Our mission at Empowa has always been to balance profit, people and planet. We’ve always known that to ensure we can impact the greatest number of people we have to build a financially and climate sustainable solution.
There are significant construction needs across the African continent, it is estimated that 70% of all buildings that Africa will need by 2050 are yet to be constructed. If this backlog is met using traditional building techniques it would greatly exacerbate the climate crisis we are faced with today.
Our commitment to climate-sensitive building has already seen us partner with local developers that built traditional brick homes with more environmentally aware techniques, test the market’s appetite for a wooden CO2-neutral home and now we are taking the bold step and testing the construction of a hemp-based home.
We are early in this journey but are excited to share our progress with the community.
Why are you choosing to build in Hemp?
- Hemp is an incredibly sustainable material allowing us to build CO2 negative homes
- It has thermal properties which bring down both the energy usage and lifetime cost of the building
- Hemp can be formed as blocks, a form that is very acceptable to most lower-income communities in Africa and one that local builders are familiar with.
What are we doing right now?
Empowa in partnership with Casa Real, Wolf & Wolf Architects and Afrimat Hemp received funding from the Dutch government program SBIR focused on “Design and innovate with locally available materials for economic and environmental impact”. This funding has been combined with funds from our Innovation Fund, to allow the consortium to build, as far as we know, Africa’s first affordable hemp house project in Beira, Mozambique.
Construction is ongoing and should be completed in a couple of weeks. The house will be evaluated over the next 2 months for market acceptance and performance regarding temperature and humidity. The first house has already been sold via Empowa’s lease-to-buy scheme offered in Mozambique to low-middle income clients and made possible through the work done to date.
Mozambique does not yet have a legal framework in place for growing industrial hemp in the country. This means the materials for the SBIR-funded pilot had to be imported from South Africa.
However, a research license was recently awarded to a Mozambican manufacturer to start exploring the growing of industrial hemp on a 20 hectare site close to Maputo. If industrial hemp can be grown locally and then transformed into industrial hemp building blocks, this gives the opportunity to grow a whole new and exciting industry based on this, resulting in more affordable and climate-friendly house construction, alongside other hemp-based business opportunities.
A few countries in Southern Africa have already made progress on legal frameworks for growing industrial hemp in-country. Our South African partners Wolf & Wolf and Afrimat Hemp are most informed about those developments.
For further info on the track-record of our partners Wolf & Wolf and Afrimat Hemp please see the links below.