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Central farmers asked to commercialise bamboo

By Lydiah Nyawira | August 20th 2015

Counties bordering Aberdare and Mt Kenya forests have been advised to support private sector initiatives of encouraging planting of bamboo trees for commercial purposes.

The Kenya Water Towers Agency (KWTA) held an investment forum with Government officials from six counties and private companies that are willing to set up factories to process bamboo for various uses.

KWTA Director Anthony Mwangi told representatives from Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Nyandarua, Murang'a, Kiambu and Meru that Bamboo farming was an untapped avenue to offer employment and generate high revenues for farmers in the region due to the high demand for processed bamboo products.

"As the agency tasked with protecting water towers, we are offering residents neighbouring the forests an alternative livelihood that will be rewarding for both their counties and individual farmers," Mr Mwangi said.

There are over 1,000 uses of Bamboo trees including making clothes, furniture, building houses and fences. Bamboo shoots are also considered as food.

Assess viability

Greenpot Enterprises Chief Executive Officer Carol Kariuki asked the counties to conduct a profiling exercise to determine the number of farmers who have been growing bamboo for the last 20 years to assess the viability of a factory in the county.

"The national government has been conducting research on bamboo farming for the past 20 years. However there are farmers who have been growing the trees and have no market for them. We are offering the market," Ms Kariuki said.

She said that according to their research, If a farmer planted 10,000acres of bamboo, he/she could create employment for 50,000 people and offer the county would get up to Sh5 billion in revenue, through the sale of the products.

"Bamboo matures within four to five years. Mature bamboo will offer a farmer, who has planted only one acre of bamboo, up to Sh500,000 annually or a minimum of Sh40,000 per month because it can be harvested every month once it matures," she said.

Nyeri County Kenya Forest Services boss Francis Mathinji said the county has 25,000 hectares of bamboo in Aberdare and Mt Kenya forests but it was not clear how much bamboo was in individual farms.

"The national government knows how much bamboo is in the forests. However, for success to be realised, farmers have to take up commercial bamboo farming," Mathinji said.

Nyeri Environment and Natural Resources Executive Timothy Ngunyangi said the county was willing to encourage bamboo farming within the county but only if the seedlings and markets were available.

"Farmers are going to be skeptical if they are asked to buy bamboo seedlings at Sh200 each yet eucalyptus tree seedlings are only Sh20," Mr Ngunyangi said.

His Kirinyaga counterpart Joseph Muthike said farmers would be skeptical about bamboo farming because few were aware of the benefits.

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