Bamboo farming in the country has gained a boost after Kenya Forestry Research Institute (Kefri) signed a memorandum of understanding with Africa Plantation Capital, an international dealer in bamboo farming and bamboo textile manufacturing.
The collaboration is aimed at scaling up bamboo value chain in the country, Kefri said.
Some world renowned textile companies are using bamboo fibre to make clothes and fancy products and the fabrics are elegant and cool compared to cotton fabrics, the experts said.
To make bamboo fibre its woody part is crushed mechanically before a natural enzyme retting and washing process is used to break down the walls and extract the bamboo fibre.
The variety of bamboo used in making the fibre has never been planted in the country before, APC will therefore be introducing the variety for the first time in the country.
Paul Ongugo, science advisor at Kefri, said they are encouraging plantation of bamboo in farms due to its environmental and economic benefits to farmers.
“We are encouraging plantations especially away from high altitude areas and outside the national gazzeted forests due to transport challenges,” Ongugo said.
APC has acquired 200 acres pieces of land Kilifi along the coastal region where they will farm the giant grasses, once harvested the culms will be exported to Asia for manufacturing clothes and yarns.
FEELING LIKE LINEN
Kosta Kioleoglou, APC regional manager, says demand for bamboo fibre is remarkably growing due to its high quality materials as compared to cotton.
Experts say that bamboo fibre itself is naturally round and smooth without any chemical treatment. This means that there are no sharp spurs to irritate the skin. Bamboo fabric is very soft, often described as feeling like linen.
The bamboo plant is highly water absorbent. It is able to take in up to three times it’s weight in water.
“Bamboo textile retains this ability pulling the moisture away from the skin so that it can evaporate. Bamboo fabric also has some insulating properties.
This means that the fabric will help the wearer stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer,” Kosta said.
He added that growing and exporting products such as bamboo will strengthen the country’s economy as imports will match exports.
Market value for bamboo products was estimated at US$50 million in 2015.
On average an acre of high quality bamboo plantation will produce between 30-to 70 tons per harvest .