Bamboo Village

Raising a New Generation of Bamboo Lovers

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The video and article (text below) were published on Saigoneer, 17 June 2018

The Facebook video was shared by several global organizations, such as the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) and the World Bamboo Organization.

The video won the first prize at the video contest of the 11th World Bamboo Congress in Mexico (August 2018).

Article: Raising a New Generation of Bamboo Lovers

Bamboo is booming. All over the world, people are rediscovering the plant’s massive potential and technological innovation has enabled its use in pretty much any product you can think of. But how would a designer, engineer or architect know which specific type of bamboo to use for a project? There are over 1,000 species: some have higher tensile strength than steel, others are extremely flexible or have the perfect thickness for a straw.

Vietnamese scientist Diep Thi My Hanh makes a fundamental contribution to the global bamboo movement by studying the characteristics and the practical values of different species. Dr. Hanh grew up in Phu An, a village 40 kilometers north of Saigon.

When she returned after the war with a doctor’s degree in Environmental Science and Technology from France, not much was left of her hometown. The land was destroyed, the people were poor and farmers didn’t know how to sustainable use the available resources.

The Bamboo Village has become the region’s beating heart of bamboo research. It is part of the University of Natural Sciences of Ho Chi Minh City, and attracts many local and foreign students. But although she’s a scientist at heart, My Hanh never loses sight of the practicalities of the real world.

Together with her team, she develops training programs for the local community. When she won the UNDP Equator prize in 2010, the organization estimated that already 3,000 families in Phu An had economically benefited from her activities. But it’s not all about the money. To Hanh, educating children is at least as important as supporting their parents. Every Saturday morning, she invites local school classes to the village and teaches them to love nature in general and bamboo in particular.

More locals seem to have developed a renewed appreciation for bamboo. It’s evolving from an everyday material — once considered the poor man’s timber — to a symbol of progress. The iconic bamboo straw of the forward-looking Zero Waste Movement, and prominent local architect firms, most notably Vo Trong Nghia, using bamboo as their signature material, are just two examples.

Hanh welcomes the increasing recognition for bamboo, in Vietnam and worldwide, and hopes it will lead to more funding for her work. Recently, she set up community projects in the Mekong Delta and Central Vietnam, and has plans for many more. Clearly, Hanh doesn’t show any sign of slowing down, but if one day she has to, the next generation is well-prepared to continue her work.