Kawayan Collective Leads The Way Into A Green Future Using Bamboo


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Photographs from Kawayan Collective
Words by Sheena Angelique Zante

Published on March 1, 2021

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Founders Ray and Amy Villanueva re-introduce bamboo as a sophisticated material for construction and design.

A single bamboo pole is multipurpose. This potential is recognised and amplified through the sustainable campaign led by Negros Oriental-based Kawayan Collective, a Non-Government Organization focusing on the production of bamboo as a durable and modern building alternative. 

“We already believed the natural choice for construction was bamboo since it is abundant, affordable and embedded in the local culture.” Kawayan Collective founders Ray and Amy Villanueva advocates.

In 2018, Kawayan Collective started supplying treated bamboo poles to the social housing project implemented by Base Bahay Foundation, paving the way for their advancement. “Since our inception, we have supplied over 20,000 treated poles — or enough framing material for 200 houses,” recalls the founders.

Kawayan Collective expanded its operations by 2020, offering its services to other customers and projects; productively pursuing the mission to make treated bamboo affordable and accessible to all. Their three main product lines are treated poles for construction, panels for interiors/furniture and some small homeware products.

At present, the organization produces two hundred culms a week, in which each culm is mindfully converted into approximately two structural poles and seven slats that are laminated into sheets intended for interior flooring, walling and furniture items. Furthermore, the ends of the pole are developed as small homeware products such as floor mats, wall lamps and pen holders.

“We aim to make full use of every pole harvested, though right now, we can convert only about fifty-one percent into commercial products due to volume, machinery and access to the market.”

The Collective aims to be a standard for responsible growth. A growth that will drive the Philippine market to view bamboo as a material of stylish sustainability for carbon-conscious construction. The Collective tells LAWIG, “We meet quarterly with our suppliers to thank them for their invaluable support, as well as to provide continuous learning about bamboo clump maintenance and propagation. We know that if we don’t practice sustainable harvesting today, there will not be enough bamboo to support our operations next year.” 

Consciously propelling bamboo into the market is a challenge. Kawayan Collective, however, is determined to exercise their shared values of cooperation, thanksgiving and problem-solving to consistently move forward. “As for growth in our products, we are concerned about how much waste we generate. Our product development is focused on how to use all parts of the bamboo pole. Once we have refined this turn-your-waste-into-products model, then we will start looking outward and finding ways that we can replicate it. We believe that mass production at a local level will lead to greater impact on communities.”

The ultimate goal is for bamboo to reach the international market — with Filipinos leading its development and innovation. Ray, echoing Amy, shares, “One of the main reasons we started Kawayan Collective is to rebrand bamboo as a material that holds tremendous value. And that Filipinos should be honoring and reclaiming their past by being leaders in the bamboo revolution. In our origin story, life began from a single bamboo. When we choose bamboo, we honor our past and lead the way for the world into a green future.”

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