Kenya: A trove of green opportunities
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