The Kenya Forestry Research Institute (Kefri) and other groups are helping farmers to become compliant to a government order by supplanting eucalyptus trees to more versatile bamboos. According to the Daily Nation, anticipating increased demand in bamboo, the Kefri and other agricultural organizations have been training farmers on plantation, choice of edible bamboo and related utilities.
On the day one of a Kefri training session the farmers were greeted with the message – “Are you going hungry? Well, you need not suffer from hunger pangs any more if you have bamboo growing on your farm or in a nearby forest.” It is estimated that more than 10mn Kenyans either go hungry or survive on a single meal a day; scientists believe bamboo shoots would be able to assuage the situation as it is found to be a cheap fibre-rich food substitute.
The scientists who trained the farmers treated them with bamboo shoot cuisine and taught how to prepare them. Nevertheless, Peter Kungu, a technologist, cautioned the attentive farmers that not all types of bamboo shoots were edible as some contained cyanide, a highly toxic chemical that could kill humans within hours.
Bamboo is the world’s fastest-growing plant and has been known to surge skyward as much as 121 cm in 24 hours. Bamboo is a regular dish among Asian countries particularly in Japan and Far East countries but relatively a new food concept in Kenya.
Besides including bamboo as a food supplement in daily diet, Kenya will attempt to extend its usage into handicraft and furniture products. Currently bamboo is widely used in the flower industry for support purposes, and pea farmers use them to support plants.
The Kenyan government imposed the decree following a finding that eucalyptus trees are chief water-depleting agent in the river basin. Kangema environment officer Isaiah Gichuru informed the removal of eucalyptus was bearing fruit as water levels in rivers and springs in the region have risen. However, farmers still have the option of growing the fast-maturing eucalyptus trees away from river banks.
The Tree Biotechnology Trust, a semi--government agency, has received $3.65mn from former UK minister for Science and Technology, Lord David Sainsbury to further bamboo project across Kenya. Sainsbury suggested the project would contribute significantly both to the economy as well as the environment. He also said that he is engaged in similar programmes in Tanzania and Uganda.
By Jose Roy