Kenya: A trove of green op­por­tu­ni­ties

Africa Renewal - - Africa Watch: Burundi -

Bam­boo,nick­named the won­der plant, is the strong­est and fastest-grow­ing woody plant on earth, and sup­plies a global trade worth an es­ti­mated US$2 bil­lion per year. The lion’s share is earned by Asian coun­tries, whose bam­boo-based in­dus­tries span a vast range from pa­per mak­ing and scaf­fold­ing to lux­ury floor­ing and foods. But Africa is also wit­ness­ing a boom in bam­boo.

In African coun­tries that pro­duce bam­boo, re­search and de­vel­op­ment is usu­ally the work of the forestry or agri­cul­tural sec­tors. How­ever, scal­ing up re­quires ex­per­tise in spe­cial­ized ar­eas — such as mi­cro-en­ter­prise de­vel­op­ment, small-scale or in­dus­trial bam­boo grow­ing, and pro­duc­tion of bam­boo prod­ucts — that might be bet­ter found in the pri­vate sec­tor.

In Kenya, the bam­boo in­dus­try in­volves a multi-stake­holder ap­proach, with con­sul­ta­tions among rel­e­vant govern­ment min­istries, NGOs, re­search in­sti­tutes and univer­si­ties and oth­ers, fa­cil­i­tated by the Kenya Forestry Re­search In­sti­tute (KEFRI).

One of the largest stake­hold­ers to take up bam­boo de­vel­op­ment so far is Green Pot En­ter­prises, launched in 2014 to pro­mote bam­boo farm­ing in Kenya and to help the coun­try max­i­mize the com­mer­cial­iza­tion of bam­boo.

So far the or­ga­ni­za­tion has farm­ers cov­er­ing over 1,000 acres of land in Narok County, with another 2,000 acres to be planted this year. It is tar­get­ing 4,000 acres by the end of 2016.

Green Pot has two prin­ci­pal de­vel­op­ment plans. With a “gated com­mu­nity of forests,” the or­ga­ni­za­tion buys a large par­cel of land then sub­di­vides it into 10-acre and 2-acre plots for lease by Kenyans at “af­ford­able rates,” ac­cord­ing to its web­site.

Each buyer gets a ti­tle deed (the bam­boo farm is man­aged as one whole unit de­spite the mul­ti­ple own­ers) and a 30-year sub­lease. The com­pany plants and fully main­tains the forests and mar­kets the pro­duce once it is ready.

A par­al­lel com­mu­nity out­reach pro­gramme en­sures that for ev­ery acre of bam­boo planted in the gated com­mu­ni­ties pro­gramme, a cor­re­spond­ing acre is planted by mem­bers of the lo­cal com­mu­nity. This pro­gramme fi­nances the sup­ply of seedlings, Green Pot ex­plains.

“Glob­ally, there is a big push for bam­boo be­cause of its im­mense fi­nan­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits. It brings wealth to the peo­ple, cleans rivers, stops soil ero­sion, and so on,” Green Pot’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, Caro­line Kar­iuki, told Africa Re­newal. She says the gated com­mu­ni­ties pro­gramme is mainly in Narok County, but the out­reach cam­paign

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