Bamboo – a versatile building material for Kenya?

By on 05/07/2015
Bamboo a versatile building material for Kenya

IDRC East Africa Housing Project using bamboo construction – Maseno University, Kisumu, Kenya

Nairobi, 6 May 2015 – The International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), a founding member of the UN-Habitat-coordinated Global Network for Sustainable Housing, together with the Ministry of the Environment, the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) and the Kenya Forestry Service (KFS), recently convened a coordination workshop to discuss the development of an integrated national bamboo sector policy for Kenya.

The workshop  brought together a number of sub-national, national and international actors from civil society, academia, the private sector, Government and the international community, whom are developing or are looking to promote bamboo-based initiatives in the country.

In Kenya, bamboos form an integral part of indigenous forests, providing vital ecosystem services to the nation’s water towers. In addition, as a fast growing, highly renewable resource with properties similar to timber, bamboo can support green economic development and contribute to key national goals, such as Kenya’s ‘Vision 2030’ under which it aims to become a middle income nation with a high quality of life for all Kenyans in 16 years’ time.

Renewable, affordable, versatile

UN-Habitat sees the potential for bamboos as a versatile building material to positively contribute to the provision of more sustainable housing globally with the added benefit of a number of positive social, economic and environmental multipliers.

Under one of the four thematic areas of this workshop, UN-Habitat, together with representatives from the Housing Department of the Ministry of Land, Housing and Urban Development, actively participated in the discussion on how bamboos could be utilized as a renewable, affordable and versatile building material in the Kenyan housing sector.

The discussion group formulated a number of recommendations to strengthen the evidence base, demand side, supply chains and regulatory support for bamboo-based housing applications in Kenya including sharing best practice examples, both from Kenya and globally, and setting ambitious long term construction targets in the run up to 2030.

Bamboo a versatile building material for Kenya1

IDRC East Africa Housing Project using bamboo construction – Maseno University, Kisumu, Kenya

Untapped market potential

Bamboo is a largely underutilized resource in Kenya and Africa as a whole with existing initiatives tending to occur in isolation. Despite having 12% of the world’s global bamboo resources according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Africa accounts for just 1% of the estimated USD 60+ billion world trade in bamboo.

Furthermore, while many advances have been made in integrating sustainable forest management into forestry regulation in recent years, these still do not adequately address bamboos. This is inhibiting opportunities to up-scale proven technologies and value chains for a range of renewable energy, industrial, craft, and construction applications. Given these facts, there is a clear demand and need for a new coordinated, multi-sectoral national bamboo program approach in Kenya. Prior to the workshop, UN-Habitat and INBAR formally renewed their commitment to actively collaborate on promoting the use of bamboo in the housing sector world-wide.

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