PHILIPPINES: Bamboo's Rise as the Eco-Friendly Building Block

Pictured here is a close-up of green-ish brown Giant Bamboo.

Photo Credit: Aidalyn Arabe

Pictured here is a huge clump of Giant Bamboo or Dendrocalamus asper, which is a strong and durable bamboo that is highly recommended for construction use.

A dedicated bamboo advocate, Aidalyn Arabe reshapes construction norms in the Philippines, turning bamboo into a cornerstone for sustainable development.

There's a growing movement to champion bamboo as a durable, sustainable, versatile, beautiful, and natural material for construction use.

Advocating for environmental protection has always been challenging, especially when dealing with local communities whose livelihoods and daily sustenance depend on the forests, rivers, or the sea. You can’t just say, “Stop what you’re doing,” without providing alternative options. People must eat and provide food for their families, and that often means clearing forests to plant crops or catching fish using unsustainable methods. Climate change is the least of their concerns a reality we know working at the grassroots level in a country like mine, where poverty and environmental abuse are rampant.

I have been an environmental advocate and activist for 14 years. Yet, it was only in 2017 that I learned what I believe is the best tool to help communities generate a livelihood and contribute to the local economy's progress while helping the planet: Bamboo. 

Bamboo is the most sustainable plant on Earth. It is is a renewable plant material because it regenerates fast and can grow almost everywhere in tropical and subtropical regions. It surpasses trees in carbon sequestration, contributing significantly to environmental health. Beyond this impact, bamboo is crucial in preventing soil erosion, revitalizing the soil, fostering biodiversity conservation, and rehabilitating degraded lands.

Food, beverage, medicine, construction, engineering, homewares, arts and crafts, and musical instruments are examples of bamboo’s versatile and aesthetically beautiful uses. There's a growing movement to champion bamboo as a durable, sustainable, versatile, beautiful, and natural material for construction. It is the future's gold — a commitment to a sustainable tomorrow. By promoting and elevating bamboo, we not only support individuals, communities, and local economies but also help the planet by using a material that will regrow for decades. Bamboo is a three-tiered tool advocates can effectively use to address people, progress, and the planet.

In 2017, I started a bamboo planting project in landslide-prone mountain areas when I was deep into trail running and mountain climbing. Over the following two years, I worked at a bamboo treatment and processing facility, engaging with communities to advocate for bamboo as a primary construction material.  I have witnessed the positive impact of bamboo on household income and community livelihoods, from establishing nurseries to propagation, planting to harvesting, and processing to use the product. I came to understand the intricacies of building with bamboo and how it can last a lifetime. I gained insights into the use of treated bamboo, implemented through well-tested and proven methods. I learned the art of constructing with bamboo, employing artisanal carpentry skills and jointing systems.

Despite its incredible potential in sustainability, there are challenges to getting people to accept and adopt bamboo as a primary material. Bamboo has two opposing reputations: being a poor man's timber and a material only the rich can afford. Bamboo has also always been recognized as a go-to material for temporary use, not something that lasts for decades. Industries, especially the construction industry, remain hesitant, citing concerns about susceptibility to insect or pest infestation, the necessity for increased strength, limited expertise in bamboo-based construction or carpentry, challenges in sourcing high-quality construction-grade bamboo, and the absence of its inclusion in building codes. Overcoming these obstacles could unlock the full potential of bamboo in the construction sector.

I recently quit to spread my wings. I can do more for the community and the environment by establishing my own organization, Moutara. There's a wealth of information to explore about this material, with much more to research and study. Now operating as an independent bamboo consultant, I primarily offer nursery development, propagation, planting, harvesting, treatment, and processing services. My goal is to enhance people’s awareness of bamboo by highlighting its advantages and benefits.

As an active environment advocate and activist here in the Philippines, bamboo is my primary instrument to foster collaboration among environmental workers, private stakeholders, government entities, and even those unintentionally contributing to ecological degradation. Our responsibility extends beyond caring for the planet; we must also educate those who lack the understanding and empathy needed to protect the gifts our environment has given us. Despite the potential fatigue and impact on our careers and personal lives, the question remains: if not us, who will take on this vital task?


This story was published as part of World Pulse's Story Awards program. We believe every woman has a story to share, and that the world will be a better place when women are heard. Share your story with us, and you could receive added visibility, or even be our next Featured Storyteller! Learn more.

Climate Change
Featured Stories
Like this story?
Join World Pulse now to read more inspiring stories and connect with women speaking out across the globe!
Leave a supportive comment to encourage this author
Tell your own story
Explore more stories on topics you care about