LOOK: Bheki Nxumalo's eco-friendly housing solution for Nongoma

Published Dec 22, 2018


Durban - A pilot project to provide affordable houses which are solid and comfortable is set to kick off in Nongoma next month.

And the man behind the project is Bheki Nxumalo, who grew up in Nongoma, but is now studying in Hungary.

Nxumalo has already packed much achievement into his 25 years - holding an honours degree (cum laude) in agricultural extension from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).

He is also founder of Africa’s Rural Wealth Creators’ Organisation (ARWCO), executive director of Operation Siyafunda (a youth-led, non-profit organisation) and national director for Agri-groomers in Swaziland, under the Agri-groomers International Ambassadors’ Network (voluntary). He is in second-year studies for his second degree, horticultural engineering, at Szent Istvan University in Hungary.

Speaking to the Independent on Saturday this week, his passion to provide solutions for some of Africa’s main challenges shone through with abundance.

“When I arrived at UKZN, I didn’t even know what agricultural extension and rural resource management was, but soon learnt that it was farming practices and how to advise rural communities in this regard.

“But to do that, I first had to understand farming and agriculture, and my love for agriculture developed, as well as how to help people do this,” he said.

Nxumalo was SRC president at Cedara College and during this time formed ARWCO, the goal of which was to create a platform where institutions could respond to the needs of communities in a relevant manner.

In June this year, he graduated from the Young African Leaders’ Initiative. While attending the ChangemakerXchange Summit in Johannesburg, he met Etienne Salborn, founder of the Social Innovation Academy in Uganda.

It was during this sharing of ideas that he saw the houses with walls made of plastic bottles, and roofs of old car tyres.

“I thought this would suit my home area. It is affordable, safe and eco-friendly and is a solution to housing needs, waste management and disaster management.”

He teamed up with Zambia and Lesotho at the summit, which were also interested in the concept, and trainers from Uganda, who together will build the first house in Nongoma. Building will start on January 14, as an art house at Masihlangane Primary School.

Commonly built in Uganda, with a similar model in Nigeria, the houses (depending on size and quality of materials) cost less than R20000.

“The roof shape and material proposed will give the house the ability to distribute stress. The stress includes the increase of the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, including storms, high winds and extreme heat,” said Nxumalo.

The sand-filled bottles provide a strong solid wall that is earthquake resistant. The proposed colourful houses also hold a comfortable temperature year round and are fireproof.

“Response of the structure to the weather conditions will provide data to shape our designs,” he said, while the community’s reaction will also be crucial. Whether the roof will serve as additional protection from lightning will be scientifically assessed. (Rural communities often hang a tyre from roofs as protection against lightning).

While requirements for every house will be different, the proposed first house will take a minimum of 10000 discarded 2-litre plastic bottles and an estimated 400 car tyres. Materials also include cement, nails, roofing planks, door, door frame and two windows. It is expected the team of 30 will take two weeks to build the house.

Nxumalo is looking forward to discovering more solutions. With his study focused on forestry, he added, “there is a lot of unused land below the trees, surely we could use that space to grow something else?”

Independent On Saturday

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