Growing Bamboo to Restore Kenya’s Degraded Land

In Nyeri, Kenya, local farmers have removed native trees to plant crops. Trees lock moisture in the soil and prevent erosion using their extensive root networks. Fewer trees can result in significant erosion, damaging river ecosystems and increasing flooding. The challenges of growing crops in these degraded areas are heightened by disease and changing rainfall patterns, jeopardizing the financial success of many small farmers.

Caroline Kariuki and Kuki Njeru are pioneering a solution. Their company, GreenPot Industries, partners with 1,500 Kenyan farmers to restore degraded land by planting bamboo. These farmers plant non-invasive clustering bamboo and then sell their stalks to GreenPot.

During the dry season, GreenPot works with 20 seasonal employees to harvest the bamboo, a process which leaves about 35% of the plant intact to regrow. By leaving the roots and soil undisturbed, GreenPot minimizes the environmental impacts of harvesting and supports a sustainable resource for decades to come.

Kariuki and Njeru specifically target degraded land around streams, springs, and rivers. To date, GreenPot has planted more than 1,200 hectares of bamboo and continues to expand. Karuki highlights that their work not only supports the ecological health of the community, but also has significant nutritional and financial benefits for the region. Farmers maintain a constant revenue source that requires less effort to grow than traditional crops.

Bamboo has numerous uses - from a substitute for timber flooring and construction to green energy products for domestic and industrial use - creating business opportunities and employment for the greater community. GreenPot currently employs 19 permanent staff members in addition to the seasonal workers that help harvest the bamboo.

GreenPot received mentorship and networking support through their participation in the Land Accelerator Africa program in 2019. An estimated $325,000 USD has been invested in their work from both individual investors and organizations like the Nature Conservancy.

GreenPot is looking for $1,000,000 to acquire working capital, a new factory building, and appropriate machinery for their new lines of eco-friendly products. Following the Kenyan president’s directive banning the use of disposable plastic items in protected areas like national parks, beaches, and forests, GreenPot’s Sticks line provides replacement products like bamboo tongue depressors, toothpicks, skewers, and straws for the entertainment, hospitality, and medical industries.

Its Wood line provides sustainable luxury bamboo flooring and furniture to consumers seeking durable and renewable items to decorate their work and living spaces. Major companies, like Microsoft, have already used bamboo flooring and furniture in their offices, demonstrating the potential demand. In short, the future looks bright for Kenya’s bamboo industry.

Location: 
Type of Restoration: 
Investment: 
$325,000 USD
Focal Point: 

Caroline Kariuki, Founder and CEO, GreenPot Industries, ckariuki@greenpotenterprises.com