By Saumu Juma

Kenya Forestry and Research Institute (KEFRI) in collaboration with the Dutch-Sino-East African Program (INBAR) is in its second phase of a bamboo project aimed at reducing poverty rates and climate change action.

The program  which seeks to help farmers commercialize bamboo growing as well as reduce the effects of climate change in low areas that are prone to floods in the country was  first conducted from 2016 to 2019 while the second began in 2020 and is expected to end in 2023.

According to Nellie Oduor, program manager for KEFRI’s national Forestry research program and the national coordinator for INBAR said the bamboo project is a very good program for land restoration as bamboos have very shallow root system which holds the soil. Thus, preventing soil erosion along the river banks.

She continued that some of its species can grow in areas which have undergone desertification and where mining activities have taken place in efforts to restore the land.

Nellie Oduor, program manager for KEFRI

Oduor however urged companies to conduct research on the soil (site matching) to see if bamboo can do well instead of telling farmers to invest and experience project failure.

In efforts to ensure success of the program, Oduor said that they provide extension services to the farmers in terms of management of the tree, impacting them with knowledge such as when to harvest and which stems to harvest to avoid cases where some farmers were cutting the whole tree.

The IBNAR national coordinator continued that they train the farmers on how to keep animals such as snakes and rats stating that if the tree has a lot of starch that attracts them and therefore the farmers should harvest when necessary, plant onions around the tree or put pig waste because they repel the animals away.

Oduor said that the program is only able to pick a certain number of farmers where others are left out because they lack resources to manage a huge number.

“There are very many people who want assistance and we only have certain targets. If we’ve said that this year we will plant this amount of hectares, if there are many people who want to plant, we may not be able to do it”, she explained.  “Another challenge is where they would be able to process the bamboo. Those are some of the things we are hoping we can have more investors processing plans for bamboo”.

However, financing remains to be a problem in this sector because most farmers can hardly access loans from banks which are reluctant to offer for fear of if the project isn’t a success which means that they will not be able to repay the loans.

Oduor has urged farmers to form groups which will make it easier for them to access the market instead of working individually.

“We are telling them to come as cooperatives then you will accord a market, you don’t have to go looking for the market. As long as the project is here, we are able to support in planting”,Oduor added.

She said that more measures are being put in place to support bamboo planting such as standardisation of the seedlings to enable farmers to access them at the same price.

The coordinator continued to say that bamboo planting should be embraced because it will help in implementing sustainable development goals and reducing the effects of climate change which is very critical globally.

“We are hoping we can get the bamboo national strategy and action plan for 2021, 2031 by the ministry and the cabinet and also the national bamboo policy because it has things which are addressing the blue print. The UN land decade for restoration, bamboo is addressing it, the Afr-100 unsee the 10% tree cover”, she said. “Climate change looks at tree planting as well and trying to reduce the effects of the greenhouse gases”.

According to Oduor, the program is also trying to launch a TVET curriculum on bamboo processing to help the trainees of carpentry know they can use bamboo as a product as well as engage in its growing.

A similar program is being implemented in Uganda.