Africa Plantation Capital (APC) are leaders in bamboo farming and other agro-forestry enterprises. Brian Okinda spoke to Konstantinos Kioleoglou, APC’s regional managing director for East Africa.
Why the fascination with bamboo?
Bamboo is a grass that matures faster and is self-regenerating, making it more profitable as it can be harvested every year for up to 100 years.
Bamboo, which helps to conserve the environment, can also be used in making an array of products that include furniture, fibre , activated carbon and flooring.
As APC, next month we are launching our first line of bamboo polo shirts made exclusively from bootex fibre by one of our associate companies.
Now, what does Africa Plantation Capital do?
We promote sustainable agroforestry projects. Africa Plantation Capital is a member of APC Group which manages over 160 bamboo plantations in Thailand, China, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and the US.
We started our first in Kenya a year ago. We plan to have a total size of 5,000 acres and over 700,000 bamboo trees in the next five years.
We want to introduce to the Kenyan market and the region new technologies and agroforestry models. We have completed the infrastructure of our fully irrigated first bamboo plantation here and planted over 35,000 bamboo seedlings.
This has changed the local environment into a green source of oxygen and creating hundreds of jobs in the area.
For these efforts we were last year awarded “The new Business of the Year” by the Kenya Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
From your experience, what does it take to set up a successful green project?
To set up a successful, profitable green project you must plan well, get licensed, and invest in infrastructure.
The plans include preparations of all relevant approvals such as National Environmental Management Authority licensing and public consultations.
These are the key factors that will provide the required sustainability to any project, mitigating the risks, protecting the project from weather instabilities and market changes.
You also need expertise. In our team are experienced scientists, engineers, quantity surveyors, agronomists, agribusiness managers, ICT experts, forestry specialists, agricultural biosystems and management scientists, hydrologists, geologists and market analysts covering every aspect of the project.
We are now working on our plans for a bamboo processing facility we are establishing at the Coast.
What bamboo varieties do well in Kenya?
As per our agronomists, it is better to grow more than one variety in large-scale plantations. Location, climate, rainfall and other relevant information are important to choose the correct species.
In the coastal region, we are growing in our fully irrigated farms, Bambusa bambos, Bambusa vulgaris, Dendrocalamus membraneceus, Dendrocalamus asper and Dendrocalamus strictus. Bamboo has a remarkable growth rate.
Some species of bamboo grow more than three feet a day. When it is harvested, it will regenerate from its extensive root system with no need for additional planting or cultivation.
Bamboo needs to be harvested when it reaches maturity. It matures between four and seven years. We intend to harvest at the end of year five.
Selective harvesting of only mature bamboo stems is also a very important as it influences the sustainable development of the plantation.