The news could bring more investment to the bamboo sector.
On 10 September, a cabinet meeting chaired by Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta, confirmed that bamboo will now be designated as a ‘crop’. The decision was taken “in order to foster the commercialisation of bamboo plants, and as part of the Administration’s Greening Campaign”, according to a press release by the Cabinet Office. The decision to promote bamboo is part of the Kenya’s Greening Campaign, which aims to increase tree cover and generate more employment through agroforestry.
According to a 2018 resource assessment conducted by INBAR, Kenya has 133,000 hectares of bamboo. In an accompanying value chain analysis, INBAR found there was significant potential for Kenya to grow its bamboo sector, in particular the creation of bamboo construction materials, furniture, handicrafts, bioenergy products, stick-based products and textiles. However, the same report also identified a lack of suitable technologies or comprehensive market analysis, which has prevented an uptake of bamboo industry in the country. The Dutch-Sino-East Africa Bamboo Development Programme, led by INBAR, is now working to develop Kenya’s bamboo sector.
Problems with bamboo sector development are not particular to Kenya. Although it is an important non-timber forest product, and promising alternative to timber and pulp resources, bamboo is often marginalised in discussions of forestry development. This is partly due to its status as a grass plant – neither a crop nor a tree – which means it has received historically less support and research. In India, bamboo was only recently removed from the 1927 Forest Act. Under the Act, bamboo could not be harvested without a permit – a preventative deforestation measure which limited its use by forest communities.
Promisingly, a number of governments are now working to boost bamboo’s status, either by creating institutional markets for bamboo products or by incentivising investment in the sector, through the creation of national bamboo strategies. In China, generous subsidies and a comprehensive Bamboo Strategy have supported the sector’s growth; in recent years, the governments of Ecuador, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda have followed suit, creating bamboo strategies with technical support from INBAR. In the Philippines, bamboo was recently classified as a ‘priority’ crop for development, and is a mandatory part of national land rehabilitation in mining sites.
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