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The Government of Kenya has classified bamboo as a cash crop and urged communities and individual farmers to take up bamboo growing as a commercial activity that will eventually improve their livelihoods and socio-economic status.
The World Bamboo Day is celebrated to raise awareness on the growing and benefits of bamboo, and to promote its use in everyday life. The event which marked the 3rd anniversary in the country was organized by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry through KEFRI, KFS and the Bamboo Association of Kenya.
|CS Keriako Tobiko (centre) with Bamboo National Chairman Victor Mwanga (left) and Director KEFRI Dr. Joshua Cheboiwo (right) bequeathing bamboo at Michuki Memorial Park where 1000 seedlings were planted to protect the Nairobi riverline|
The first Bamboo celebration in Kenya was held in 2018 in Migori County hosted by Nyabera Farm, a private nursery producing over 60,000 bamboo seedlings annually. In 2019, the celebrations were held at Busia Farmers Training Centre, hosted by the Busia Eco-Green, a CBO manufacturing bamboo items.
During this year's event themed 'Sustaining Kenya the Bamboo Way', the CS recognized Mr. Taratishio Ireri Kabue from Embu County for petitioning the state to recognise bamboo as a cash crop.
“Last week President Uhuru Kenyatta ascended to the request and directed that bamboo be adopted as a cash crop to avoid the many challenges being experienced in the bamboo value chain,” said the CS.
Mr. Tobiko further lauded both the late Hon. John Michuki and Dr. Benard Kigomo - former KEFRI Deputy Director for planting bamboo in the park as an initiative to clean up Nairobi River and appreciated their tireless efforts in promoting bamboo in Kenya.
“The late Hon. Michuki when stressed would go under the bamboo shade to reflect and meditate,” said Tobiko.
The CS urged County government to establish tree nurseries at their regions terming bamboo a miracle plant that provides a variety of products going along way to improving farmers' livelihoods
He further stated that the President has decreed fast-tracking completion of bamboo policy in a months’ time noting that the policy is to guide harvesting, processing and marketing.
The policy would motivate scaling-up bamboo farming as farmers will quickly gain returns from their investment in bamboo growing.
Tobiko appealed to private sector to plant bamboo on a large scale noting the plant can grow in almost all ecological zones in the country.
KEFRI Director Dr. Joshua Cheboiwo, in his speech stated it has been a long meandering journey through the legal structures to make bamboo accepted as cash crop in the country.
Dr. Cheboiwo informed the forum that, “cultivation of bamboo as a cash crop will steer the institute into carrying out deep research of improving bamboo variety for farmers who will cultivate it commercially to improve their livelihoods”.
Importation of Bamboo seeds
The CS also said President Uhuru Kenyatta has granted KEFRI consent to import 4.5 metric tonnes of bamboo seeds to hasten production of adequate plantlets in the country.
"KEFRI together with KFS have been tasked to identify and approve the best seed stockist and tree nursery for bamboo in order to ensure farmers buy seedlings from registered firms," said the CS.
Register and regulate tree nurseries
The Permanent Secretary Dr. Chris Kiptoo while speaking at the same event urged KEFRI and KFS to register and regulate tree nurseries countrywide.
"As the drive towards increasing forest cover continues to gain hold in the country, farmers through the social media have challenged me to provide adequate seeds to meet their needs," he said.
The PS noted that the state of some private and public tree nurseries are worrying in terms of quality control, particularly the sources of planting material majorly seed. He challenged KEFRI and KFS to support farmers to ensure they purchased seed from certified sources.
He also called upon Kenya Water Towers Agency (KWTA) to scale up production of bamboo seedlings at the Kaptagat Forest Bamboo Demonstration Site to provide seedlings towards support of the 10 percent tree and forest cover campaign, and the planned national tree planting marathon.
The PS called upon KEFRI to create awareness and give incentives to attract bamboo farming, stating bamboo has immense benefits such as protecting riparian areas, balancing oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and mitigating climate change.
The CS who was enthusiastic to be part of the global event planted 100 bamboo seedlings at Michuki Memorial Park stating that it is one thing to plant bamboo and another thing to grow it. "He who chooses to plant bamboo must agree to adopt it and take the responsibility to tend it," he said.
Mr Tobiko also commended the chairman of Bamboo Association Mr Victor Omwanga for sensititizing farmers about bamboo farming. He directed that the association be allocated spaces within the Michuki Park to set up a demonstration plot for bamboo planting to showcase to farmers.
Eco-Pole Country representative, Mr.Velji Sonigra promised to work with KEFRI in order to reach farmers throughout the country. He reported that fifty percent of both giant and small species of bamboo utility eco-poles are used for fencing. Sonigra, stated that if bamboo is planted in a structured way it could improve farmer’s livelihoods through cottage industries. Eco-pole enterprise trains farmers on bamboo, conservation, value addition and commercialization.
Bidco’s Agribusiness Director Mr. John Kariuki who also represents private sector alliance noted that bamboo can grow anywhere in Kenya and it takes between 3 to 4 years to mature. He hinted that Bidco plans to contract farmers, investment groups, individuals, and Companies within Kenya and the East African region who are willing to take up bamboo growing. He said the company has planted bamboo in Aberdare Ranges and Ndakaini region. Mr. Kariuki also appealed to other stakeholders to join hands in this venture adding that Bidco is ready to contribute in kind and in any other way.
The event was attended by the Bamboo Association of Kenya, Private Sector representatives, Nairobi Metropolitan Service County Governments, Embassies, High Commissions, state agencies which included; National Environment Management Agency (NEMA), Kenya Waters Towers Agency (KWTA), Kenya Forest Service (KFS), Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) and Network for Bamboo and Ratan (INBAR), Chief Conservator of Forests among others.
KEFRI through the National Forest Products Programme (NFPP)- Karura displayed bamboo propagations and assorted bamboo products. Other collaborators who showcased Bamboo utilization technologies included: Tiriki Tropical Gardens, Bidco Industries, Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA), Africa Green Revolution, Bamboo Craft Kenya-Nyaseda Farm, Eco-pole Industries, Ngwa Bicycle Garage, Green Pole Enterprises and Bamboo Trading Company.