By Tina Rosenberg
In the district of Asosa, the land is thick with bamboo. People plant it and manage the forests. They rely on its soil-grabbing roots to stabilize steep slopes and riverbanks, cutting erosion. They harvest it to burn for fuel, to make into charcoal sticks to sell to city dwellers and to build furniture.
Asosa is not in China, not even in Asia. It is a district in the west of Ethiopia, on the Sudanese border. To many people, bamboo means China. But it’s not just panda food — mountain gorillas in Rwanda also live on bamboo. About 4 percent of Africa’s forest cover is bamboo.