As the world looks at alternative options for wood in construction and furniture making, bamboo is emerging as a strong contender, mainly because it takes a short time to mature and lasts long-probably longer than wood.
As the fastest-growing land plant in the world, bamboo can reach 41 ft within one year and creates up to 20 times more timber per acre than trees.
A bamboo pole fetches an average of Sh400, while seedlings retail at Sh200 each.
But farmers, who have for long been accustomed to planting trees are finding it difficult to adopt this presumably foreign plant.
“Bamboo is a resource that is being under utilised in Kenya and there is need to enlighten people about the benefits of embracing it” says Polycarp Mboya, Manager Kenya Bamboo Centre.
Harvested bamboo stems can be used to make furniture and handicrafts while the processed bamboo makes clothes, flooring and roofing tiles.
In countries like Indonesia and China, bamboo is used in water desalination, providing a filter that sieves the salt from water. In other countries, the sap from shoot tips is used for brewing an alcoholic drink, which has about 5 per cent to 5.5 per cent alcohol content, and is similar in taste to beer.
There are two main types of bamboos: running and clumping. Running bamboo spreads out its rhizomes and can cover large areas. The spread of this type of bamboo can be controlled with 3- to 4-foot-deep barriers of sheet metal or concrete.
Clumping bamboo stays in tight clumps which gradually increase in diameter. As it grows, bamboo stores food in its roots and rhizomes. At the start of the growth cycle, the canes grow out of the ground rapidly to their maximum height. The leaves and canes produce food, which is stored in the rhizomes for the next growth cycle.
Young bamboos usually take some time to rise from the ground. Older plants, on the other hand have more stored food and, therefore, grow faster. Bamboo grows well in areas with full sun or partial shade.
The plant can tolerate a range of soil conditions as long as moisture is present, but it usually doesn’t like boggy soils. The plants are rarely bothered by pests.