Kenya Pilot Project

The Bamboo Pilot Project (2013-2016)
Maranga County, Kenya
In partnership with PBR, this bamboo Initiative in Kenya was initiated by Waterstone Norway AS and made possible by generous financial support from the Lennox Foundation. Two pilot plots for growing bamboo were made available by the Greenbelt Movement (GBM), and GBM-affiliated women groups planted bamboos procured from Kitil Farm. Four training workshops were designed and delivered to support participating women overseeing the planting, caring and security on the bamboo plots.
Kenya Bamboo Centre provided skill development programs focusing on bamboo carpentry, while the Norwegian Forest Society contributed forestry advice and expertise. This innovative bamboo initiative would not have been possible without the excellent cooperation between these organizations, their dedicated staff, and local citizens.

The Kenya Bamboo Project was highlighted in a 2014 documentary film
produced by the Climate Reality Project

The project facilitated the creation of a working production supply / value chain, including processes of propagation, planting, management, harvesting, processing, manufacturing for end uses, marketing, and sales. The project highlighted organic, non-­chemical methods and management best practices to support sustainable growth of bamboo production and community engagement.  As a result, innovative ways of combining sustainable bamboo forestry, kilns for efficient bamboo charcoal production, energy efficient cookstoves, and production of household products provide new local economic opportunities while safeguarding trees and ecosystems from ongoing deforestation.

Project BackgroundOne of the biggest global challenges today is to stop global warming at 2 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-­industrial  level.  How do we reach that goal?  Many countries meet the challenge by planting trees.  Forests sequester carbon and releases oxygen.  Trees prevent soil erosion, keep the water ecology in balance, and provide us with nutrients and wood for cooking and building.

In Kenya, there is less than 2% closed canopy forest left.  Greenbelt Movement, founded by late Professor Wangari Maathai, has been planting 60 million trees over the years, and so bringing prosperity and health back to rural communities in Kenya. Nonetheless, the demand for forest products continues to increase and poor local farmers are in need of a cash crop.

As anticipated, bamboo resources have come to the forefront in climate change / global warming debates because of its ability to absorb large amount of carbon. Bamboo is a grass and unlike trees, bamboo regrows after harvesting, just as grass regrows after cutting.  After it is mature, between four to six years, bamboo can be harvested every single year for the life of the plant.  Because bamboo requires few nutrients, it can grow in soil inhospitable to other plants and reclaim the land so other plants can thrive too.

To raise an industry based on bamboo agroforestry in Kenya, the initial Pilot Project emerged in Muranga County, north of Nairobi, representing over took two years of planning, networking and concept development culminating with launch activities in November / December, 2012, with two bamboo pilot plots launched in April 2013. The implementation and ongoing benefits of this Project is fulfilling the late Wangari Maathai’s dream to support green initiatives that ensure efficient use of natural resources for sustainable development and creation of job opportunities.

Pictured at right, launching day April 2013 with GBM women group welcoming the bamboo seedlings.

Project Goals and results of Training / Implementation Programs:
  1. Introduction of a new cash crop;
  2. Show an innovative and replicable way to produce and manage bamboo, and Introduce and teach ways to produce a variety of bamboo products;
  3. Reduce deforestation and loss of biodiversity in indigenous forests;
  4. Report on results.
  • A  total  of  2018  bamboo  plants  have  been  sourced  through  2013.
  • 12  acres  of  Oxytenanthera  Abyssinica  (OA)  are  planted
  • Protocol  for  the  first  phase  of  the  value  chain  are  tested  and  documented:
    a. Totally  1874  bamboo  seedlings  have  been  sourced  and  planted
    b. Plants  have  been  guarded  and  managed  on  a  daily  basis  for  nearly  one  year  by  24  local  women  working  on  rotation  together  with  3  guards  and  a  local  project  manager
    c. Two  workshops  were  held;  teaching  locals  to  plant,  prune  and  tend  plants  (Kitil  Farm)
    d. Monitoring  program  has  been  established;  to  document  how  various  conditions  and  treatments  influence  survival
    e. Practical  information  on  management,  harvesting,  processing,  and  sale  of  bamboo  documented  (NFS)
    f. Partnership  regulated  by  MOU  has  been  initiated  with  KBC.  Workshop  was  held  teaching  locals  to  create  household  products  for  sale
  • Different  ways  of  using  OA  have  been  tested  and  documented  such  as  treatment  of  bamboo  poles  by  boric  acid
  • The  market  assessment  shows  the  greatest  short-­‐term  income  potential  is  linked  to  products  that  don’t  require  advanced  processing,  such  as  fence  poles,  scaffolding,  household  products  and  charcoal/biochar
  • Our  findings  show  that  bamboo  is  suitable  and  attractive  as  a  source  of  eco-­‐friendly  biomass  for  charcoal/biochar.  Several  production  methods  and  scales  have  been  researched,.
  • The  advocating  of  bamboo  as  sustainable  energy  and  cash  crop  have  been  done  throughout  the  year  in  meetings,  seminars,  field  visits  and  four  workshops.  Through  communication  with  government,  private  sector  and  NGOs  project  staff  it  has  been  raised  awareness  of  the  value  of  bamboo  in  Kenya.  Several  information  meetings  with  GBM´s  management  staff  and  board  convened  on  strategic  development  and  increased  use  of  bamboo.
  • One  demonstration  bamboo-­‐toilet  shed  and  one  shelter  for  the  guards  have  been  constructed  on  pilot  plot  Block  1/197.  District  farmers  frequently  visit  the  plots.  This  is  boosting  the  interest  for  bamboo
  • The  project  involved  and  trained  24  women  and  their  families,  which  is  the  number  GBM  deemed  suitable  for  initial  training
“In Kenya, more than 80% of the rural population depends on charcoal for everyday cooking. Less than 2% of Kenya’s forest cover remains and, if the remaining forest is to be conserved, new sustainable alternatives for wood and wood products need to be identified. New generation bamboo plantations also have the potential to be part of the climate change solution as well as to help secure energy and rural livelihoods through the development of bamboo-based businesses.” Read more via Green Belt Movement article.