This was a partnership project between the AfriCenter, Kenya Forest Research Institute (KEFRI), Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and the Tree Biotechnology Program Trust (TBPT), funded by the National Commission for Science Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI).
The overall objective of the project was to regenerate and domesticate edible bamboo varieties available in the country thus expand the food security base while at the same time helping stem the tide of deforestation in Kenya. The activities entailed:
- Identification and selection of edible bamboo species that will grow well in different parts of the country.
- Development of protocols for regeneration of at least 2 edible varieties.
- Establishment of the nutritional composition of the shoots from selected varieties.
Exploratory surveys that included focus group discussions were conducted in two major bamboo growing areas of Kenya. The surveys investigated the ranking of bamboo in comparison with other crops grown, varieties grown, uses of bamboo, value addition, marketing, knowledge on bamboo shoots for consumption, willingness to consume bamboo shoots and gender issues in the production and utilization of bamboo.
During the survey, shoots of edible bamboo species were collected for nutritional analysis and establishment of demonstration trials. Key informant interviews were also conducted with chefs and proprietors of hotels and restaurants within Nairobi city to find out how many offered cuisines with bamboo shoots, the frequency of serving this dish, the source of the shoots and how the bamboo shoots were prepared.
The results of this study indicated that there were efforts towards the domestication of bamboo by the Kenyan government. Consumption of bamboo shoots had also been introduced to some communities in and around Mt Elgon. Sun drying and smoking of the shoots, taken as a vegetable, was common. However, domestication was very slow, especially as an alternative food source. This was attributed to limited public awareness about the benefits and the versatility of bamboo.
Hotels in and around Nairobi were offering cuisines which included bamboo shoots although it was a slow moving item on the menu. The shoots were imported from outside the country and from as far as Japan at a very high cost. A few hotels and restaurants expressed interest to include bamboo shoots on their menu if they could get them locally.
The utilization of the local bamboo as a food would therefore open an avenue for the farmers to earn more from the bamboo tree therefore raising their economic power. The existence of a market for shoots opens opportunities for bamboo shoots produced locally to become a new sector that generates income for the people (mainly women) involved in their harvesting, smoking and trading.