Kenya Policy Workshop

Shaping a role for bamboo in Kenya’s Vision 2030

In the leading bamboo-growing countries of the world, effective policies are the drivers of growth in the bamboo sector. Such policies provide platforms for action and collaboration by relevant national authorities and through that can foster investment and support for the development of the businesses that are the heart of any productive sector. In Kenya, the government has been mulling the possibilities of such an integrated policy for a while, one that by necessity includes not only the foresters and resource managers, but the financiers, the business people, those in branding and marketing, technical support agencies and innovators, and possibly even institutional users of bamboo products. The Workshop brought together people from many of these different sectors to reach a consensus on the development of an approved national bamboo sector plan, that will be a component of Kenya’s new National Forestry Programme. For it to be successful, the plan will need ownership by the Government, buy-in from civil society, academia and the private sector, and the support of the international community. The plan, when implemented, will help Kenya achieve it’s “Vision 2030” goals, in which it aims to become a middle income nation with a high quality of life for all Kenyans in 16 years time.

Ideas for the sector plan that were agreed include the promotion of bamboo trade – after all, unless products are monetarised the benefits often remain intangible – along with major roles for bamboo in the protection of watersheds and riparian areas, in which the Ministry of Environment takes the lead. Bamboo biomass gassifaction is known to have considerable potential especially in the Aberdares mountain range where bamboo is plentiful, and work has already commenced there at pilot sites. The role of bamboo in providing alternative and less health-damaging livelihoods for tobacco farmers has been proven, and will continue to be promoted. A trial tobacco”-to-bamboo” replacement project in the east of the country, has helped nearly half the households in its working area switch to bamboo, with excellent results, and within the context of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control through the Kenya Tobacco Control Act, 2007. INBAR, KEFRI and the Ministry of Environment agreed to produce a synthesis report of this work to ensure tobacco substitution with bamboo can be included into the plan.



Discussions summary

Dr. Alice Kaudia (below, left), Secretary of State, Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, chaired the meeting. She said  that bamboos form an integral part of indigeneous forests but are underutilized in landscape restoration, renewable energy, poverty alleviation and industrial development in Kenya, and there is still work to do to appropriately integrate sustainable forest management such as with bamboo into forestry regulations. She also noted the contribution that bamboo can play in achieving key national goals, such as Vision 2030.

INBAR’s Director General, Dr Hans Friederich (above, right), highlighted the potential that bamboo has to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and how bamboo can help many of the nations of Africa. Despite having 12% of the world’s bamboo resources, Africa accounts for just 1% of international trade, and INBAR intends to help the countries of Africa realise the full potential of their bamboos. This workshop is one such activity in that work programme, and he hoped that the discussions will come up with implementable solutions and ideas that will meet the approval of investors and donors planners and implementing agencies.

As the primary aim of the workshop was to contribute to the development of an integrated bamboo policy by the government of Kenya, the first session focused on the role of policy in bamboo-based development. Both KEFRI and the Kenya Forest Service presented a review of the current status of policy related to bamboo in Kenya. INBAR’s Oliver Frith presented lessons from China, where policy has been at the vanguard of bamboo sector development for more than 30 years.

Bamboo is widely known as a component of varied landscapes, and its role in landscape restoration is significant. In this session, the World Resources Institute presented their work on mapping of bamboo resources in Kenya, KEFRI and KFS presented the current state of bamboo planting material, and Dr Jacob Kibwage from Maseno University discussed the status and long term prospects of a trial bamboo replacement project for tobacco farmers in the country, one in which INBAR itself supplied technical assistance.

In the bamboo biomass session, INBAR’s Jayaraman Durai gave an overview of bamboo as an energy resource, Liam O’Meara of Bamboo Trading Company presented a private sector perspective, and Jens Claussen on Innovation Norway discussed developing public private partnerships in the bamboo biomass energy field.

Bamboo construction is well known. A few years ago INBAR worked with Maseno Univserity to build a bamboo building at the campus, using funding from IDRC and the university’s presentation took a look back to the work done, and looked forward to ho it could evolve and develop in the near future. Finally, Kenya’s Deputy Director of Housing, Mr Moses Gatana, presented the government’s plans for upgrading slums, and the potential bamboo holds to contribute to them.

In the industrial development session, INBAR’s Dr. I. Ramanuja Rao presented INBARs experience, the successes and the pitfalls, of developing successful, long term bamboo value chains, and Ole Bernt Froshaug of Waterstone Resource Fibre Kenya Ltd gave an industry perspective on industrial development of bamboo in Kenya. Waterstone is already planting bamboo plantations and producing bamboo furniture, and has started importing laminated bamboo from China to kick-start the market for what it hopes will become home-produced laminates. Phillipe Dinga, of AllOne Africa Ventures Ltd presented his perspective on social entrepreneurship as a means of sustainable financing for ecosystem restoration with bamboo.

Bamboo for a greener future in Kenya

Bamboos have been part of Kenya life for centuries. Highland Bamboo, Arundinaria alpina (Yushania alpina,  Oldeania alpine) is the only native species, growing on 150, 000 ha between 2290 m to 3360m asl in the Mt Kenya, Aberdares, Mt Elgon, Mau Forest and Cherangani Forest water Catchment areas, where it plays a critical role in regulation of water flow and soil erosion control. Clear-felling of bamboo up to the early 1980s resulted in the implementation of a ban on its harvesting from natural forests in 1982, one that remains in force today. However, in 2005 the new forest act did permit commercial plantations of bamboo, and the range of different bamboo species that were introduced in the 1980s and 90s, some with INBAR’s help, and each of which is useful for a suite of different uses, have started to realise their potential in commercial cultivation.

