Jamaica’s emerging bamboo industry has been further boosted with the creation of the first locally manufactured organic bamboo charcoal kiln.
The furnace was designed and developed at a cost of $1.4 million by Jamaican engineer, Gentle Wallace, a member of the Bamboo and Indigenous Materials Advisory Committee (BIMAC), in support of the multimillion dollar Peckham Bamboo Project, being implemented in North West Clarendon.
Funding for the kiln was provided by former Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Jamaica, His Excellency Dong Xiaojun.
The high efficiency bamboo charcoal kiln was assembled at the Institute of Nursing, Technology, and Household Management (INTHM), a vocational training institution situated on Swallowfield Road, Kingston, of which Mr. Wallace is a Director.
He tells JIS News that the facility, which was assembled over eight weeks during the past summer, is capable of producing approximately 400 pounds of organic bamboo charcoal from some 1, 200 pounds of properly harvested raw bamboo. This process of conversion, he explains, spans approximately eight hours.
Mr. Wallace, who has been involved in the local bamboo industry for just under two years, informs that he researched the kiln’s design, before proceeding to undertake a prototype.
“We sourced our material locally, designed the various parts, looked at the weaknesses and strengths, and then we improved on them,” he notes.
Mr. Wallace tells JIS News that he was able to design and deliver a significantly improved kiln for the Peckham project, which was recently unveiled in the community.
He informs that the process of registering the kiln, under the ‘Gentle Bamboo Charcoal Kiln’ brand name, has begun, as he moves to safeguard intellectual property rights.
The kiln’s development has been welcomed and endorsed by Industry, Investment, and Commerce State Minister, Hon. Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams, and BSJ Chairman, Professor Winston Davidson, who recently lauded Mr. Wallace’s initiative and innovation.
In congratulating the enterprising engineer on his “excellent work”, Mrs. Ffolkes-Abrahams, who has responsibility for the bamboo industry, says as the overseas demand for local organic bamboo charcoal has grown, “the need for bamboo charcoal kilns to help satisfy the demand, has (also) grown exponentially.”
“The Bamboo Products Industry Project (BPIP) of the Ministry of Industry, Investment, and Commerce has, therefore, responded with development of the capability to manufacture high-volume bamboo charcoal kilns, comparable to the ones previously imported from China,” she states.
The State Minister assures that kiln has been “tested and re-tested”, adding that “the bamboo charcoal produced…has satisfied the requisite standards established by Bamboo Products Standards Technical Committee, of the Bureau of Standards Jamaica.”
Mrs. Ffolkes-Abrahams further points out that the kiln’s production cycle, “provides the opportunity for creating jobs along the bamboo charcoal value chain.”
Professor Davidson describes the equipment’s design as one of the “highest quality”, noting that it is more durable and affordable.
He notes that “it is a larger kiln (that can) produce a greater volume of charcoal than, in fact, is produced by other locally manufactured kilns.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Wallace tells JIS News that his entity is also involved in the production of organic bamboo charcoal for export, which is manufactured under the ‘BAMJA’ brand name.
“We…exported one shipment..of approximately 2,000 pounds…valued approximately US$4,000…to St. Martin…in August; and there is a stand-in order for approximately one container per week,” he informs.
Mr. Wallace says they are also seeking to tap into the North American and Grand Cayman markets, where “we have sent samples”, noting that the business prospects are “very good.”
“We have also spoken with buyers in Canada, and they are awaiting samples…to commence distribution and sales. What they told us is that they used to get…(shipments) from other countries…but are now looking to Jamaica to (fill) those orders,” he adds.
Mr. Wallace also expresses an interest in participating in the development of other projects, similar to the Peckham initiative.
To this end, he says his entity, in conjunction with the BSJ and BIMAC, have been traversing the island and meeting with various stakeholders.
“It is very surprising to see the kind of demand that exists for organic Jamaican bamboo charcoal. This, as well as the industry in general, has grown, and is (now) very, very large,” he points out.
Mr. Wallace says he is grateful to be afforded the opportunity to participate in the industry’s development.
This, he points out, has been facilitated by key stakeholders such as State Minister Ffolkes-Abrahams; State Minister for Transport, Works, and Housing and Member of Parliament for North West Clarendon, where the Peckham project is being rolled out, Hon. Richard Azan; and the Special Projects Division of the Bureau of Standards Jamaica, headed by Director, Gladstone Rose, who also chairs the Bamboo and Indigenous Materials Advisory Committee (BIMAC).
Mr. Wallace assures that “we are trying…to help, as best as we can, to sensitise as many persons as is possible about the industry, and to encourage them to join and be part of its ongoing development.”