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National Energy Globe Award Cuba (overall winner)

Submitted by: CIDEM. Universidad Central de las Villas
Implemented country: Cuba
Title: From Professor to Green Bamboo Entrepreneur

Fernando Martirena-Hernandez is a professor at the research institute of the University of Santa Clara (CIDEM) in Cuba. He and his family also live in Santa Clara. An intact environment is extremely important to him, as is helping the people in his country. Until 1980, mostly sugar and rice were cultivated in Cuba. Because of these extensive monocultures the soil was thinned, which lead to serious crop failures in the year 2000. 30% of the agricultural areas were no longer useable. Cuba also experienced great difficulties with business opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses. The building industry was suffering from a chronic shortage of cement. This mix of problems inspired the professor to start a “green business” project, meaning the development of a prospering and eco-friendly bamboo business.
Bamboo thrives extremely well in Cuba’s tropical climate. In 2005, CIDEM began a pilot project which was supported by the Swiss Direktion für Entwicklung und Zusammenarbeit (DEZA) with 59 per cent. Because of the project’s success the Cuban Ministry of Agriculture permitted a country-wide implementation of this national bamboo project. By 2014, 80 communities from 14 provinces will be participating and planting a grand total of 20,000 hectares of bamboo. The project is extremely beneficial to the environment because it supports reforestation, CO2-capturing from the air, reclaiming of soil, and protection of drainage areas.

Up to now, bamboo has had beneficial effects on the life of 145,000 people in 53 Cuban communities. 1,590 full-time jobs and 9,100 part-time jobs have been created, nearly 40 per cent of them for women. Even the environment can now take a deep breath: Bamboo reforestation of 5,900 hectares has been completed, which means reclaiming 1,790 hectares of destroyed soil. 436,800 tons of CO2  have been saved, and 244 small and medium-sized companies have developed 16 different product lines from bamboo. This bamboo production chain has helped create 479,200 cubic meters of wood. This again results in higher incomes in 37 communities and less dependency on external resources. As far as the cost/benefit ratio is concerned, each Swiss franc invested in the project has resulted in 6 Swiss francs of return. Building problems in rural communities (because of the shortage of cement) have given rise to new options. All the people involved in bamboo production processes have formed a network and created a joint Internet webpage.

“The next generation of housing in Latin American can be cheap, sustainable and adaptable to climate change.”

Fernando Martirena-Hernandez