Bamboo the next frontier of conservation, health and Nutrition

By Checky Abuje

Bamboo is one of the most versatile and sustainable plants grown today. And as the world marks Bamboo day, the message remains “bamboo growing” is the new frontier in environmental conservation and preservation.

In Sub Saharan Africa, bamboo growing is taking shape, with Research showing  that Bamboo is the fastest growing plant in the world following its short stint of maturity  (between 5 and 7 years), with immense health and nutritional benefits that includes, aid in weight loss, help improve digestion, lower cholesterol, and help prevent cancer. Bamboo is delicious food that is eaten in many Asian countries and considered a delicacy.

Nutritional experts have argued that Bamboo shoots delicacy are a great low calorie, high fiber, and high protein vegetable packed with vitamins and minerals. For instance, Calories (41kcal), protein (3.9g), carbohydrates (7.9g), fibre (3.3g), fat (0.5g), omega3fatty acids (30mg) and omega 6 fatty acids (172mg). The main benefit of the fat in bamboo shoots is that it offers omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. Both of these fatty acids are essential to have in a well-balanced diet as the human body cannot produce them on its own.

Omega-3 fatty acids are especially important as they are linked to improved cardiovascular health because they can lower triglycerides, or fat, in the blood.

Addressing the gathering during the world Bamboo Day celebration in Western Kenya (Busia County), the western region Ecosystem Conservator J.L Okuto alluded that bamboo benefits are immense and urged Kenyans at large to embrace Bamboo farming as a recipe, not only for their economic empowerment, but nutritional well being too, adding that western Kenya has conducive ecological environment for the planting of bamboo.

The conservator noted that Bamboo planting in Western region of Kenya will greatly improve forest cover which is very low in the region. He called on county governments to closely collaborate with national government in fast tracking the growth of Bamboo in gazette forest, private forests as well as on-farm planting. This is an added advantage to the locals

Traditionally bamboo is used as a medicinal plant that help curing respiratory diseases, inducing labor in the final weeks of pregnancy, cleaning wounds and sores, treating gallbladder problems, and curing ulcers.

More recent research supports many of these uses. When it comes to bamboo shoots, in particular, research suggests that bamboo shoots have the ability to help prevent cancer, lower cholesterol (phytosterols), and improve gut microbiome.

Fredrick Ashiona (Conservator) said environmentally, Bamboo is essential because it absorbs greenhouse gases and releases oxygen into the atmosphere. It is also a renewable resource that may help save the world’s dwindling forests. A hardwood forest isn’t replaced for many decades, but bamboo, among the world’s fastest-growing plants, can be harvested in one to five years, depending on the species. “Because of its extensive root system, prevention of soil erosion is a valuable bamboo benefit in many soil-depleted areas,” Commented Ashiona.

However, despite its numerous benefits, bamboo is invasive and a threat to biodiversity. The plant out competes the native plants and dominates the habitat Once a running bamboo is established, its thick and tough rhizomes, which are resistant to most herbicides, can stretch out more than 100 feet (30 m.) and send out shoots at any point, making it difficult to eradicate once established.