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Job creation through eco-friendly construction

In northern Uganda, the arrival of numerous refugees from surrounding countries, especially South Sudan has put a strain on the environment and the labour market. In cooperation with Impact Building Solutions Foundation (IBSF), Malteser International is working to adress this issue by promoting the carbon-neutral construction, while creating new jobs and perspectives for refugees and members of the local host communities. IBSF, a German social enterprise produces high-quality building panels from rice straw, a waste product. These panels, a good alternative to the earthen bricks, are then used to construct sustainable buildings.

Uganda is considered a very refugee-friendly country: one million refugees from South Sudan and DR Congo have already arrived in the north of the country. UNHCR expects another 100,000 people by the end of 2018 and the crisis in neighbouring countries is not likely to end soon. The refugees live together with Ugandans in settlements in the north of the country. The largest settlement Bidi Bidi accommodates about 270,000 people. According to forecasts, most refugees will remain in Uganda for more than 10 years or permanently.

Currently, these are some of the biggest challenges:

High environmental impact: The high demand for construction timber and firewood for the new settlements has resulted in massive environmental damage and hundreds of thousands of trees have been cut down. Particularly affected is the West Nile region, where the largest number of Southern Sudanese refugees live. The population is already suffering from a shortage of construction timber and firewood.

Tight labour market: Most of the young population in the settlements lack training opportunities and jobs to facilitate the integration of refugees into the host communities.

Lack of social infrastructure: Among other things, schools and health centres for children and young people are too few

Poor accommodation: Most of the shelters in the refugee settlements are temporary structures and are already severely damaged by weather conditions.

  • Long-term economic development in refugee reception areas in northern Uganda
  • Improvement of the social infrastructure, creation of jobs and income generation for young refugees and Ugandans in particular.
  • Reduction of environmental pollution

The creation of new income perspectives for the local population and the refugees is essential for sustainable, positive development in the region. As part of our cooperation with the social enterprise Impact Building Solutions Foundation (IBSF), we are creating new apprenticeships and jobs in the production and processing of an ecological building material: straw panels. In this way we want to create new jobs and at the same time contribute towards the sustainable use of resources in expanding the infrastructure in the refugee settlements.

Our partner company IBSF is a social enterprise with development and environmental goals that reinvests profits to create more jobs and apprenticeships in Uganda.

Using an innovative technology, IBSF produces building panels from rice straw and husks. Rice straw has so far been burnt as an agricultural waste product on the fields in Uganda and has resulted in high CO2 emissions. As a building material, however, it is no longer burned but used for producing panels meant for use in the construction industry, thus creating a new value chain for rice farmers. This creates an alternative and attractive source of income for farmers.

Environmental protection is taken into consideration: As a building material, straw panels are an environmentally friendly alternative to the prevalent brick construction method, which consumes large quantities of firewood and water and is responsible for the massive destruction of the natural environment in Uganda.

IBSF is currently building a factory that will provide the local population with jobs and apprenticeships for local technicians. As part of scaling efforts, a straw panel production line is scheduled to be fully commissioned in Uganda at the end of 2018. The construction of the production plant in Uganda will create approx. 100 jobs in the plant at full capacity and around 900 jobs as part of construction work on buildings with straw panels. Young people in particular benefit from the training opportunities offered by IBSF in the areas of production and processing in construction and agriculture.

  • We support the construction of an IBSF factory in Northern Uganda for the CO2-neutral production of construction panels from rice straw and husks.
  • We are creating income opportunities for 300 rice farmers from the refugee and host community.
  • We are developing a new local value chain for a previous waste product.
  • We are creating training positions for local technicians from the refugee and host community in the areas of production, processing and construction.
  • We are building a school from environmentally friendly rice straw panels in Rhino Camp as a pilot and marketing project.
  • We are planning further building projects with rice straw building panels.

Country Info

Capital: Kampala
Area: 241,040 km²
Population: c. 47.8 million


Project data

Project duration: since March 2018
Donors: Own resources
Partner: Impact Building
Solutions Foundation (IBSF)

Contact: Alexandra Kaiser,
and Roland Hansen,

Last updated: October 2018