Giant Bamboo Project
Giant Bamboo Project
Over the recent past, there has been keen interest in the introduction of giant bamboo (Dendrocalamus giganteus) as a key plantation species in Kenya to boost biomass production due to its various desirable attributes. Some of these attributes include:
- Bamboo is the largest producer of wood bio-mass in the world
- Bamboo has a 25-35% annual increase in bio-mass compared to 2-8% for trees.
- The period of time between planting seedlings and harvesting the first mature culms is usually 3 to 6 years depending on the species being grown.
- About 1 billion people use bamboo on a daily basis
Bamboo has over 1000 documented uses both at domestic and industrial levels. It is a key source of household and industrial energy, building materials and furniture. It is even used as a source of animal and human food among many other uses. Bamboo also has the unique and desirable attribute of being one of the fastest growing plants on Earth. This makes bamboo a very viable and feasible source of material for all the goods and services it is expected to provide.
The Nyayo Tea Zones Development Corporation has initiated the project to grow bamboo as a source of bio mass energy for both domestic and industrial consumption. In this regard, the corporation intends to review the areas under assorted trees to determine which plantations may be unsuitably sited in environmentally sensitive areas with a view to replacing them with the more'friendly' bamboo.
This will serve two key purposes. First, protection of the environmentally sensitive areas, and second, provision of critical biomass energy for both domestic and industrial consumption. The key consumers of biomass energy in the Tea Zones are rural households, schools, hotels and tea factories.The project has already been piloted on three plots totaling 10 hectares in Embu Tea Zones at Kiye,Benjamin and Muthigi blocks.
The species of choice is the giant bamboo though it is anticipated that the project will upscale to include propagation of indigenous bamboo species.The corporation nursery at Kinale is already producing indigenous bamboo species intended for planting in the riparian areas with the Tea Zones. An emerging challenge at this early stage is the foraging of the young bamboo shoots by elephants which apparently find the succulent plants highly palatable. The plants have however been noted to recover during the rainy season.
The key project areas of interest are Nyayo tea Zones in Mt. Kenya, Nyambene, Mau Forest, Nandi, Mt. Elgon and Cheranganyi areas. Under this project, it is also intended to engage the peri-forest communities in production of both seedlings and on-farm bamboo poles as a way to improve their livelihoods at a later stage. Under such an arrangement, it is intended that these communities will be provided with the necessary capacity to facilitate their participation in the project. Under the same project, it is intended that a bamboo resources centre will be developed to promote the adoption of bamboo farming and its various uses. Key collaborators on this project are likely to include the Kenya forest Research Institute (KEFRI),
Kenya Forest Service (KFS), and the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA), at the implementation level. KEFRI would provide research information and guide on proper species selection for different areas within the buffer zones. KFS is the custodian of all state forest lands and therefore a key partner. KTDA is a major consumer of the fuel wood grown in the Nyayo Tea Zones and can also facilitate engagement of peri-forest tea growing farmers.