By PASCAL MWANDAMBO
TAITA TAVETA COUNTY: As the rate of the country’s population growth hits worrying levels, the need for affordable housing has never been more pressing.
And with mortgages and home prices out of the reach of the majority, there has been a drive to bring down the costs of construction by introducing affordable and durable materials that would lower costs.
Voi town in Taita Taveta County has witnessed rapid growth in the recent past and the growing demand for affordable, quality housing is one of the major challenges the county government is grappling with.
However, a local organisation has been working around the clock to produce housing materials that promise to lower construction costs by at least 30 per cent.
The Malewa Trust was started in 2004 as a community-based organisation (CBO) to improve environmental awareness in Voi and its environs, as well as build the youth and women’s financial capacity.
According to the CBO’s founder and chairman, Mr Chris Campbell Clause, one issue that was noted with concern was that most makers of housing blocks made their materials stronger by heating them in huge kilns that used wood.
“We noted that roasting blocks in kilns was destroying forest cover and damaging the environment, so we sought to come up with a more innovative and environmentally friendly approach,” he told Business Beat.
To do so, Malewa Trust ventured into making interlocking blocks, which are durable, affordable and more reliable for local construction demands.
“The construction industry in Voi is growing so rapidly that the need for affordable construction materials has never been more apparent,” said Mr Campbell, who used to build shelters for refugees at the Daadab camp.
If the demand for the organisation’s blocks is anything to go by, he is right. The trust has employed 20 local youths who earn an average Sh1,000 a day, which is higher than the average payment rate for casual labourers in the town.
“Most of the construction blocks in Voi come from Thika, which is more than 300 kilometres away. By going for the innovative interlocking blocks, we wanted to fill the gap in the construction industry in the town by providing reliable and affordable materials using what is locally available,” says Campbell.
He says the trust has 30,000 blocks in Voi town and another 150,000 in Taita village in the outskirts of Maungu township.
“The blocks we have at the moment are enough to put up about 20 two to three-bedroomed houses in Voi town.
“We are encouraging more youth and women to join the trust to that they can build their financial capacity through making and selling blocks.”
Each block is sold at Sh25, which is cheaper than most other construction materials.