Impact Business Solutions Foundations (IBSF), a Ugandan social enterprise opened a new facility for the production of environmentally friendly straw bale building panels. The construction of the facility was supported by Malteser International as part of a strategic partnership with IBSF to tackle environmental degradation and create job opportunities in northern Uganda.
In attendance at the opening ceremony were representatives of several ministries in northern Uganda, Germany’s Ambassador to Uganda, and a Malteser International delegation including President of Malteser International Europe, Douglas Saurma.
Douglas Saurma stated, “The partnership with IBSF is a reflection of Malteser International’s new entrepreneurial approach to helping vulnerable people around the world. In addition to the eco-friendliness of straw bale construction, our partnership aims to create employment opportunities for young people in this region. Both Ugandans and refugees will be employed in the production facility as well as on construction sites.”
In cooperation with Malteser International, IBSF has overseen the construction of several buildings in Uganda using straw bale panels. These include a classroom block and Malteser International project offices in the Rhino Camp refugee settlement in Arua, as well as a training center at the Lubaga Hospital in Kampala. “We are very pleased with the results,” said Saurma. “The temperature in the rooms is cooler, but most important is the fact that we are making a positive impact on our environment with this building technique.”
Many rice farmers in Uganda usually burn residue straw and husk debris in situ after harvest, causing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. In the new production facility, rice straw will undergo an extrusion process that compresses straw fibers to bind and form strawboard panels that have very high thermal resistance.
“Straw bale construction is a green alternative to the traditional fired clay brick method which requires huge amounts of fire wood and water, and are environmentally unsustainable,” said Roland Hansen, Head of the Africa Program at Malteser International. “The manufacture of straw panels, on the other hand, does not deplete natural resources of raw materials. In fact, we will be able to reduce CO2 emissions by up to 11,000 tons per year.”
The production facility is located in Lolim, Nwoya District of northwestern Uganda. More than 1.3 million refugees, mostly from South Sudan are currently living in Uganda and Malteser International has been providing clean water and health services to support them. “Many of the refugees will remain in the region. So jobs are needed to offer them favorable prospects for the future,” said Hansen. “The factory will be able to employ around 100 people when production gets fully underway. We also plan to offer employment to another 900 people in construction projects.”