Bamboo farmer says it’s a lucrative business

Samuel Magoba holding a mature bamboo plant at his bamboo plant in Budalangi. PHOTO/Gilbert Ochieng, Scholar Media Africa.
Samuel Magoba holding a mature bamboo plant at his bamboo plant in Budalangi. PHOTO/Gilbert Ochieng, Scholar Media Africa.
  • The farmer says this venture has lifted his economic life.
  • He urges young people to join in and plant bamboo.
  • The trees are essential in preventing floods.

Samuel Magoba, a former civic leader at the then Busia county council, is an environmentalist whose love for trees began years back while he was still in school. 

He had actively planted indigenous trees to conserve the school environment.

Building a name

His environmental conservation effort did not only earn him a good name, but also saw him receive various awards for the outstanding work he had been doing to conserve the environment.

A number of learning institutions within the vicinity soon followed suit and embarked on a marathon tree planting. 

They acquired a lot of tree seedlings from him for planting. This earned his school finances that were used to effectively manage the club’s affairs.

His active involvement in environmental conservation drew the attention of the forestry department, which eventually declared an interest in working closely with him. 

They would provide him with diverse species of tree seedlings under a school greening program that proved successful.

“The decision of the forestry department to identify and unanimously resolve to work closely with me encouraged me to exert more effort in my environmental conservation efforts,” said the former civic leader.

Why environmental conservation

He recalls accompanying a team of community forest conservation service members during a recent tree-planting session in a section of a certain forest.  

He was shocked to the bone when he came across a big chunk of the forest left bare without trees due to arbitrary deforestation for charcoal burning.

“I was driven into active environmental conservation through tree planting when I witnessed a disgusting and sorrowful picture of damage that had been caused to a section of the forest by charcoal burners,” said Magoba.

He expressed his eagerness to work closely with the Port Victoria Forest Conservation team to engage in marathon planting of tree seedlings all over Wanga Hills, whose forest covers are too low.

“Apart from conserving the environment, trees also bring rain. There is an urgent need on the part of the entire local community to engage in extensive tree planting in their respective homes,” asserted the former civic leader. 

Bamboo plants   

They are tall tropical plants with hard, hollow stems whose young shoots can be eaten and the stems also used as fuel.

Mature bamboo trees at Magonja's farm. PHOTO/Gilbert Ochieng, Scholar Media Africa.
Mature bamboo trees at Magonja’s farm. PHOTO/Gilbert Ochieng, Scholar Media Africa.

Magoba, a resident of Igigo village in Mudembi sub-location, Bunyala North ward, Budalangi constituency of Busia county, is today actively engaging in the growing of bamboo plants majorly for environmental conservation. 

He is also planting bamboo trees along the shores of the flood-prone River Nzoia to curb persistent flooding that displaced scores of people in the recent past.

To prevent the floodwaters from breaking the dykes and eventually finding their way into homes and farms, Magoba has been overseeing the planting of grass along the dykes to prevent underground seepage of the flood waters. 

For instance, in May 2020, over 40,000 people in Bunyala sub-county were displaced by the raging floods and forced to relocate to sixty-two internally displaced persons (IDP) camps set up by the government across the sub-county when River Nzoia burst its banks. 

Source of livelihood

Apart from environmental conservation, bamboo plants are also planted for commercial purposes. 

They are used in construction activities which comprise flooring, roofing, designing and scaffolding, furniture making, food for livestock and shoots as food for humans, bio-fuel, fabrics, cloth, paper, pulp, charcoal, ornamental garden planting, and environmental characteristics such as a large carbon sink and improvement of the soil structure.

Magoba has no regret in engaging in the active planting of bamboo. 

He says the gains from his three-acre bamboo plantation have enabled him to provide for his family’s daily basic needs apart from meeting his children’s education costs.

During an interview, he confided to Scholar Media Africa that there is a ready market owing to the high demand for his product. 

Carpenters and people building houses in Bunyala sub-county and Busia county at large normally flock to his farm to buy the plants.  

“Bamboo has transformed my life a great deal. It has also enabled me to pay fees for my children,” said Magoba.

Bamboo-made furniture in a yard. PHOTO/Courtesy.
Bamboo-made furniture in a yard. PHOTO/Courtesy.

Jacinta Manyasi, 50, a widowed mother of ten and a member of Sibuka Self Help Group in Bunyala North ward, says she opted to engage in bamboo growing apart from other crops like maize, beans and millet owing to its many financial gains.  

She says the gains derived from the sale of bamboo have tremendously empowered her financially.

“The proceeds from the sale of bamboo have enabled me to educate my children. I owe all this to my former civic leader Samuel Magoba who had introduced me and other group members to bamboo growing, which is indeed lucrative,” recalls Manyasi.

Self-employment opportunity                                                                                                                                             

Magoba encourages unemployed youths from Bunyala sub-county and Busia county to start growing bamboo.

“There is a scarcity of jobs in the job market. I encourage our youths to engage in active bamboo growing, which is lucrative as it has many benefits. 

This will provide them with employment opportunities hence transforming their lives,” he assured them.

More bamboo seedlings

Patrick Ojanji, an environmentalist from Bunyala sub-county, is urging the forestry department to issue group members, especially those residing in the flood-prone areas and Busia county, with more bamboo seedlings to plant along the shores of River Nzoia to tame the flooding menace. 

He expressed concerns over Busia county’s low forest cover, hence the need to actively plant indigenous trees in Wanga Hills.

The environmentalist, at the same time, called upon the area forest officers to move with speed and launch a crackdown aimed at arresting and arraigning in court those engaging in deforestation. 

“Environmental conservation is key and should be accorded first priority. It is high time the department of forestry moved with speed and deployed more forest guards to man Wanga hills to avoid further damage to the existing forest,” said Ojanji.

What is special about bamboo?

Bamboo is so special because it is the fastest-growing plant on this planet. 

A farmer in a bamboo farm. PHOTO/Courtesy.
A farmer holding a young bamboo plant in a bamboo farm. PHOTO/Courtesy.

It has been recorded to grow at an astounding 47.6 inches in 24 hours. 

Bamboo is a crucial element in the atmosphere’s balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide. 

Research has established that a grove of bamboo plants releases 35 percent more oxygen than an equivalent stand of trees.

Bamboo and health

In additional gains derived from bamboo growing, it is worth noting that it has some health implications. 

Bamboo-made cups contain melamine resin, a kind of plasticky glue made from formaldehyde and melamine. Melamine is suspected of causing damage to the bladder and kidneys, while formaldehyde is a known irritant and can even cause cancer if inhaled.  

Continued use of the cups, especially on hot drinks, leads to a release of higher levels of melamine, according to research by Stiftung Warentest.

YOU CAN ALSO READ: Rural women reaping big through modern farming technologies

Magomba’s three-acre Model Bamboo On-Farm plot in Bunyala, Busia county, was implemented by Eco Green Kenya and supported by Dutch-Sino-East Africa Bamboo Development Programme.

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Mr. Ochieng is a journalist based in Busia. He has 20 years of experience writing for diverse newspapers countrywide. He focuses on Agriculture, Health, Development and other Human Interest Stories.


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