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HFH Nepal Celebrates 1500th House Built

Habitat Uses Indigenous Bamboo In Construction To Lower Costs

KATHMANDU, 6th December 2006: In just two years, Habitat for Humanity has crossed the 1,500th house mark in Nepal. The special house also featured extensive use of a special, renewable material, bamboo.

Innovative: The 1,500th house in Nepal was constructed with bamboo which was easy to use, environmentally friendly and durable

Native technology: Bamboo laminate panels are used for the walls of the 1,500th house in Nepal.

Habitat celebrated the milestone in late November 2006 with a dedication ceremony in the tea plantation town of Ilam, in the east of the country.

Among the guests at the dedication were 12 representatives from the Canadian Architect Legacy Fund, eight of them architects. They had come to Nepal to learn about the bamboo technology that was used to build the 1,500th house. Local Habitat staff demonstrated the use of bamboo laminate panels in house construction during the ceremony.

In Nepal, indigenous bamboo is suitable for building houses because it is easy to use, environmentally friendly and durable. The rural community can also turn to growing and harvesting bamboo as an income generating activity.

HFH Nepal employs bamboo technology by using weaved bamboo strips plastered with cement or clay on the walls of a house. Six bamboo pillars support the roof and the walls, providing added resistance to earthquakes. Building earthquake-resistant houses is vital as Nepal lies in a seismically active zone, and major earthquakes in 1934 and 1988 caused thousands of deaths and left hundreds of thousands homeless. Since the bamboo is treated to prevent termite or other insect attacks, the bamboo pillars and walls can last for a good 30 years.

As a model of bamboo technology, the 1,500th house dedicated was made of bamboo corrugated sheets with a foundation built of rubble, clay and cement mortar. The house measures 352 sq. ft., has three rooms, a verandah, and a toilet and bath.

The Habitat home partners are farmers Bhumika Rai and her husband Hukum. They and their son and daughter sold vegetables and cow’s milk to earn a hand-to-mouth monthly income of 1,200 to 1,300 Nepalese rupees (US$18 to US$20). It took Bhumika and her family seven years before they were able to move from a ramshackle house - wet in the rainy season and hot during the summer months - to a model home that brings boundless happiness.

“In the past, I could not sleep due to the poor condition of my house. Now I cannot sleep because I am so happy that I have my own decent house,” Bhumika said.

“This is a model house thus many people will visit and see it. They will ask a lot of questions…I have become a teacher to my neighbors. In future this would be a great time for me to share about Habitat, this house and myself,” she added.

Habitat’s work in Nepal has not gone unnoticed. Its reputation for achieving results and the microfinancing creativity of the leadership team drew the US$25,000 Canadian Architect Legacy Fund to choose Habitat as the catalyst partner in Nepal. The Fund was established as a revolving fund in June 2006 to mark the 35th class anniversary of the founding architects who graduated from the University of Manitoba in Canada.

In the pipeline is a plan for Habitat and the Canadian Architect Legacy Fund to facilitate the first community-owned micro-enterprise to produce bamboo laminate corrugated roofing sheets. Previously, such roofing materials had to be imported from India. With local production capacity, the bamboo laminate corrugated sheets will help reduce house construction costs.

The Fund is looking at partnering with Habitat in a pilot project of 100 houses in 2007-08. This will involve the family strengthening program of the SOS Children’s Village, Ithari, in southeastern Nepal, and combine housing microfinance services and income generating projects. SOS is an Austrian-based non-governmental organization.

The dedication ceremony was attended by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ representative in Nepal, Abraham Abraham and representatives from the US embassy in the capital Kathmandu, William Martin, political and economic section chief and Subodh Singh, political and labor specialist. Also present was Shri Pradananga, the Nepal representative from SOS Children’s Villages