With dwindling income from sugarcane, tobacco and maize farming taking a toll on their lives, farmers in Migori County are now taking refuge in Bamboo farming.
Over 100 farmers from three sub counties in Migori are benefitting from the crop since its inception in 2006 by the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) . The farmers hail from Ngege in Suna East Sub County, Ikerege in Kuria West Sub County and Ondong in Suna West Sub County.
According to two local farmers Ezekiel Nyandong and Pamella Oballa, who KNA visited in their farms, bamboo farming has pulled many youths who are now using the tree species to make furniture, cups, cloth hangers and other home artifacts.
“I can attest to you that in bamboo I have revolutionized my income and living stands compared to when I was breaking my back farming maize and tobacco,” says 65-year-old Nyandong, with an electric smile on his face.
The tree, he confesses, has helped many of them become self-sustaining and left the tobacco farming that has for many years caused harm to the communities in Suna East and Kuria West that used to grow tobacco.
Unlike tobacco that has many side effects to their health, bamboo is safe and environmentally friendly crop that is also rich providing vitamin C in human bodies.
Besides this, environmentalists praise it as a protector of the soil erosion especially helping in holding together land soils in sloppy areas and river banks of many rivers across the county.
Mr. Samson Mogire, a bamboo specialist from the Kenya Forestry Research Institute says that since the introduction of the crop in Migori County, many farmers have abandoned tobacco farming; tobacco products have been proved to be one of the major causes of cancer ailments worldwide.
Compared to the work done for tobacco crop from planting, tendering and drying in the kilns and selling the final product in the market, bamboo is a viable crop that offers maximum income to farmers, said Mr. Mogire during an interview with him recently.
Many of the farmers are now able to get construction materials and cheap firewood to use in cooking food in their kitchens.
Apart from that, bamboo farming has become a big venture among the participating farmers and who have now formed a cooperative society in order to help them market their products and make savings for the future.
The products are being sold locally to the buyers in Migori and neighboring counties and they intend to make the sales go further to many other counties across the country.