Mr. Humphrey Kimathi is a coffee and tea farmer. He is also the chairman of the Nithi Water Resource Users Association (WRUA) under the IFAD Project: Upper Tana Catchment Natural Resource Management Project (UTaNRMP). A WRUA is a locally based institution made up of an association of water resource users, riparian land owners and other stakeholders who are formally and voluntarily associated for the purposes of cooperatively sharing a common water resource.
WRUAs contribute to hydrological knowledge for decision-making processes along catchment areas. The role of WRUAs has changed rapidly as we are no longer restricted to just resolving conflicts and fostering cooperation between water users like in the past. They now have an additional responsibility of collecting hydrological data within their respective sub-catchments. Humphrey has been trained on how to collect data such as reading rain gauges, measuring stream flows, turbidity and sediment loads. He then shares the data collected to the relevant government authorities for validation and interpretation and the information derived from this process is used to formulate important strategies such as water allocation plans.
Nithi WRUA was started in 2013 through the initiative of the Water Resource Management Authority (WARMA). Stakeholders were invited to discuss ways in which water resource management could be managed in the area. Humphrey was chosen as chairperson as he has been interested in water issues and was active in community issues with minimal benefits. He took responsibility to register the WRUA as a legal entity in the year 2013. It was financed by Water Services Trust Fund (WSTF) and additional funds from UTANRMP (2 million Kenya Shillings) and Sub Catchment Management Programme (SCMP) development.
The WRUAs key activities include:
Riparian conservation and protection, Training, Baseline survey, Abstraction survey, Enforcement compliance, Final reporting
Humphrey has been able to mobilize the community from the UTaNRMP project when there are calls for proposals for their livelihood activities. He offers training on demand (On group dynamics women groups, creating awareness on legal capacity). He also trains members on financial management and budgeting and manage conflicts in the WRUA whenever the need arises. As a WRUA they procure seedlings from their communities for purposes of planting trees within riparian land and they engage the community in conservation. They have since gained knowledge on water conservation and improved on illegal obstruction of water. Tree cover has also improved.
The main objective of the riparian conservation is to empower the land owners on how to use the land with minimal pollution to the water source. The main method used in Nithi WRUA is to encourage land owners to plant trees along the riparian land for agroforestry, planting of fodder crops along the river banks for livestock which also help reduce soil erosion by providing soil cover.
To achieve the above, the WRUA pegs the riparian land and holds the consultative meetings with the riparian land owners on the best farming practice to reduce land degradation.
Benefits to families and communities from the planting of bamboo include::
Source of fodder: As bamboo is a grass, not a tree, it continues to grow when cut. So, it can serve as source of fodder, feed and woody material at the same time.
Reduction of soil erosion: Bamboo roots grab onto soil and hold it fast. Plant bamboo on a steep slope or riverbank and it prevents mudslides and erosion.
Retention of tree cover that was destroyed: Bamboo can be harvested sustainably, new shoots appearing from the roots every year and growing to harvestable condition in just four or five years, far faster than slow-growing hardwoods.
Improvement of water quantity and quality: Bamboo roots leach heavy metals from the soil, hold the soil together and draw water closer to the surface.
Use in construction: Bamboo wood is used to construct items that are very attractive to tourists. Skilled artisan make a wide range of utensils like Spoons, Spoon holders, Chopping boards, skewer sticks, knife holders, cups, bowls, dish holders, salt shakers etc. They are easy to find.
Source of fuel (charcoal and firewood): These are common sources of fuel for local communities at the household level. This kind of fuel is scarce and expensive due to timber logging that was done in the region due to poverty within the communities. Therefore, bamboo is a solution to the fuel challenges.
Reduction of siltation of rivers and water bodies by growing bamboo on slopes and buffer zones along riverbanks and lakeshores.
Bamboo grows faster related to other species: How does bamboo improve on hardwood? Cut down a hardwood tree and it’s gone. It will take several decades for another to grow in its place; it can take a century for a forest to grow back after cutting. But bamboo is a grass, not a tree. Under the right conditions, it can grow a full meter a day — you can literally watch it grow. It is also fast maturing. A new bamboo plant is mature enough to harvest after three to six years, depending on the species. Most important, bamboo is renewable. Unlike hardwood trees, bamboo regrows after harvesting, just as grass regrows after cutting. After it is mature, bamboo can be harvested every single year for the life of the plant.
