Socioeconomics of bamboos in eastern Nepal
Bamboo growing is strongly associated with farm size (landholding), wealth, household size, food sufficiency, irrigation facility, livestock owned, land tenure, household off-farm and on-farm incomes, physiography of the land, and access to forests. The landholding is the most important socioeconomic factor that influences households decision to grow bamboos. Bamboo growing also varies with ethnicity as socially and economically disadvantaged ethnic groups are less likely to grow bamboos on farmland than other ethnic groups. The literacy and age of the household heads are not strongly associated with bamboo growing on the farmland. Bamboo is the most commonly planted species in villages in the Midhills. They are the preferred species for planting, both on private land and in community forests. As timber is getting scarce, bamboo is increasingly used as a replacement for timber. They are also the best fodder species (particularly Bambusa nutans) in the Terai and the fifth best in the Midhills. The interest in bamboo planting is particularly high where there is better access to the markets and bamboos have already been identified as one of the important species for use in income generation programmes. There are many taboos, superstitions and beliefs, particularly in eastern Terai, against bamboo planting which prohibit households from further bamboo planting. Had there not been such beliefs, there could have been more bamboos on the farmlands of eastern Terai and Midhills than at present. Bamboo is also one of the most remarkable woody perennials in eastern Nepal. There are many households, both in the Terai and the Midhills, who are dependent on the income from bamboo craftmaking. Most of the traders are newcomers with lack of resources to expand the trade. Many bamboo growers who sold bamboos, craft makers and traders were not happy with their income and suggested various steps for improvement. There is also a need to review many of the HMGN policies as many of them contradict each other and are therefore unfavourable towards stimulating the growing of bamboos in Nepal. It is clear that a detailed development plan to improve the use of bamboo resources is needed. Socioeconomic research on bamboos should be extended to other regions of Nepal in order to inform the new development plan.