Bamboo resources also contribute to local livelihoods, with an estimated 3.2 million bamboo culms being used each year for fencing, construction, props in the flower industry (a major use), edible shoots, toothpicks and skewers, incense sticks, baskets and handicrafts.
The many investigations into the sector over recent years have identified barriers to development with bamboo, particularly lack of a national policy, the important role the bamboos play in regulating water flow downstream and hence the need not to clear cut them, the lack of institutional and technical support and financial attractiveness for investors,  and very poorly developed market awareness and access.

Reaping the benefits of investment in bamboo will require an integrated approach for sustainable rural development, linking environmental conservation with improvement of community livelihoods, access to business financing, skills and appropriate technologies, and an effective marketing system. To achieve this, an overarching supportive policy that provides a platform for stakeholders and a means of support for the sector will be needed. The current workshop aims to inform just such a policy.


Are you a bamboo business person in Kenya? What needs to be done to help your business? Do you grow bamboo in Kenya, or do you want to? How can Kenya best help develop a green economy with bamboo? Join the discussion below..

Helping boost the bamboo sector in Kenya

Shortly before he left for Kenya to attend the Kenya National Bamboo Workshop on 21 and 22 April, INBAR’s Director General, Dr Hans Friederich, discussed his hopes for the meeting, and for the future of the bamboo sector in Kenya.

INBAR is an international, inter-governmental organization that aims to improve the well-being of the producers and users of bamboo and rattan within the context of a sustainable bamboo and rattan resource base.  Kenya is one of INBAR’s earliest African member countries, a place where bamboo could, and most possibly should, play a greater part in sustainable environmental, economic and social development.
In some parts of the world bamboo is already providing livelihoods to millions – in China and India for example, where technology and innovation have been the driving forces, coupled with supportive policies and investment that enables bamboo businesses to grow and reach new markets. Yet in others, the opportunities that bamboo offers have yet to be adopted with such gusto. Kenya is a nation in which bamboo can make a real difference.
We at INBAR believe that bamboo can help most countries in the tropical belt achieve many of the Sustainable Development Goals that are currently under discussion.  Bamboo reforestation and afforestation and developing a bamboo industry is not the answer to all our challenges, but could and should be considered by bamboo-growing nations in the full spectrum of sustainable development options.

However, despite having 12% of the world’s global bamboo resources according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Africa accounts for just 1% of the estimated 60+ bn USD world trade in bamboo, and one of our overall objectives is to help our member countries in Africa realise the full potential of their local bamboo resources.

This workshop will be a consultation on the natural bamboo natural resources in Kenya, what their uses and benefits are, how we can manage them more effectively, and what we can do with them to develop increased economic benefits for Kenya. It will also contribute to the development of a plan for a National Bamboo Development Programme which is part of Kenya’s overall forestry development agenda.

I am sure that the discussions will lead to practical solutions, that we will identify realistic opportunities, and that we can connect investors and donors with planners and implementing agencies to kick off new initiatives.

I very much look forward to the meeting.

Kenya National Bamboo Workshop

Kenya National Bamboo Workshop


Date: 21-22nd April, 2015

Location: KEFRI Research Institute, Nairobi


Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (MEWNR),

Kenyan Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) &

The International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR)


Introduction & Rationale:

This workshop will bring together sub-national, national and international actors working in Kenya from civil society, academia, the private sector, and Government, whom are already developing bamboo-based initiatives. In Kenya, bamboos form an integral part of indigenous forests, providing vital ecosystem services to the nation’s water towers. In addition, as a fast growing, highly renewable resource with properties similar to timber, bamboo can support green economic development and contribute to key national goals, such as Vision 2030. However, at present, bamboo is largely underutilized, with existing initiatives tending to occur in isolation. Furthermore, while advances have been made in integrating sustainable forest management into forestry regulation in recent years, these still do not adequately address bamboos, with no dedicated national policy in place. This is inhibiting opportunities to up-scale proven technologies and value chains for a range of renewable energy, industrial, craft, and construction applications. Given these facts, there is clear demand and need for a new coordinated, multi-sector national bamboo programme approach.  


Overall Goal & Specific Objectives of the Workshop:

The overall goal of the workshop is to contribute to the development of an approved national bamboo policy with ownership from the Government of Kenya, buy-in from civil society, academia, the private sector, and the support of the international community.


The specific objectives are to 1) improve coordination between key stakeholders working on bamboo related initiatives or related areas; 2) raise awareness of key policymakers and investors to create a more enabling policy and investment environment; 3) provide inputs to MEWNR and agree on a timetable for the development of a national bamboo policy    


Main Expected Outcomes:

The main expected outcomes from the workshop are:

  1. Kenyan Government enacts Bamboo Policy with multi-stakeholder support
  2. Increased investment and policy support for the bamboo sector
  3. By 2030, Bamboo sector is contributing significantly to Kenya’s land restoration, renewable energy, poverty alleviation and industrial development goals