Bamboo discussed as solution for sustainable housing in Kenya

A workshop was held recently in Kenya to discuss the development of an integrated national bamboo sector policy, in the context of providing solutions for sustainable housing and supporting green economic development in the country.

Bamboo

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

In Kenya, bamboo forms 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.

Bamboo’s potential as a renewable, affordable, and versatile building material

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’s “untapped market potential” in Kenya

According to UNHABITAT, Bamboo is a largely under-utilised resource in Kenya and Africa as a whole. According to the FAO, Africa has over 10% of the world’s bamboo resources, but is only 1% involved in the world’s estimated US$60 billion trade in bamboo.

Also, sustainable forest management regulations don’t adequately address bamboos, according to UNHABITAT. This is a barrier to scaling the growth of the bamboo sector, which also provides an opportunity to create a new multi-sectoral national bamboo program approach in Kenya.

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