KENYAN farmers in the Central Rift area are being urged to take up bamboo farming by the Kenya Forestry Research Institute in order to diversify their incomes and improve soil quality.

Bamboo is among the world’s fastest-growing plants, which can be harvested in one to five years depending on the species and may be part of the solution to the world’s dwindling forests.

For Kenyan farmers, soil erosion is a growing concern and due to bamboo’s extensive root system, converting to bamboo farming could play a valuable part in mitigating against soil damage.

There is also the added benefit of offering an additional income for farmers in the region. The institute has explained that as well as a range of benefits such as using the tips from bamboo leaves to brew safe alcohol, demand is on the increase for the plant in the international markets.

Despite its economic potential, the National Bamboo Policy 2019, indicates that bamboo forests cover has decreased to 100,000 ha with the Aberdare Ranges, Mau Forest, Mount Kenya, Mount Elgon and Cherangany Hills leading in the growth of the bamboo trees.

KEFRI is pushing for farmers to consider growing bamboo trees on their farms to act as a climate change mitigation strategy. The plant is said to have the potential to make a major contribution to reducing carbon emissions. In China alone, the plant is projected to store more than one million tons of carbon by 2050.

In addition, bamboo can be effectively used to rapidly restore degraded lands, provide a sustainable energy source for households and generate income for millions of people.

Research carried out by the institute has shown that bamboo can support the country’s paper mill and small cortege industries. KEFRI intend to set up bamboo nurseries and train farmers on how to cultivate the trees as well as equip artisan with relevant skills to produce bamboo furniture.