Rwanda is one the fastest growing economies in Africa and the government of Rwanda is boosting every sector to improve the population’s standards of living. Urbanization in Rwanda is a particularly sensitive issue in Kigali with land and construction costs raising every day and one million people living in a very densely populated area. The government and private sector are seeking solutions to better manage the land and in 2009 the Kigali City Council (KCC) launched the Kigali master plan to serve as a roadmap for the enlargement of Kigali city over the next 50 years.
The master plan consists of land management through building a large number of apartments with necessary basic household standards housing needs. For the master plan to be fully implemented there is a need of a partnership between government and investors with clear expectations and specific timeline on both sides.
A new face is emerging in the construction sector in the Rwandan economy. STRAWTEC, a German company that has been operating a factory in Kigali since October, 2015. Its manufacturing facility has entered the market with a bang and gotten the attention of the construction industry. It is providing an alternative to common cement made walls by replacing them with wheat and rice straw. The technology being used ensures the materials used undergo an extrusion process whereby this allows the natural adhesives contained within agricultural straw fibers to bind to form a continuous high quality strawboard panel. This process has an ability to create very complex cross sections and work materials that are brittle and the surface is very excellent and durable and stand the test of time. This technology has been existing for more than 80 years and has been used to build more than 250,000 million house in Europe, America, and Oceania.
“Our strawboard panels have got a Carbon negative footprint and we’ve already done some comparison between buildings from STRAWTEC compared to traditional building materials like cement blocks, and we proved that you can save seven times CO2 per dwelling unit which makes it quite substantial by replacing cement blocks with STRAWTEC materials.” Eckardt M.P. Dauck, STRAWTEC Chairman
This technology is very affordable and materials are readily available locally and this will reduce the supply chain risk due to use of these locally produced materials. They thus reduce the cost of production required compared to the cost of producing cement. STRAWTEC uses renewable resources (wheat and rice straw), which are 100% recyclable and biodegradable. Farmers often burn straw once wheat has been harvested and this pollutes the environment but instead they will be selling it to STRAWTEC thus earning more income. The farmers having known this strive to increase the production of wheat and rice to sell more straw and other sectors of the economy grow simultaneously. This ensures the environment is very conducive and which will not pose any health hazard because the products used are not toxic and do not require to add any harmful chemical during production.
Inside the STRAWTEC factory in Kigali
Building a house using STRAWTEC technology is very fast and saves time due to easy assembly at the construction site, therefore substantial savings in financial costs which could have been incurred and resources can be used in other sectors of the economy. Also when the sun shines on your roof and the latter is a metal one it gets hotter inside the house, but the STRAWTEC ceiling it has the ability to delay solar radiations penetration up to 11hrs - improving energing efficiency.
The factory employs many well-trained students from Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and has partnered with the ministry of education, Workforce Development Authority (WDA) and Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) to ensure the clean technology knowledge transfer among young students in vocational training schools. Rwandan urbanization increasingly on the rise and what this means is that land will be scarce as the population is growing but this new STRAWTEC technology will enable Rwandans to own their own house as they are low cost, affordable, and manage well the land.
STRAWTEC will also ensure that Rwanda stops overreliance on imported construction materials such as cement and instead offer them an opportunity to export these new technology to neighboring markets. The factory is currently in process of buying pieces of land to start its own development and it will be a package whereby an eco-friendly will have a good waste management, sewage, and utility using solar energy.