• More than 7,000 bamboo seedlings have been planted in the county.
• The Kenya Forest Service has forecasted that the demand for wood products will increase rapidly by 2032.
With the recent deforestation experienced in almost every part of Kirinyaga county in recent years leading to high timber product prices, bamboo is becoming a viable alternative.
Projection from the Kenya Forest Service indicates that the demand for wood products will increase rapidly by 2032. Perhaps it is with such a projection that the Climate Change Mitigation Initiative, a local non-governmental organisation, is advocating bamboo farming in Kirinyaga.
The lobby has planted more than 7,000 seedlings, which are ready for planting according to an attendant, Norman Nyaga. Nyaga says the farm nursery is currently situated at a coffee factory just a stone's throw away from Difathas town for ease of access by those interested.
"We are currently dealing with five varieties, which can be grown in the highland, middle-land climate, lowland and even in very dry areas," he said.
He cited the advantage of growing bamboo. For instance, it grows three times faster than eucalyptus and has an added advantage of conserving water.
"Eucalyptus, also known as blue gum, is the primary source of timber products in Kirinyaga county but is said to guzzle huge amounts of water, leading to drying of rivers and wetlands," Nyaga said.
Bamboo matures faster, taking between four and seven years. Other trees can take more than 15 years. It has industrial applications such as the production of earbuds, toothpicks and straws. A more specialised use is in the production of bamboo yoghurt, bamboo green tea and other medicinal products.
“We have already supplied seedlings to several farmers in Kirinyaga, including a farmer from South Ngariama who has planted over three acres," Nyaga said.
Investors have been going for the seedlings. Even donors have bought a big number and gave to the community living along the rivers to promote soil conservation.
Already, a five-kilometre stretch along River Nyamindi is planted with bamboo, courtesy of the lobby. The efforts conserve soil and reduce evaporation on very hot days. Nyaga, who is trained in forestry, says bamboo is ideal for numerous construction uses and is suitable for building in earth slide-prone areas.
“Due to its light weight, high elasticity and great resistance to breakages, the wood is gaining popularity among construction companies, especially hotel and lodges for tourist attraction," he said.
Nyaga said they have taken it upon themselves to educate the community on the need to adopt bamboo farming. They seek to mitigate the fallout of climate change.
"The closure of the forest by the government has resulted in many of the saw millers going for the trees from the individual farmers which may, in the long run, reduce the gains already achieved in the tree cover initiatives," he said.
"Bamboo leaves convert carbon dioxide into oxygen at a higher rate than the normal trees at 30% higher than the normal trees."
Nyaga says degraded areas like the lower parts of Kirinyaga county can take advantage of bamboo farming to easily rehabilitate the area. However, to attain a bigger output, more land should be put under bamboo to increase yield and reduce the importation of products.