Bamboo Lota

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Bamboo Lota

$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Bamboo Lota hopes to bring environmental, health, and economic improvements to poverty-stricken Malawians through the establishment of a diverse bamboo company, producing mainly bamboo charcoal. In addition, rural villagers would learn from us the tools necessary to successfully maintain and harvest bamboo and an entrepreneurial venture.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

90% of the population in Malawi is reliant on charcoal for household use. The problem is that three-quarters of the 14 million people make up the bottom of the pyramid and cannot afford cleaner alternative fuel sources such as ethanol or electric stoves.1 The domestic market for bamboo charcoal is vast; however, the government neither recognizes nor legalizes it. This informal charcoal trade has created unsustainable deforesting practices by Malawian loggers and has led to rapid destruction of the environment over the past two decades. Between 1990 and 2005, Malawi lost 12.7% of its forest cover, or around 494,000 hectares.2 Unlike bamboo which can be harvested in 3-5 years, it takes trees of hard and soft woods typically 10-50 years until they are harvestable. Therefore, the act of reinvesting in the next cycle of harvest is nonexistent and ultimately diminishes resources for the rural poor in the future. Yet, many Malawians’ only source of income comes from charcoal production. Coupled with the inability to access basic loans, the dependency on this illegal trade is a vicious poverty trap.
About You
Bamboo Lota
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Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name



Bamboo Lota

Section 2: About Your Organization
Organization Name

Bamboo Lota

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Organization Country
Your idea
Country your work focuses on
What makes your idea unique?

Bamboo Lota’s mission is to improve the deforestation and fuel crisis in Malawi by allowing rural entrepreneurs to take charge of their own bamboo business. By operating a sustainable bamboo growing system, the company can optimize the triple-bottom line which will create positive returns to profit, people, and the planet. This has never been done, much less in an impoverished country like Malawi where the impact will be immense.

Do you have a patent for this idea?

What impact have you had?

In order to benefit rural Malawian communities we seek to provide job opportunities for locals, to educate the community on how to grow and maintain bamboo, to allow members to eventually take control of the enterprise, and to provide cleaner fuel in a more sustainable practice.


We are first starting the company as a non-profit and then moving it into a social enterprise. After the first six years, we will exit out of Malawi, subsequent to providing for the enterprisers the experience and knowledge necessary to take charge of their own business. In addition, we are looking into providing for additional markets for the bamboo product. During the six years, Bamboo Lota will go above and beyond expectations to ensure that the enterprisers will be able to market bamboo properly, and to gain the conviction and insight necessary to be lifelong leaders for fundamental change regarding business and cleaner alternative energy solutions.


Bamboo Lota will have a positive impact on the residents living in Monkey Bay, Malawi in a number of concrete and meaningful ways. Our venture will take sustainable roots in the community through the establishment of a market-based business which thrives on local inputs, human and physical. By giving local Malawians ownership of the project, they will assume responsibility over Bamboo Lota’s operations and have a personal stake in Bamboo Lota’s success. Once the company has assumed production of bamboo into charcoal, a more sustainable product will be on the market, allowing local Malawians to learn about and try a product that has a gentler environmental impact and creates a healthier environment for their families and children. Not only will our bamboo charcoal reduce the deforestation epidemic in Malawi and reduce the prevalence of respiratory illnesses, it will provide cattle farmers with a fortification and supplemental product to increase their cattle’s milk production and quality.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

Year One:
-Set up infrastructure to implement health and environment social marketing programs
-Set up supply chain between producers and retailers
-Hire local workers (Four to work the land and two for education)
-Plant bamboo on two hectares of land and educate works on how to maintain
Year Two:
-Market ecological stewardship to neighboring rural villages
-Built improved, cleaner kilns for bamboo charcoal pyrolysis
Year Three:
-Continue planting and maintaining bamboo crops
-Begin process of creating bamboo charcoal
-Establish distribution channels
-Expand amount of workers to three field workers per grove, and one additional educator

What would prevent your project from being a success?

The adoption barriers we have project consist of: unwillingness to switch from wood fuel to bamboo, inability to pay back loans, and cultural barriers that prevent rural Malawians from taking advantage of such an economic opportunity. However, we have a social marketing campaign in place in addition to several, on the ground partners with already existing relationships with the communities to overcome these barriers.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$50 - 100

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?


What stage is your project in?

Idea phase

In what country?
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

If yes, provide organization name.
How long has this organization been operating?

Less than a year

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

We plan to develop partnerships in all sectors to ensure the success of our venture. Partnerships with NGOs are critical to establishing credibility and trust. Partnerships with business, especially in the first world, are essential to expanding into other bamboo products and markets. Partnerships with the government are essential to ensure the longevity of the organization.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

First, we must secure more funding to cover the land, material, and travel expenses to establish a bamboo grove in Malawi. Second, we must not only approach partners but create contracts and agreements to fully commit to this initiative. Third, we must start producing the product and training local Malawians.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

It all started at UC Berkeley in our Entrepreneurship to Address Global Poverty course. We were assigned a country and given the task of developing a business plan for a social venture as a team project. After much research and thought, the idea to use bamboo as a viable crop in Malawi was created. Although the main product would be bamboo charcoal, bamboo's versatility made it the perfect crop, keeping longevity and sustainability in mind. As the project progressed, it soon quickly became clear that this venture was not only very much needed, but entirely possible. We then strategical how to take the plan from the theoretical to the physical.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

This idea and business was a culmination of three passionate, eager, and socially conscious UC Berkeley students. Within our journey we have encountered so many mentors and advisors along the way, who have both challenged and inspired us to think bigger, more realistic, and better. All three founders come from very different backgrounds and interests, yet their passion for this project unites them to create a team experienced in business management, marketing, and entrepreneurship.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

College or university

If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company