Habitat for Humanity recognized for Innovations in Disaster Preparedness

Use of mulberry branches in home reconstruction helps homes withstand damage in earthquake-prone Tajikistan

WASHINGTON (Oct. 17, 2013) — Habitat for Humanity International today received the FedEx Award for Innovations in Disaster Preparedness for its use of mulberry branches and timber framing to reduce earthquake damage to existing mud brick homes in Tajikistan. “This project exemplifies how Habitat develops innovative housing solutions by incorporating local knowledge and resources and seeking community involvement,” said Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. “Thanks to this project, more than 1,500 people in Tajikistan sleep better at night knowing their houses are more secure. Our desire is that news of creative approaches like this one will encourage other communities to tap the wisdom of local residents and look at their available resources to address specific challenges.”

The FedEx Award for Innovations in Disaster Preparedness recognizes an innovative intervention that reduces communities’ vulnerability to hazards or natural disasters and increases their capacity to prevent or cope with such adverse events. The award, presented by InterAction and sponsored by FedEx, aims to promote and share innovative ideas on how to improve disaster preparedness.

Tajikistan experiences more than 5,000 tremors and earthquakes a year, many reaching above magnitude 7 on the Richter scale. Yet 95 percent of the rural population cannot afford rebar and concrete seismic belts to withstand earthquake damage in their homes. This project was launched following the 2006 earthquake in Tajikistan, in which many homes were damaged or destroyed. Habitat worked with Tajikistan’s Institute of Seismology to develop timber framing using the widely available mulberry branches to retrofit mud brick walls to withstand earthquakes. Habitat also worked with the local district government and community initiative groups to provide training in eight communities to promote preparedness and mitigation of adverse earthquake impact.

Damage assessments of mulberry branch homes following subsequent earthquakes in December 2008 and January 2009 showed that mulberry-branch reinforced homes resisted or had minimal earthquake damage compared to those without reinforcement. These partnerships and activities led to the Tajik government approving this technology and establishing new building codes for rural house construction in 2008.

About Habitat for Humanity International
Habitat for Humanity International’s vision is a world where everyone has a decent place to live. Anchored by the conviction that safe and affordable housing provides a critical foundation for breaking the cycle of poverty, Habitat has helped more than 3 million people construct, rehabilitate or preserve homes since 1976. Habitat also advocates for fair and just housing policies and provides training and access to resources to help more families improve their shelter conditions. As a nonprofit Christian housing organization, Habitat works in more than 70 countries and welcomes people of all races, religions and nationalities to partner in its mission. To get more information, to donate or to volunteer, please visit www.habitat.org.