Bamboo plantation. The country has several bamboo types with the most common being Arundinaria alpina, Dendrocallamus asper, Dendrocallamus membranacea.
GreenPot Enterprises Limited, Kenya’s first fully integrated bamboo company is offering both smallholder and large-scale farmers chance to own their own bamboo forests for commercial purposes through financial, technical and educational support.
The firm which has its presence in counties around central and Mount Kenya works closely with willing farmers who own at least an acre of land by first assessing whether the farmers has the space of land required before proceeding to other steps.
“Before registering with us, a farmer is required to have not less than an acre of land which our experts will verify and also check the type of soil which determines the befitting bamboo type for the soil,” said Edmond Machoki, the company’s Central Kenya region marketing representative.
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Upon registration, the company sells to the farmer the recommended seedlings depending on the farmer’s land soil type. According to Machoki, one seedling costs Sh200 and one acre carries 250 seedlings which costs Sh50, 000.
“In order to accommodate smallholder farmers who may not have enough cash to buy seedlings at once, the company allows such farmers to pay the money in instalments by paying 30% of the whole amount first,” said Machoki.
Meanwhile it is the company to till the farmer’s land, provide fertilizer and make holes ready for plantations. They will then transport the seedlings from the company’s nursery to the farmer fields. During all these time till the final stage of plantation, the farmer is expected to fully participate by keenly observing the processes to enable the farmer get the right knowledge on how to grow and maintain bamboo plants.
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Machoki says that the company plants and fully maintains the forests and undertakes to market the produce once it’s ready adding that the forest is managed as one whole unit despite the multiple owners. This is a relatively new concept in Africa.
The company also finds land that is suitable for bamboo farming in designated areas that are close enough to the proposed factory, subdivide it into two-acre (or multiples of two) parcels for purchase and 5- 10-acre blocks (or multiples of 5) for lease, then offering them to Kenyans on friendly payment terms. For the purchase option, the buyers get a title deed for their land while for the lease; they get a 30- year sub-lease.
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Bamboo plants take 3-4 years to fully mature. The company then come and harvests the culms transport and weigh the culms when still wet. One acre can produce between 20-35 tones which is equivalent to Sh200, 000- 350, 000 given one tone costs Sh10,000.
Farmers are paid within four days to one month after weigh and recording of their culms.
GreenPot Enterprises Limited and farmers alike are taking bamboo farming seriously because of the following reasons:
1. Fast growth- Maturity in 3-4 years
2. Diverse uses- ranging from construction to food, fuel and textiles
3. Five times more wood biomass than any other wood
4. Renewable resource
5. Environmental impact- Cleans up to 30% more than any wood