Mushrooms making a difference

02 May 2021 | Infrastructure

First Lady Monica Geingos paid a visit to the Standard Bank Namibia's BioHab project site at Brakwater on the outskirts of Windhoek late last week. This project is an initiative exploring alternative ways of accelerating the delivery of adequate housing through the use of cost-effective building materials and is part of the bank’s Buy-a-brick initiative.
The pilot project tests indigenous “encroacher bush” which is harvested to create substrate (food) for mushroom farming. The gourmet, nutritious mushrooms are grown and harvested, and the resulting material left behind is compacted into sustainable, ecologically friendly building materials which will be used to construct houses for the Buy-a-Brick initiative and for delivery to the members of the Shack Dwellers Federation.
Geingos said the challenge of rapid urbanization and informal settlements is developing faster than the solutions and the funding available. She said Namibia needs a strategy that works in two directions: One that focuses on the people who are currently leaving the informal settlements, and another which pro-actively plans for those who are set to arrive in urban areas in the coming decades.

Decent shelter
“Improving informal settlements is not just about decent shelter but it’s also about livelihoods. The problems unique to the informal settlements cannot be resolved using conventional ideas, processes, regulations, or laws. If some standards and bylaws need to be adjusted to resolve the needs of the people - let them be adjusted,” she said.
Geingos expressed gratitude to Standard Bank Namibia, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia and other involved organisations for establishing a community-led partnership with a bottom-up approach and the use of global initiatives to provide solutions to the housing problem in the country.
“The project serves as a perfect example of the magic that happens when the first and second economies collaborate to provide solutions,” she said noting that the project does ensure that local affordable building materials in informal settlements are possible.
Speaking at the same event, Standard Bank outgoing Chief Executive Officer, Vetumbuavi Mungunda, said the BioHab project is not just about housing but it’s an ecosystem and a creation of a new economic sector as the bi-product can be used to make cupboards, pottery pots and more. – Nampa