The Meru County government is promoting the planting of bamboo trees in an effort to achieve 25 percent forest cover by 2022, conserve riparian areas as well as boost income for locals.
Environment Executive Caroline Kagwiria said the county government has partnered with the Ministry of Energy as well as Greening Kenya Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, to promote bamboo farming.
Speaking during the International Day of Forests, Ms Kagwiria said the Ministry of Energy will plant bamboo seedlings on 416 hectares of land in Mbeu, Mweru and Kuani to safeguard water towers.
"We want our farmers to stop growing crops and planting unfavourable trees along river banks. This will protect rivers, prevent soil erosion and pollution. The alternative we are giving is bamboo as a cash crop due to its ability to protect riparian areas and earn good income for farmers," Ms Kagwiria said.
She noted that currently, the county has a forest cover of 18.5 percent but some areas are adversely affected by deforestation.
The county executive said the Greening Kenya Foundation will promote bamboo planting in the Nyambene hills, an area adversely hit by deforestation.
"We have realised that areas without trees are most likely to suffer drought. Bamboo can also help us protect indigenous trees as it is a source of firewood and can also be used in construction, textiles, paper production and in cottage industries among others," she said.
Ms Kagwiria added that the county government will engage community groups in raising tree nurseries and tree planting at a fee.
"We want the groups to adopt rivers and hills which they can rehabilitate and take care of the trees. The county government will then pay for the work. This is expected to help us fast-track tree planting initiatives in the county," the CEC said.
Recently, the county government gazetted 37 forest sites measuring more than 2,500 hectares as it embarks on a drive to expand tree cover.
Meru County has 97,000 hectares under forest cover with exotic trees covering 7,000 hectares.
According to the Ministry of Environment, the bamboo tree can enable the country achieve its target of 10 percent forest cover by 2022 due to its ability to regenerate fast.
The ministry is developing a National Bamboo Policy aimed at promoting commercialisation and value addition of the plant.
The draft National Bamboo Policy of 2019 recommends the amendment of the Forest Conservation and Management Act of 2016, to classify Bamboo as a "grass" for sustainable harvesting and management.