Challenges and Opportunities of Indigenous Bamboo and Its Environmental Conservation in Kieni Forest, Gakoe Location of Kiambu County, Kenya
Mukiri, Jessica E.N.
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Yushania alpina formerly known as Arundinaria alpina is the only species of native bamboo indigenous forests in Kenya. It plays an integral part in the indigenous forests in which it occurs. Bamboo is a fast growing, renewable, widespread, low cost, environment enhancing resource with great potential in environmental conservation and poverty alleviation. The lack of rules surrounding bamboo exploitation in Kenya has resulted in unsustainable harvesting and utilization of bamboo. There is currently limited information on the challenges and opportunities of Y. alpina in Kenya, particularly in areas it naturally occurs such as in Kieni forest and thus the objectives of the study were to: To determine whether the community is aware of the ecological value of Yushania alpina; To assess the economic potential of bamboo to the local communities living in Gakoe location; and identify the challenges and opportunities on bamboo cultivation and its environmental conservation. A cross sectional survey was undertaken, where simple random sampling was used in primary data collection through a participatory consultative approach. A total of 124 questionnaires were administered to household heads over a period of four months here important information including the socio-demography of the area was collected. In addition, observation and photography were also used in data collection. Secondary data were collected from text books, scientific journals, periodicals, reports, published and unpublished theses, International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) data bank and the Internet. Quantitative data were analysed using descriptive statistics such as means and percentages as well as a correlation analysis was performed, data were also organized and then categorized into themes and the usefulness of the information was evaluated in answering research questions. The study established that community was aware of the ecological value of Y. alpina with 89% of respondents being aware that it is eaten by animals and over 66% of respondents’ acknowledging the importance of Y. alpina within Kieni Forest. A weak positive correlation (r=0.028) implied that education was not a contributing factor when it came to identifying the animals which ate Y. alpina. A Pearson’s correlation found that (r=0.207) at a significance of p<0.05, implying that the higher the education level attained, respondents acknowledged that deforestation of bamboo in Kieni forest resulted in environmental consequences. The study found within Gakoe location Y. alpina’s a number of economic related activities with Y. alpina selling seedlings accounted for (46%) and making bamboo products accounted for (36%) of Y. alpina related economic activities. The study also highlighted the challenges which Y. alpina cultivation and conservation face, which included an unstable market, limiting policy guidelines as well as shortage of capacity in technical knowledge of bamboo. Y. alpina has many untapped opportunities and the Kiambu County Government should consider being more proactive and facilitate its citizens in exploiting the sector. More community members also need to be sensitized on the benefits of Y. alpina through community forest station as well as radio programs.