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Bamboo Stories in Ethiopia

[Extracted from the works of Seyoum Kelemework, NPC]

1. Bamboo Entrepreneurs in Addis Ababa 

Forty-two private owned semi-modern and 16 traditional bamboo entrepreneurs’ workshops are found in Addis Ababa. The workshops are divided into two main groups: on the one hand semi-modern and on the other hand traditional. Both of the workshops are scattered and found in different places in the city. None of bamboo entrepreneurs is registered in industry and trade bureau of the city council.

Most of modern bamboo workshops owners are running their business by using their own labor and employed workers. The number of employees depends on the items produced. Male workers generally work on difficult parts of production process that require physical strength. On the other, hand females works on complex parts of process that requires patience. Fore example   weaving, scouring and cleaning the bamboo are done most of the time by female employees. The number of employees in each workshop is estimated between 2 and 13.

In semi-modern bamboo workshops various types of bamboo furniture such as sofa chairs, tables, book shelves, partitions, baskets, fruit-trays and lampshades are produced. Almost in all workshops, large numbers of the same items are produced. Currently 16 traditional bamboo workshops are running their business in organized associations and self-supported, with simple division of labor in Addis Ababa. The associations have 45 members. All craftsmen are immigrants from Injibara (West Gojjam, Ethiopia) to Addis Ababa. The members are working in type of cooperative where individual members’ works together and are paid according to their daily production. Traditional craftsmen are producing limited types of bamboo products such as chairs, tables, stools and walking sticks. The quality of their products are low because they are not using glues and dowels to join parts of their furniture and they are not also scrapping and sanding their products. In addition to this, they are not applying varnishes and lacquers to decorate their products.

In traditional workshops, the manufacturing of bamboo products are mostly carried on outdoors under sheds and the craft does not require any housing arrangement. In semi-modern workshops, however, bamboo products are manufactured in workshops. Whereas, all of them do not have enough workshop facilities such as working benches, clamps, hand tools and bamboo processing machines. Working and selling places are the main problems for bamboo entrepreneurs’. Out of 58 entrepreneurs only 3 of them have their own houses for bamboo processing and selling .Almost 98 % of workshops are rented houses. Traditional craftsmen are selling their products on the streets and around residential areas by walking around with several items.

Table 3. Number of employees in modern and traditional workshops and rented workshops

No. Workshop type No of employees Workshop
    Male Female Own Rent
1 Modern 193 41 3 39
2 Traditional 82 - - 16
  Total 275 41 3 55

2. Bamboo Entrepreneurs in Awassa

Awassa is the capital of South Peoples Nations and Nationality Regional State. Its located 271 km to south of Addis Ababa. The city has about 140,000 populations. Awassa is one of the tourist areas in the country. There are a lot of rift valley lakes and spring hot water around the city. In the city there are many luxurious hotels, restaurants, commercial and residential houses. However, only 8 small bamboo entrepreneurs are found in the city. Most of the city people are using wooden and plastic furniture.

Bamboo entrepreneurs in Awassa are producing   various types of bamboo furniture such as chairs, tables, book shelves, dressing tables partitions, baskets, fruit-trays and lampshades. However, the quality of bamboo furniture products in Awassa is lower than those produced in Addis Ababa. There is only one workshop in the city that sells bamboo furniture. Most of bamboo entrepreneurs are processing and selling their products in their houses.

3. Bamboo Entrepreneurs in Bahir Dar 

Bahir Dar is the capital of Amhara Regional State. Its located 550 km to northwest of Addis Ababa. The city has about 230,000 populations. Bahir-Dar is located near Lake Tana (the biggest lake in Ethiopia) and it is very near to the source of Blue Nile. Many tourists are traveling every year to Bahir-Dar to visit the Blue Nile fall, churches and monasteries in the region. There are many modern luxurious hotels, restaurants, commercial and residential houses in the city. Whereas there is no any modern bamboo products processing and selling shop in the city. There are about 15 traditional bamboo craftsmen associations in the city which produce low quality chairs, stools, dry-mats and   baskets for keeping Injera ( Mesob). They are processing and selling their products under the shades along the roadsides in the city.

4. Bamboo Entrepreneurs along Addis Ababa - Bahir Dar main road

Bamboo activities in Akayita and Chawsa (West Gojjam, Ethiopia) are essentially house-hold based and extra work as well. The raw culms are collected from their own homestead plantation and bought from the near by farmers. Traditional bamboo products are processed particularly as the collective efforts of all the family members. They are selling their products along the roadsides and they don’t have access to the markets and financial institutions.



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