Title :Growing Bamboo On-Farm as an Alternative to Traditional Cash Crops in Migori County
Audience :Farmers and Extension Agents
Migori County is located in the south-western region of Kenya, between latitude 0o 24’ South and 0o 40’ South and Longitude 34o East and 34o 50’ East. Annual temperature ranges from 24oC to 31oC, while annual rainfall ranges between 700 and 1,800 mm. The climatic conditions favour subsistence and cash crops farming. The County has both high and low agricultural potential areas. Traditional cash crops grown in the County are; sugarcane in upper high potential areas and tobacco in the lower potential areas. To establish these cash crops, large areas of natural vegetation were cleared which led to deforestation and environmental degradation. However, with time, economic viability of both cash crops diminished. Bamboo growing was therefore introduced in lower Migori as an alternative cash crop to tobacco by Maseno University in collaboration with Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) and Ministry of Agriculture. The choice of bamboo was based on it’s; fast growth, low management requirement and ability to produce many shoots. Other benefits associated with bamboo include riverbank stabilization and soil erosion control. Growing bamboo in Migori County led to formation of bamboo growing cooperative societies, which include Ekerege and Ngege.
|Harvested bamboo culms (stems)
||Bamboo growing on farm |
One farm that grows bamboo on large scale in Migori County is Nyabera Farm ICL. Nyabera Farm ICL is a family business registered as an investment company with a program on “Integrating Bamboo Planting as an Alternative Supplement to Traditional Cash Crops”. The program has a mission of improving bamboo farming as a cash crop in the lower tobacco growing region of Migori, while up-scaling it to the upper sugar belt region of the County.
Nyabera Farm promotes bamboo farming through; production of seedlings, capacity building and linking growers to markets. The farm has been growing bamboo since 2014, after receiving training and technical advice from KEFRI on bamboo propagation, management and utilization.
The objectives of growing bamboo as an alternative to traditional cash crops are to:
• Enhance adoption of bamboo growing for sustainable natural resource management
• Promote bamboo as alternative cash crop
• Provide fuelwood and timber
• Rehabilitate degraded land
• Improve livelihoods through enhanced income
• Enhance land productivity for sustainable agriculture
Nyabera Farm started bamboo growing by; building a greenhouse for bamboo seedling production, acquiring bamboo seedlings from Ekerege Bamboo Farmers Cooperative Society and establishing bamboo plots. The Farm also constructed a bamboo value addition workshop. Currently, the farm is constructing a bamboo village resort centre and holds field days and community awareness programs on bamboo growing. In 2017, Nyabera Farm hosted the world bamboo day celebration. The Farm has planted bamboo in different locations within the County to create awareness. Nyabera Farm purchases culms from farmers and adds value by making various products. KEFRI and other stakeholders support the Farm by providing technical advice.
|Bamboo nursery (front) and greenhouse
||Farmer displaying bamboo products|
• Bamboo is used for curing tobacco thereby reducing deforestation
• Bamboo is a source of income leading to improved livelihood
• Adoption of bamboo growing by schools and churches leading to reduced tree cutting for fuelwood
• Establishment of bamboo growing cooperative societies
• Awareness and market creation by Nyabera Farm
• Intercropping bamboo with bananas and pineapples
• Feeding bamboo leaves to poultry and dairy animals to minimize animal diseases
• Cutting back overgrown bamboo seedlings in the nursery to a height of 1 m
• Application of cow dung manure mixed with water to the cut back seedlings to stimulate healthy regrowth
• Limited market for bamboo seedlings and mature bamboo culms
• High financial investments for establishing bamboo for economic viability
• Negative cultural beliefs that associate bamboo growing to myths on witchcraft
• Bamboo is a viable cash crop
• Bamboo leaves are good fodder for dairy animals and poultry. The leaves also have medicinal properties
• The lifespan of seedlings can be extended through cutback and applying manure mixed with water
• Bamboo can be intercropped with food crops
Bamboo growing has multiplicity of benefits which include; financial benefits from sale of seedlings and other products, provision of poles and fuelwood, improved environmental conservation, and improved food security as bamboo can be intercropped with food crops. Bamboo shoots well and is fast growing, hence a renewable resource with a potential for high income generation.