Social Innovator sets out to fix Uganda’s housing crisis with low-cost eco-housing model

Africa faces a major housing crisis due to rapid growing population and limited options to access affordable building materials. As

Africa faces a major housing crisis due to rapid growing population and limited options to access affordable building materials. As a result, 90% of Africans live in informal housing, where living conditions are often substandard, unsafe and without basic services like water, electricity and sanitation. Without exception, Uganda has been grappling with a population boom which has caused a spike in demand for housing.

The liberalization of the housing sector in Uganda has led to a rise in private housing initiatives by real estate developers pushing the poor into a housing crisis. Many families, largely young and unemployed have found themselves unable to afford adequate housing. As a result, they have had to share crowded spaces in slums just to get by. This has worsened the sanitation problem and caused undue pressure on limited public infrastructure.

A housing profile on Uganda done by International Union of Tenants indicates that only 18% of the nation’s population lives in permanent dwelling units. Uganda Bureau of Statistics further indicates a deficit of 2.1 million housing units in the country.

Biha Eco Venture a Ugandan startup founded by 2019 YELP fellow Hamidu Ssonko has committed itself to increasing affordability and adequacy in the housing sector and is empowering rural homes with access to affordable building products. In order to alleviate and uplift communities, Biha Eco Venture is providing low cost durable and renewable building materials on credit distributed to low income households.

The startup’s vision is to provide alternative building materials as a critical enabler for housing improvements. They envision countrywide access to affordable housing technology for  Uganda’s deprived and undeserved communities.

According to the UN International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, minimum housing requirements are listed as: tenure security, affordability, adequacy, accessibility, proximity to services, availability of infrastructure, and cultural adequacy. The team at Biha Eco Venture has created a niche with poultry eggshell spiced concrete products and is using poultry waste as an alternative building option. They have recycled industrial poultry eggshell wastes to create alternative low-cost building materials to enrich housing poverty.

A house under construction by Biha Eco Venture in Mayuge district, Uganda using building material from recycled industrial poultry eggshell waste. 

“Poultry eggshells are seen as waste material in Uganda. However, we believe industrial eggshells are the next building material of the future. We thus came up with a concept to bring recycled building materials from wastes contributing to the contemporary building industry and making decent sheltered homes for a developing population by creating alternative tiles and green roof panels,” says Hamidu.

Biha Eco Venture unlocks three immediate outcomes for low income households; access to affordable building products, credit potential and technical support through the “Durable Home Network” launched in Eastern Uganda to help under served rural families improve their homes and prevent jigger infestations caused due to lack of affordable building material to construct decent sheltered homes.

Since its inception, The Eco Venture has served over 2400 people with their products in the last 12 months. This has helped to fight jiggers – a major health problem associated with households who lack decent shelter- in Uganda particularly in the districts of Mayuge, Wakiso and Kamuli. “They (jiggers) are a horror, increase poverty, social exclusion of the affected and sometimes lead to death. We are glad to be playing our part in fixing this problem,” says Hamidu.

Hamidu Ssonko is a 2019 Young & Emerging Leaders Project fellow 

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