by Robert Manyara
KISUMU (Xinhua) -- Bamboo tree is fast
changing the economic status of farmers in western Kenya’s
Victor Shiribwa, a former head of
transport and logistics at a company in the capital Nairobi,
quit his job years ago to fully venture into bamboo farming.
"I started bamboo farming in 2007 for fun and to beautify my
home. We bought a piece of land that people thought was useless
as it was so sloppy. Therefore we planted bamboos to control
soil erosion," he told Xinhua Thursday.
The 43-year-old farmer started with 50 bamboo seedlings and
increased the numbers with time.
"We realized it was a very fast growing plant and decided to
increase to 500 trees of bamboo," he said.
In 2010, Shiribwa read how bamboo was a huge industry
especially in the Far East Asian countries in the Internet.
Inspired by the fast growth rate, he cut down all eucalyptus
trees in his farm to create space to set up bamboo nursery.
It starts at the green house, then propagation tubes and
finally a transfer to shed net.
The seedlings take another month in shade inside a net to
adapt to the environment and later harden them in an open field.
The maturity of bamboo depends on the ecological surrounding
and takes about seven years to mature while in the low lands it
matures within three years.
In August 2013, Shiribwa and his wife propagated the first
batch of 3,000 bamboo seedlings.
Lucky there was a World Bank-led environmental program that
was planting trees.
"We spoke to them if they could get them bamboo seedlings. We
sold all 3,000 bamboo seedlings at 3.2 U.S. dollars each,"
Encouraged, the couple propagated another 16,000 bamboo
seedlings that they sold to the community-based organizations.
"We have now started selling bamboo to local communities
since they are getting financial assistance to promote the
growing of bamboo," Shiribwa said.
So far, he has sold bamboo to 47 community-based groups in
Vihiga County and plans to move to other neighboring counties.
Bamboo seedling sprouts 50 to 100 culms and an acre can hold
capacity of 215 seedlings. Farmers are capable of harvesting it
for the next 100 years.
"The culms grow at different stages. Out of every cluster,
you harvest 10 mature culms per season with two harvesting
seasons," Shiribwa said.
In 2013, Shiribwa got sponsored by the Vihiga County
government to go to China and learn the benefits of bamboo.
He now has over 200,000 bamboo seedlings in three shade nets
and 500 bamboo trees. He makes various bamboo furniture and
products at his four-acre farm in Shamakhokho.
He started the business in bamboo products with the help of
Kenya Forest Research Institute that had sponsored artisans who
have skills in making bamboo furniture.
"I got the contracted and was invited to start making bamboo
furniture," he said. The farmer has trained nine women and
youths who are well equipped in the making of bamboo products.
"We are looking at the mass production of bamboo desks for
children in schools, and developing bamboo curriculum for youth
polytechnic sponsored by county governments," Shiribwa said.
In Shiribwa’s bamboo workshop, soviets holder, chairs, sofa
sets, tables, pen holders, bill holders, kitchen tongs, bamboo
spoons, jags, chopping boards, toothpicks, baskets, TV stands
and coat holders are made.
For a month, they gain over 2,500 dollars from different
bamboo products sold in parts of Kenya.
And most of the sales of bamboo products are done through
referrals and social media platforms.
"A single culm of bamboo can make 10 miniature dhows and a
miniature boat in the market cost 10 dollars," said Shiribwa.