Arundinaria alpina (bamboo) is the world’s fastest-growing hard wood. Although it is native to warm and moist tropical and temperate climates, many species are found in diverse climates, ranging from hot tropical regions to cool highlands.
The most prevalent bamboo species in Kenya, according to the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (Kefri), is the alpine bamboo.
However, there are at least 12 others that grow in various ecological zones, ranging from altitudes of 2,200 to 3,000 metres above sea level.
Unlike other trees that take decades to mature, bamboo can be commercially useful in five years. It can also be harvested for up to 40 years without the need to replant.
It is used as human food and animal fodder, in construction, fencing, handicraft, furniture, soil and water conservation.
In Kenya, it is increasingly being used in greenhouses as support for plants like tomatoes.
Bamboo shoots are high in dietary fibre. They contain protein, vitamins and minerals.
Eating the shoots helps individuals lose weight and boost the body’s immune system. Bamboo can also be taken as tea.
Bamboo can be used to make fabrics that are much better than cotton. Studies have shown that bamboo fabrics give the body protection from ultra-violet light.
They also soak up water up to four times better than cotton, making them ideal in hot temperatures. They are cool when hot and warm when cold.
Bamboo can be used to make roofing trusts, runners and tiles. When used for flooring, it provides a more flexible, smooth, bright and stable alternative to wood.
It can also make charcoal, pulp, boards, utensils, matchsticks, toothpicks and crafts.
Medicine from bamboo controls cholesterol, boosts the immune system and has possible cancer-fighting and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also useful in curing snake and scorpion bites.
These trees absorb high amounts of greenhouse gases and release oxygen into the atmosphere.
The best way to propagate bamboo is through cuttings. The rhizomes are cut into portions leaving two or three growth buds on each.