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Uganda: Eco-friendly classrooms in Rhino camp

Malteser International recently completed the construction of a carbon-neutral high school building in the Rhino refugee settlement in northern Uganda. The school building was completed as part of Malteser International's partnership project with Impact Building Solutions Foundation (IBSF), a social enterprise working to produce sustainable alternatives in construction.

The classrooms were constructed using building materials, mainly from rice straw bales. Straw-bale construction has been identified as a sustainable method of building because of the renewable nature and high insulation value of straw.

In the face of a changing climate, the importance of sustainable building practices cannot be overstated. The arrival of numerous refugees from surrounding countries, especially South Sudan has put a strain on the environment in northern Uganda. To adress this issue, Malteser International is cooperating with German social enterprise, Impact Building Solutions Foundation (IBSF), to promote sustainable alternatives in construction. The classrooms were constructed as part of the partnership project.

Rice straw presents local farmers with new income opportunities

Many farmers in northern Uganda cultivate rice as a staple food. For every ton of rice grown, a significant amount of husks and straw are created and usually burned as waste. Rice straw is now an important raw material used in the production of building panels. "Using rice straw bales to construct houses comes with many advantages," says Roland Hansen, Head of the Africa Department of Malteser International. "Apart from being eco-friendly, this sustainable building method helps us reduce the environmental pollution that arises from burning rice husks. Furthermore, local rice farmers can now benefit from an additional supply chain, thereby gaining new income-earning opportunities."

Opening ceremony of the new school building in Rhino Settlement

The Grand Hospitaller of the Order of Malta, H.E. Dominique Prince de La Rochefoucauld-Montbel was present at the opening ceremony and praised Malteser International for its ambitious collaboration with IBSF which resulted in the construction of the classrooms and the creation of new jobs and perspectives, especially for those who have fled war in South Sudan.

According to Eckhardt Dauck, Managing Director of IBSF, there is more to the partnership. "The training opportunities we offer in the production, construction and agricultural sectors are particularly beneficial for young people," he says. "There are many possible uses for straw panels in the East African region. As part of our engagement for refugees, we are looking into building schools, health centres or shelters for refugees with special needs as well as low-cost housing for families earning little."

About 600 children attend Rhino Camp High School, most of them refugees from South Sudan for whom the settlement has now become home.

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