Bidco Africa will contract farmers to grow and supply bamboo to power its factories in Thika and Ruiru, the consumer goods company announced yesterday.
The firm, with presence in 16 countries, said it uses more than 200 tonnes of macadamia and coffee husks to generate power. The supply of macadamia and coffee husks is, however, erratic and unsustainable.
Bidco estimates it will require 6,000 tonnes a month to meet its energy needs.
The Thika-based company said it is targeting individual farmers, investment groups, saccos, and companies in East Africa willing to invest in commercial bamboo farming.
"Bamboo is an elegant solution for our needs. It's good for the environment because it rehabilitates the soil and is a clean energy source that reduces our carbon footprint. Bamboo is also a renewable resource. From a sustainability perspective it's a win-win," chief executive Vimal Shah said in a statement.
The manufacturer will partner with Kitil Farm, a leading bamboo propagation centre, to provide contracted farmers with quality bamboo seedlings, training and technical support.
Kitil Farm chief executive Jovenales Njuguna said bamboo has more than “1,500 recorded uses” and that “about 2.5 billion people in the world depend economically on bamboo”.
“The demand for industrial biomass in Kenya is high. Companies like Bidco who are looking for sustainable solutions to meet their energy needs are creating a market for bamboo, and this is an opportunity for anyone who intends to take up bamboo as a type of investment to consider seriously,” Njuguna said.
Head of agribusiness at Bidco John Kariuki said bamboo can grow favourably across the country, taking between three and four years to mature.
“After it's fully grown, bamboo regenerates making deforestation a non-issue and assuring the farmer of income," he said. “It regenerates every year for about 50 years.”
Studies have shown that a hectare of bamboo plantation can yield between 10 and 33 tonnes of dry stems per year depending on species, region and growing practices.
“If you have idle land or wish to take up a new type of investment, bamboo is a good option,” Kariuki said.
Bamboo holds the Guinness World Records as the fastest-growing plant globally. Some of the estimated 1,000 species of bamboo are said to be growing by up to 91 centimetres a day.