Busia
Kenya
Kenya Forestry Research Institute
Kitale
Peter Gachie

To reap from bamboo, I grow my seedlings in greenhouse

Soon, we arrive at our destination, the Roddy Eco-Cover Farm. The 1.2-acre farm hosts a variety of trees and their seedlings, but the green leafy bamboo stands out. Rodrick Ambuka, the owner of the farm, grows the bamboo seedlings in a greenhouse.

He grows the seedlings in a 60m by 30m greenhouse, with the structure hosting 800 bamboo plants sprouting from the cuttings at a time.

“We planted the seedlings about a week ago and in three weeks’ time, they will be ready for potting. After another month in the polythene bags, they will be ready for sale.”

“I often admired the green leafy suburbs in Nairobi. Most of these areas had beautiful trees and were very cool,” he says.

His desire to plant trees and beautify his home led to a vibrant bamboo enterprise.

“I bought my first 500 bamboo seedlings of the Bambusa vulgaris, Bambusa textilis, Bambusa Tulda, Denntrocalamus Gigantis and Moso varieties at Sh100 each from a farm in Kitale,” he recalls, noting he took a bank loan of Sh300,000, added to his savings and ploughed into the enterprise.

The loan went into the purchase of the 1.2-acre farm, an electric water pump, greenhouse, farm equipment and the fencing of the farm.

“My idea was grow the bamboo to maturity before multiplying my own seedlings from the cutting.”

He propagates the bamboo seedlings in the greenhouse. The greenhouse temperatures and humidity favour the fast multiplication of the seedlings.

“I apply a hormonal powder on the bamboo shoot making them grow faster. The advantage with this system is that a farmer can get more cuttings from a single culm.”

“Cut the culms according to the buds’ position. Fill a pot with soil, manure and hormones. After a month, the seedlings are ready for transplanting in the open field.”

“Preferably, transplant the seedlings into 30cm deep holes. During the first month after transplanting, watering is essential for the growth of the seedlings. The plant should be protected against animals, insects, fire, rodents and termites,” says the father of four.

Once the bamboo trees are mature, then a farmer can harvest for multiplication of seedlings. The cuttings are harvested using a hack saw.

Peter Gachie, a research scientist at Kenya Forestry Research Institute (Kefri), says aside from seeds, bamboos trees can propagated through cuttings and rhizomes.

“Others use rooting media but normally the shoots come out very vigorously with the rooting media. The beauty with the cuttings you can easily have multiple seedlings since bamboo mature faster,” says Gachie.

He notes that bamboo is rarely affected by pest and diseases, but farmers need to watch out for bamboo mosaic virus, root rots and sooty mold.

Roddy Eco-cover farm sales bamboo seedling from Sh200 to Sh250 each, depending on the variety and size.

“While most people had viewed bamboo as a poor man’s tree, we saw an opportunity to make money out of the sale of the seedlings,” says Ambuka, noting they sell the trees and seedlings in Vihiga, Kakamega, Kisumu, Eldoret and Busia counties and as far Kajiado Nairobi and Kampala.

In a good month, the Roddy Eco-Cover Farm makes up to Sh200,000, intimiated Ambuka.

“From the trees, I managed to buy a pick up for the farm, which helps in the transportation of the tree seedlings to our clients,” he says.

The farmer plans to set up a workshop to make furniture and explore diverse bamboo products.

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