In Africa you want everything. You want firewood, you want to reduce erosion, to maintain the water supply, generate cash and employment. Bamboo comes the closest — it gives you the most things.
The need for firewood is now critical in Ethiopia; trees covered 35 percent of the country a century ago; by 2000 they covered just 3 percent.
Paradoxically, harvesting bamboo to make durable goods is greener than not harvesting bamboo.
While Rosenburg, who wrote the above New York Times blogpost, makes some interesting points, she misses one huge, gaping hole of an argument: planting bamboo plantations will overpower and undermine whatever remaining biodiversity persists in these growing semi-deserts. The same process already occurred with eucalyptus, but given the even more extensive root networks of bamboo, native tree species may be completely outcompeted, leaving a vast, bamboo-only landscape rather than the extremely diverse forests that Africa used to be known for (along with the associated ecosystem services that all those different species provided.)