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This is why bamboo is the new wood

Using environmentally sustainable bamboo as a substitute for wood to make furniture is not common in Kenya. Nevertheless, with wood getting more expensive, an alternative is needed and Kenya Bamboo Centre offers — as the name suggests — its expertise on bamboo; from supplying seedlings, planting, propagating and making the furniture and crafts.

The difference between wood and bamboo furniture is that the latter does not use nails as they would make it susceptible to cracks.

“The centre started making furniture two years ago. It started off as a way to show people the benefits of bamboo. You can use bamboo to make over 1,500 products,” said Kenya Bamboo Centre manager Pollycurp Mboyah.

Opportunity

Based at Nairobi International Trade Fair Ground, Jamhuri Park, the centre has furniture on display; beds, chairs, shelves and wine bottle holders.  It is also a training centre for people who want to learn how to make bamboo furniture.

The centre started when a friend financed Pollycurp in 2011, to buy and sell bamboo seedlings.  He got 1,000 cuttings for propagation from farmers in Migori and although he was relentless in searching for a buyer, the seedlings matured fast and turned into a bush.

Then an opportunity presented itself. An international Italian organisation that does poverty eradication development programmes and emergency interventions in Africa was working on an urban project in Huruma and wanted to incorporate bamboo in their project. Their only problem was that they did not know where to find it.

 More eco-friendly

In a strange twist of fate, the two met and discussed on how to help each other. After helping them plant 1,000 seedlings, Kenya Bamboo Centre also organised a workshop on bamboo care,  harvesting and treating.

The centre works with communities in Huruma and Korogocho slums, training them on bamboo furniture and craft making. The workers help residents to plant bamboo in a bid to improve the environment along the river banks.

Disseminating bamboo information has given Pollycurp the command to fight the perception that bamboo is not suitable for making furniture. “Products made of bamboo can last for long if you get the whole process right; from planting, harvesting to treating.

It is advisable, for instance, not to harvest bamboo during the rainy season as it absorbs water faster,” he said.

A giant bamboo plant — the species mostly used to make the furniture and crafts — takes four to five years to mature. Once it matures, it can be harvested every year without having a negative environmental impact.

“Bamboo is eco-friendly. They say that some species can absorb as much as 12 per cent of carbon dioxide per hectare. It can be used to fight global warming,” he said.