Bam­boo sur­prise

ChinAfrica - - Africa Report -

Shiribwa was not al­ways a farmer in Vi­higa. He and his wife Flora are for­mer white-col­lar work­ers from the cap­i­tal Nairobi, some 400 km to the east.

On a spur of the mo­ment de­ci­sion the cou­ple quit their city jobs to start farm­ing bam­boo.

For vil­lagers in Vi­higa, no­body could un­der­stand Shiribwa’s sud­den in­ter­est in a gi­ant woody grass which grows nat­u­rally in Kenya. He orig­i­nally didn’t in­tend to turn it into a busi­ness ven­ture ei­ther. He planted bam­boo just out of cu­rios­ity.

“When I set­tled here, many peo­ple thought my plot was use­less be­cause it was on a hill and had lit­tle fer­til­ity,” he told Chi­nafrica.

“We planted eu­ca­lyp­tus [for re­for­esta­tion] but we re­al­ized the plot was get­ting drier. So we started re­plac­ing them [the trees] with bam­boo. The ad­van­tages were al­most im­me­di­ate. The bam­boo grew faster, held soil to­gether and did not sip too much [wa­ter] from the soil,” he said.

The project grad­u­ally de­vel­oped into a full-time lu­cra­tive busi­ness. But ini­tially Shiribwa’s bam­boo ven­ture was a gam­ble on two fronts. First, he was go­ing into the ven­ture which hadn’t been tried be­fore in Vi­higa and sec­ond he was putting his life sav­ings into some­thing he knew lit­tle about.

“I did some read­ing on the In­ter­net. I saw how the plant had been use­ful in some coun­tries, such as China and oth­ers in that re­gion and I thought I could try it here.” He found that some bam­boo species can grow fast and gen­er­ally ma­ture be­tween three

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