ENVIRONMENT: KEFRI roots for bamboo growing

Bamboo stems. PHOTO/Courtesy.

Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) is encouraging residents to plant bamboo trees.

The body’s Kitui Regional Research Centre Director, Dr. Albert M. Luvanda said that the bamboo is propagated through seeds/cuttings.

The director said that bamboo is one of their flagship species in Kitui region.

“It is one of our target species for planting in the region,” he said.

Dr Luvanda was speaking to the media in his office during this year’s (the 11th) World Bamboo Day celebrations.

The World Bamboo Day is celebrated to create awareness of bamboo globally.

The day was officially established by the World Bamboo Organisation during the 8th World Bamboo Congress held in Bangkok, Thailand on September 18, 2009.

Luvanda said: “We as a region produce some 6,000-8,000 bamboo seedlings every year.”

He added that the KEFRI produces some 50,000 bamboo seedlings in the entire country every year.

According to him, the KEFRI Kitui Regional Research Centre has two centres that produce the bamboo seedlings located in Kitui and Kibwezi.

“KEFRI has six centres that produce the bamboo in the country,” the expert added.

Dr Luvanda said that they majorly promote bamboo for water catchment areas and riverbanks rehabilitation purpose.

“The species is fast growing. Here in Kitui region we produce two species-Bambusa vulgaris and Oxytentheraabyssinica,” Luvanda said.

“Bamboo can be weaved into many products including furniture, baskets, food, toothpick, frankincense, beads, paper and charcoal,” the scientist said.

The expert said sugar content in bamboo is high and that is why the species is attacked by some insects like the borers.

 “So it is good to preserve bamboo against the borers after harvesting,” he said.

There are about 1,000 bamboo species in the world. Bamboo is a large grass and it belongs to the grass family.

The KEFRI official also said that the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) has played a pivotal role in advancing the bamboo and rattan sector in this region.

The INBAR has facilitated and coordinated research including action-research on biodiversity and genetic conservation, production systems, processing and utilisation and socio-economics and policy while promoting capacity building at the national level, he said.

He noted that a number of rural development programmes are being implemented in the region.

“The INBAR has also been instrumental in promoting technology transfer and information exchange between the network partners,” the official said.

He said the replicability in Latin America and Africa of the success stories from South and South East Asia is yet to be assessed despite the immense interest from the private sector, non- governmental organisations and government institutions in using  bamboo and rattan to fuel the rural development in the region. 

The dearth of information on the bamboo and rattan sector has been the main constraint to the development of the systematic and sustainable development programmes, Luvanda further said.

“In order to do this, the INBAR has commissioned studies from selected countries in Africa, Central and South America. These studies will provide a thorough review of the current state and future potential of bamboo and rattan sectors in each country,” he added. 

 Luvanda was accompanied by Pius Matieka who works under him. Matieka is the officer in charge of the KEFRI Kitui Regional Research Centre’s Tiva Station in Kwa Vonza Location, Lower Yatta District in Kitui County.

With its headquarters in Kitui Town, the KEFRI Kitui Regional Research Centre covers thirteen out of the Kenya’s 47 counties.

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