Bamboo to Replace Vanishing Forests: With Its Forests Shrinking, Kenya Is Turning to New Sources to Replace Its Tree Stock. Bamboo, Once a Protected Plant, Is the Cornerstone of a Campaign to Increase Forest Cover and Start a New Bamboo-Based Industry. Solomon Mburu Reports
Mburu, Solomon, African Business
After losing more than 87% of its forest cover in 50 years, Kenya is looking to bamboo production to ease pressure on its depleting forest reserves. Kenya's forest cover currently stands at a paltry 1.5% of the country, down from 12.5% in 1963 when the country received independence from British rule.
Kenya has consequently been officially declared a desert and needs to plant three billion trees to raise its forest cover to the UN target of 10%.
Faced with this daunting task, the country's forest watchdog, the Kenya Forest Service (KFS), is counting on bamboo, one of the fastest-growing plants on earth and one that grows readily across much of Africa.
Bamboo's fast growth and versatility makes it the best option for creating woods of trees. It takes about three years to fully mature for harvesting and has numerous uses that range from simple accessories to construction. The master plan is incorporated in a new bamboo policy that is at an advanced stage of being passed into law. Currently most of Kenya's bamboo reserves are found in government forests which have since 1989 been protected by a presidential ban that prohibited bamboo harvesting due to fears of overexploitation.
The Kenya Forestory Research Institute (KEFRI) believes that the plant has rejuvenated enough and the current reserves have the potential of supporting a bamboo-based industry. However, for its sustainable exploitation and to increase the forest cover, KEFRI is training farmers how to propagate the plant by growing it as an alternative to other trees on their farms.
To support the growth of a bamboo-based industry, KEFRI has been training artisans on how to use bamboo to make consumer products such as furniture, fittings and different accessories such as pen holders, coat hangers, curtains, toothpicks, and many other products. …