The government is set to approve a national bamboo policy that will delimit its growing and exploitation for timber, biochar and other byproducts.
The policy, which comes amid calls to have bamboo classified as a grass, will allow Kenyans to grow and harvest bamboo for both environmental conservation and value addition.
Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko says the draft policy is set to be forwarded to the National Assembly for approval.
“Bamboo grows fast and has power to clean the air, protect soils and conserve water. The more it is harvested the more it grows,” Mr Tobiko said on Monday. He spoke in Meru during a two-day tour of the county.
Mr Tobiko, who led a giant bamboo planting drive at Mbeu Forest, said the growing of bamboo was being spearheaded by Kenya Forestry Research Institute (Kefri) and Kenya Water Towers Agency.
Limited by law
Meru County environment executive Karwitha Kiugu said harvesting of bamboo was limited by law.
“Bamboo should be classified as a grass to allow its harvesting. Harvesting of bamboo triggers its growth hence fueling manufacturing as well as environmental conservation.
"A wide range of products can be made from bamboo to the benefit of the economy,” Prof Kiugu said.
The draft National Bamboo Policy of 2019 also recommends the amendment of the Forest Conservation and Management Act of 2016, to classify bamboo as a “grass” for sustainable harvesting and management of Bamboo.
Mr Tobiko also directed Kenya Forest Service and Kefri to oversee the establishment of botanical gardens at the Meru University of Science and Technology and the Njuri Ncheke shrine.
He said the ministry would work with councils of elders across the country to enforce conservation efforts and promote tree growing.
Mr Tobiko also warned against politicisation of the environment, citing the Mau evictions that were resisted by politicians.
“We are crying because of the adverse effects of our own doing. We should not politicise and ethnicise environment because it doesn’t know tribe or political party. Whether you are in Jubilee, tangatanga, kieleweke or in between, it doesn’t care,” Mr Tobiko said.
Meru County has partnered with Greening Kenya, a non-governmental organisation to promote bamboo farming in an effort to conserve riparian areas as well as boost income for locals.
According to the draft bamboo policy, the tree can enable the country achieve its target of 10 percent forest cover by 2022 due to its ability to regenerate fast.