Support bananas from falling: Banana farming is a common economic activity for farmers within the catchment. Therefore, farmers suffer great losses following the strong wind blowing and when banana bunches reach maturity stage, they are very heavy making the stem weaker thus falling.
CATCHMENT CONSERVATION (RIVERINE, SPRINGS, AND WETLANDS) THROUGH BAMBOO PLANTING:
Bamboo is a fast growing woody grass. Bamboo species grows naturally on the mountains and highland ranges of Eastern African countries, and in the medium lowlands of other countries of Africa. Bamboo plays a vital role in the protection of the soil and water resources in forested catchment areas. Bamboo has been and continues to be a material of choice for traditional crafts throughout Africa. Bamboo is also important for construction, fencing, basketry and many other uses. These uses of bamboo makes a significant contribution to rural income and employment, although the rapidly diminishing supplies of forest bamboo through indiscriminate clearing of natural forests and the lack of priority in its development join forces to erode its status.
Selection of the Bamboo type:
The principal distinction among different types of bamboo relates to the plants’ root systems. This is really important because it can make the difference between selecting a species that suits your situation perfectly.
Most bamboos either have a running root system (technically called a leptomorph system) or a clumping (or pachymorph) root system. To explain the difference, it helps to understand some of the botany. Bamboo root systems comprise rhizomes and roots. Botanically, rhizomes are underground stems. This means that like above ground stems they have nodes, which are the parts of the stem from which new shoots emerge.
In bamboo, the difference between running and clumping forms arises as a result of the size of the space between the nodes on the rhizome (the internodes).
Clumping forms have short internodes, which means that new culms are produced close to each other. Running forms have much longer internodes. The rhizome stretches out and may reach lengths equivalent to the height of an above ground culm, with new individual shoots growing up from any of the nodes along its length.
Whilst the tendency of each form to run or clump can be a bit variable according to the particular conditions a plant is grown in, this distinction is one that it will always pay to have in mind when selecting bamboo.
Bamboo growing conditions:
The degree of sun or shade that an individual species requires or will tolerate, is always a function of that particular species. Likewise, a bamboo’s frost hardiness varies from species to species. You will therefore always need to check these factors in relation to any particular species you are interested in growing.
Firstly, it is worth noting that bamboos are tough plants and will tolerate a degree of neglect. Indeed, where space is an issue, their growth can be kept in check if they are fed sparingly after planting. Related to this is the fact that bamboos can be planted in many different soil types.
Thirdly, whilst they need plentiful watering during the growing season, bamboos will not generally tolerate poorly drained soil. So in heavy soils it is important to incorporate gravel, grit or other material to open up the soil so as to prevent waterlogging.
When planting bamboo, you will need to have regard to the eventual diameter of the plant and locate where its natural growth will not interfere with existing features, such as paths or boundaries. You will also need to decide whether you want to install some kind of barrier to restrict the spread of the plant. As indicated, this will be necessary for running species. But it may even be necessary clumping species if space is at a premium.
Purpose-made bamboo root barriers can be installed. These are usually available from bamboo retailers. But it is also possible to make use of other impenetrable material, like offcuts of paving or hard plastics, set vertically around the edge of the planting hole. These should be placed so that at least 2-3 inches (50-75cm) of the material is above ground.
A simpler way to ensure that you can keep your plant in check is to surround it with a shallow trench. Bamboos are not deep-rooted and their rhizomes extend outwards just below the soil surface. If you surround the plant with a trench around 18 inches deep (45cm), you can simply prune off any extending rhizomes as they enter the trench. You can also fill the trench with sand and top it off with a light mulch, so that it is invisible and then simply inspect the trench at the end of each growing season to deals with any infiltrations.
Bamboo is best planted in spring, so that it has a long growing season to settle in and take root.
You’ll notice that most bamboos you buy from nurseries are quite heavily pot bound. You may even need to cut the pot off with a knife. Because of this, you should give the rootball a good soaking before planting, ideally immersing it in water for at least twenty minutes, so that the water can seep right into the interior of the rootball.
Dig a hole twice the width of the rootball and one and half times the depth. Add drainage material if necessary and, if you want your plant to grow away well, add some manure, humus and organic fertilizer to the bottom of the planting hole and mix this in with the back fill.
In dry areas the plant can be set in a small depression. In areas of high rainfall, the plant can be slightly mounded.
Once planted, water in well and mulch with compost, well-rotted manure or leaf mould.
Maintaining bamboo is not especially difficult, which is another great reason for using these magnificent plants.