The Bamboo and The Nobel Prize; Reminding Us to Keep Doing Good to Society.

Last week I had a dinner with a friend and as we talked, an unlikely topic cropped up. It was a discussion about the Bamboo. Later on as I pondered on the account about this unique plant I had received that evening, another event had just happened the day before. The nominees of the Nobel Prize had been awarded for their advances and contribution to humanity in Oslo and Stockholm. That is when I realized how strikingly the bamboo life analogized the Nobel Prize laureates’ lives.

Something stood out with the winners of this year. Arthur Ashkin who won the prize in Physics is aged 96 while Nadia Murad who won the prize in her contribution towards helping sexually abused women during war to rebuild their lives is aged 25. Arthur is the oldest person to ever be awarded the prize having surpassed Leonid Hurwicz who was awarded the prize in 2007 in the area of Economic Sciences at the age of 90. This physicist stands out today like the Pakistan activist Malala Yousafzai who was awarded the prize in 2014 at the age of 17 for championing for the rights of women to education.

It is interesting to learn every time that the Nobel Prize itself was pioneered by Alfred Nobel who invented dynamite that had been used and is used in making weaponry for war as well as blasting mines. It is now awarded to individuals who contribute towards peace. As surprising as it sounds, I was more than amused to learn that the bamboo is a grass. In fact the largest in that family for that matter.

The bamboo can grow at a rate of 4 cm per hour. But before it gets out of the ground, the stocks take time to spread their root system in the ground for quite a lengthy time and then they can break the ground and grow at such terrific rates.

Comparably, before the Nobel peace prize gets awarded to the winners, they must have endured a lot of hard work and setbacks behind the scenes. For instance, Malala had been shot by the Taliban for her activists’ works before starting to shine like the bamboo at the award of her Nobel Peace Prize. Murad is an ISIS survivor. In other words the winners earn the awards for their good service to humanity. They are not dished out to them like campaign notes.

First Nobel Prize awarded on the December Tenth 1901. Image OZinOH.

Once the bamboo breaks the ground and begins to grow at that high rate of almost 1 meter per day, it grows straight up till full height. It then begins to develop secondary branches at that level. The moso variety found largely in China and Japan is very common with this habit. It then takes about 3-5 years for the stalks to mature and be strong enough.

At maturity, the bamboo has a tensile strength higher than that of steel. It is arguably said to have a tensile strength of 28,000 pounds per square inch. This justifies the fact that it has been used for a lot  of construction in China, Japan, Vietnam and many other areas. Here at home I see bamboo products that range from Chairs, stairs, tables and even baby cots. When you drive along Limuru road you can’t miss to see some of the items on display. In fact there is a furniture factory at Karura that does a lot of great stuff. At maturity then, the bamboo stalks are very valuable.

Come to think of the journey that some of the Nobel winners have undertaken to be wherever they are. Imagine a whole lifetime of research towards making a change to the world only to be appreciated at old age. Some of these individuals are like the bamboo stalk. They undertake their work with their devotion and are only pulled out of obscurity when they have matured and have become the elegantly value added individuals we often see. There is often a lot of refining they have undergone through for us to appreciate their participation towards making our lives better.

This is perhaps a reminder to humanity that we ought to keep doing our good to society. Occasionally we may not get to be appreciated for our work but more often we get to be appreciated at the right moment. We only have to keep doing what we love doing and have a strong belief that we are adding value in our areas of endeavor whether we will be recognized or not.

It reminds us we that we will be appreciated genuinely at some point in life without us being famous or influential politically or even financially. It is a reminder also that even though at times we don’t seem to value as need may be the contribution of our learned academic giants, their contribution to humanity is often very valuable. Yes they may not have influence as our politicians, but they are very important to society at large. The prize perhaps is the best motivator to all of us to never tire in keeping our social values at the highest level because at the end of the day they win against money and fame.

Another key reminder from the Nobel Prize is that age should never be a deterrent to us in our doing good. I overheard a friend complain bitterly about Uncle Moody Awoli’s recent nomination and I was reminded that at whatever age, we ought to be in the pursuit for our greater good and we won’t miss to get our fair share of the appreciation that society will be crediting to our individual accounts of value even in old age.

At maturity, the bamboo has tensile strength greater than steel. Image by

Did you know that the bamboo is a nutritious food that has been part of the Asian cuisines for long times now? Did you know that it is traditional medicine for cold and flu? I didn’t know either. Now I know it can be part of the food security agenda Africa will need to look forward to as our population grows rapidly. Like the Nobel Prize winners, we will realize of this bamboo value when we will be least likely expecting to.

And for that reason, keep doing good to society and you can never know when an award will be coming your way. It may not even be an award but be sure someone will appreciate. Perhaps be like the bamboo that keeps growing and doing its good until the earth gets seriously polluted to be noticed that it consumes lots of carbon dioxide and in turn gives about 35% oxygen to the environment. The highest ever for that matter.

Keep doing good. It always wins.


Copyright @ 2018.

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege is the Editor and topical contributor for the Daily Focus. He writes in the areas of Science, Manufacturing, Technology, Innovation, Governance, Management and International Emerging Issues. For featuring, promotions or support, reach out to us at
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