You are here

How to build and be kind to the environment: Kyrgyz innovation

Kyrgyzstan is one of the poorest countries in Central Asia, with more than 50% of its population living below the poverty line. Poverty housing is equally prevalent—it is estimated that half of the urban population lives in slums, while those in the villages have no access to running water or electricity.


Cane reed is a volunteer-friendly material.

Faced with such an enormous need, Habitat searches for innovative ways to cut costs and speed up building, to be able to help more and more families. Using cane reed in construction is one such solution: cheap, nature-friendly and easy to use.

This abundant material, used in the 19th century but neglected in the 20th, is friendly to the environment, local economy, volunteer labor force, and community.

Cane reed is 34 times lighter than brick; and makes the overall cost of a house 60 percent less. The home building process becomes quicker and more efficient. Cane-reed houses are equally fire-proof as those made of bricks.

Habitat helps local economy
Working in tandem with local construction experts, Habitat Kyrgyzstan commissioned the research and harnessed the technology in this entrepreneurial initiative to combat poverty housing. The project invests in the local economy by employing a community labor force to harvest the reeds which are woven into the timber frame (“wattle”), and gather the clay, sand, and mud used to fortify the reed.

Harvested annually, reeds sustain life in ponds and lakes; their roots also stabilize the surrounding earth, preventing soil erosion.

Reeds offer another benefit: insulation. Kyrgyzstan experiences brutally cold winters, and sweltering summers and cane reed offers better insulation than brick. This keeps heating and cooling costs down, which translates into financial savings for both the family, and an energy-savings for the environment. In a further boon to the environment, this project takes full advantage of the reed: the stalks serve as “wattle”; leaves are used as fuel for heating homes.

The cane reed project has sown the seeds for positive change–families in need of a “hand up, not a hand out” are already beginning to reap the rewards.

Where can I learn more about Kyrgyzstan?
You can read our profile detailing the state of poverty housing in Kyrgyzstan and what Habitat is doing to help.

What is next?
Habitat wants people not only to read about poverty housing but do something to fight it. You can support Habitat’s work in Europe and Central Asia in a number of ways. Here are some examples:

• Visit our donations page to support projects in Kyrgyzstan.
• Go to country profile pages to learn about other programs in this country.

If you wish to receive monthly news updates, please subscribe to our E-newsletters.