The Ewaso Nyiro South Development Authority (ENSDA) is one of the six regional developments authorities under the Ministry of Regional Development and has been playing a big role in environmental conservation, crop farming, livestock keeping, water provision, conservation of catchments and lately, bamboo commercialization among others.
Their bamboo commercialization project started back in 2013 with ENSDA raising bamboo seedlings using greenhouses for the purpose of propagating the bamboo seedlings in various parts of Narok and other counties. It’s these bamboo that the organisation intends to use to rehabilitate the entire depleted Maasai Mau forest area.
To this end, ENSDA is in the process of rehabilitating thousands of acres of land in Maasai Mau forest where the first phase of eviction was done last year.
In 2017 in partnership with the national government, ENSDA launched the bamboo project in Narok which was majorly aimed to protect the soil and water catchment areas in the region.
The bamboo plantation project and factory which was estimated to cost Sh. 670 million was expected to go a long way in mitigating the effect of climate change by sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as bamboo plays a vital role in the protection of the soil and water catchment areas.
The organisation plans to start bamboo plantations in their four counties of operation which include; Narok, Nakuru, Kajiado and Nyandarua and in near future start a factory that would process the bamboo canes.
The Environmental Ecologist of ENSDA, John Thiruaine said the planting of bamboo trees in Mau has already kicked off but they are also planting indigenous trees which will be used as a buffer between the forest and people’s land and on the sloppy areas of the Maasai Mau being rehabilitated.
“We chose bamboo tree for rehabilitating Maasai Mau because they mature fast and form a canopy and in a short time and their suitability to the attitude of this Mau region,” said Thiruaine.
Bamboo is a fast growing woody grass. Its species grows naturally on the mountains and highland ranges of Eastern Asia countries and in the medium lowlands of other countries of Asia and Africa.
Bamboo takes about three years to form a canopy as opposed to indigenous trees which take much longer, hence are suitable for rehabilitating the Maasai Mau. Once established the new shoots that emerge will continue to get bigger and more numerous from year to year as the colony grows towards maturity.
The ENSDA Acting Managing Director Eng. Peter Bwongero says the plans to plant bamboo in Mau forest has already started and it is expected to continue while the second phase of the Mau eviction is being awaited later this year.
“We have already rehabilitated over 164 acres of land in the Mau where the first eviction took place by planting 32,000 bamboo seedlings. At the moment we are working on another 300 acres that will require planting over 64,000 bamboo seedlings,” he said.
Incidentally, the ENSDA is using casuals from the community that were evicted from the Mau area in this rehabilitation and they are very appreciative of these rehabilitation exercise which started early this year.
Thiruaine says the initial process in the bamboo seedlings propagation involves the acquisition of cuttings, rhizomes and/or culms. These are then prepared for rooting and shooting. Once they develop the shoots and roots, the next step is the splitting process. The splits then produce more shoots and with time, it split again.
The process continues until the required number of seedlings is obtained for planting in the field. This process takes about six months.
In order to produce the many bamboo seedlings required, ENSDA has also been working with local farmers by providing pieces of lands where they can plant the bamboo seedlings.
“Right now we are working with 1000 farmers who have provided two to three acres of land each for them to plant the bamboo. Our target is to be able to work with over 10,000 farmers in the coming days,” he adds.
Since the bamboo plant takes about three years to mature, it is hoped that setting of bamboo plantations in the Maasai Mau will come in handy in not only rehabilitating the forest but also in alleviating the problem of timber and other forest products like construction materials, fencing materials, and fuel.
Eng. Bwogero says the bamboo processing factory to be established will take the lead in designing, mobilising of resources, construction and processing of bamboo products in partnership with the private sector under the Public Private Partnership arrangements.
The initiative is also aimed at eradicating poverty in the community through creation of employment for residents in Narok County and improving the economic status of the whole country.
“Over 20,000 jobs will be created once the factory is open in three to four years. This factory will be able to process over 50,000 tons of canes every day,” says the acting MD.
The bamboo project idea was borrowed from China where the plant has been commercialised and used for various purposes as well as conserving the environment. Since it started, ENSDA has been distributing the bamboo seedling to the farmers in Narok, Bomet, Nakuru, Nyandarua and Kajiado where the seedlings are being planted along the river banks.
The main objective of the bamboo project in Narok is to contribute to increased forest cover not only in Mau forest, but also in the region and promote sustainable development and utilisation of bamboo through value addition through the envisaged factory.
The bamboo trees can be used for various purposes including building houses, making furniture, cloths, rugs, accessories and even for medicinal purposes.
Bamboo propagation has not been implemented in the country before because of the special ecological needs and conditions that the bamboo seedlings require to do well and currently one seedling goes for as much as Sh.300.
Thiruaine says bamboo takes 70 years to flower and that is why they are depending on imported seeds.
He is urging the residents in the region and the country at large to embrace this project as this will help us not to rely on imported seeds in future in order to propagate our seedlings.
“The future of bamboo in this country is very bright as demand for its products is rising,” Thiruaine says.
Indeed, bamboo propagation and planting will go a long way in not only improving our environment, but also the economy of the country.
By Mabel Keya – Shikuku/Joseph Kariuki