grass were presented.
Juan Carlos Romero, an agricultural engineer, defends the thesis that this can be a sustainable alternative to alleviate the difficult housing situation in Cuba.
«We made the first one inspired by a model from Costa Rica. It had panels of bamboo slats, supported by a wooden marquetry, covered with a mortar of cement, sand and top dressing. The roof supports were made with a simple bamboo structure with easy-to-install joints, materials available to the population and inexperienced personnel, ”he explains.
"We have already applied new construction solutions, which are also valid for the conservation and rehabilitation of these and other buildings," says Juan Carlos, a man who aspires that in the not too distant future there will be bamboo houses throughout the archipelago.
THE HOUSE OF ANIMALS
The number of peasants grows in Cuba under Decree Law 259, and many of them have requested land to dedicate themselves to the intensive breeding of cattle, pigs, birds, rabbits, horses. However, not everyone has the financial and material resources to build the ships and other essential rooms.
In bamboo they have an affordable, sustainable and affordable alternative. The Universidad de Oriente has developed several projects with good dividends. At the same time, they continue to refine the designs, with the purpose of extending them, now that food production is a matter of National Security.
The architect Juan Manuel Pascual Menéndez is very enthusiastic about the success of a warehouse for pig farming in the integral farm El Progreso, in Santiago de Cuba. The experience is enriched in Holguín with a project in the execution phase for livestock, which has among its advantages the reduction of costs (it requires a smaller quantity of cement, bricks or blocks, steel, etc.) and guarantees resistance and durability.
Without replacing the royal palm as the national tree, bamboo ceases to be a cinderella of the flora, and with that slenderness that it acquires in just 3 or 4 years it begins to discuss "from you to you" a place of privilege in the rich Cuban biodiversity.
Keystroke for Truth