International Bamboo and Rattan Organization

International Bamboo and Rattan Organization

Bamboo shoots: addressing food insecurity in Kenya


Bamboo shoots: addressing food insecurity in Kenya

Bamboo can help provide food security in both human and livestock diets. During a recent training session in Kenya, participants learned about how to prepare, package and market bamboo shoots as food.

According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, approximately 10 million people in Kenya suffer from chronic food insecurity and poor nutrition. As the government of Kenya works to address the situation, the need to identify alternatives has become a key discussion at all levels. Bamboo has recently been recognised by the government as a cash crop, providing opportunities for people to improve their livelihoods and make more use of this locally growing grass plant.

Harvesting bamboo shoots. Credit: Wendy Omanga

INBAR recently organised a bamboo shoots preparation and preservation training in Nairobi, Kenya. The objective of the workshop was to introduce bamboo shoots as a source of food, while creating awareness to increase bamboo farming and to address food insecurity issues. This training is part of the Dutch-Sino-East Africa Bamboo Development Programme. One of the goals of this programme is to enhance food security and livelihood opportunities and it is designed to unleash the potential of the bamboo sector in East Africa, with a focus on Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda.

Bamboo can help to provide food security in both human and livestock diets. The shoots of many species are edible, protein-rich and nutritious and they are a common ingredient in many dishes, especially in Asia. Other bamboo-growing countries can benefit from learning how to harvest bamboo shoots for food, proving local communities with food on the table and a new source of income while bringing degraded land back into production. Bamboo shoots have a market with great economic value. Just in 2018 USD 334 million worth of bamboo shoots were traded internationally, mostly within Asia.

The training was imparted by Ms. Jackline Namadi, coordinator of ECO Green, a community-based organisation that promotes the conservation of the biodiversity resources of Busia County in Kenya, and Mr. Peter Kung’u, from Kenya Forestry Research Institute. The participants were taken on a field trip where they learned how to identify and harvest suitable species to prepare bamboo shoots, this included four species Dendrocalamus asper, Bambusa vulgaris, Bambusa vulgaris var. vitatta and ‘highland bamboo’, Oldeania alphina. After harvesting they learned how to prepare and preserve the shoots, as well as how to package and market them. The training concluded with a hands-on bamboo shoots cooking workshop, a food tasting event and a bonus on how to prepare bamboo leaf tea.

Harvested bamboo shoots. Credit: Wendy Omanga

A participant carries bamboo shoots. Credit: Dominic Tanui

Chopped bamboo shoots. Credit: Wendy Omanga