An Eye Opening Visit to the World’s Second Largest Refugee Settlement: Bidi Bidi

Posted on March 6th, 2019

HYT has taken the exciting first steps West of the Nile to work in the world’s second largest refugee settlement: Bidi Bidi. The settlement is home to 750,000 South Sudanese refugees making it Uganda’s, unofficial, second largest city.

Bidi Bidi, located in Uganda’s extreme North West, has spectacular semi-arid landscape.

Yumbe Town, an NGO Epicentre

Yumbe town, previously a small, rural trading centre is now a hive of NGO activity at the heart of the settlement. Large UN trucks kick up the dust while electrical generators buzz constantly to compensate for the lack of a central grid.

The settlement resembles and operates much like many rural towns in Uganda.

The difference in landscape and climate between Jinja, HYT’s base in the South-East, and the extreme North-West is drastic. It is late February, Bidi Bidi has gone four months without rain and the temperature regularly exceeds 40oC.

The environment is unable to sustain the massive population of refugees. Monthly food packages arrive from the World Food Programme.

A UN-NGO Government

The massive influx of people in 2016 initiated an immense international effort to meet the needs of the men, women and children who were forced to flee their homes. Spearheaded by the UN, who are supported by a multitude of organisations, the settlement has left the emergency phase and entered recovery. The UNHCR (UN refugee agency) have a monumental task of managing the effort to ensure refugees are accommodated for according to the Sphere Humanitarian standards.

The UN Refugee Agency branded tarpaulins are very common in the area, a constant reminder of the humanitarian crisis still ongoing.

Under the guidance and management of the UNHCR, NGO’s form consortiums to tackle each sector of development: Livelihoods, Shelter, Food, WASH, education and protection. Each consortium is lead by a nominal NGO.

HYT’s arrival was timely, finding an environmentally friendly alternative to the burnt brick is a hot topic amongst NGO’s involved in construction.

HYT was delighted to attend the monthly meeting for the shelter department and the Zone 3 partner meeting, both lead by the UNHCR. It soon became apparent that the big players in construction were very serious about understanding ISSB and incorporating it into their plans.

The HYT team soon found excellent marrum deep in the heart of the settlement.

Devastating Deforestation

The humanitarian crisis has taken its toll on the environment. The tree population has been decimated for cooking and construction. A recent environmental impact assessment conducted in Imvepi refugee settlement found that 80-90% of firewood is used for brick burning, it has reached such extreme levels that the office of the Prime Minister is considering banning NGO’s and contractors from buying burnt bricks.

We counted 119 brick burning kilns during a 20 minute drive from Yumbe to Zone 3, Bidi Bidi.

It is no longer just environmentally conscious individuals or organisations applying pressure on NGO’s and contractors to find an alternative to the burnt brick; the environment itself is applying pressure: there simply are not enough trees.

Mango trees are some of the only species that live to maturity thanks to their high yields.

Firewood is imported from far flung regions as there are not enough trees in Bidi Bidi to keep up with demand. Meanwhile, frequent conflicts occur over the few remaining trees between refugee and host communities. The deforestation leaves the semi-arid region vulnerable to climate change, soil degradation and desertification.

The skills passed on to HYT graduates are more valuable than ever as influential players wake up to the need for sustainable construction.

It is a very exciting time to working with ISSB, HYT with its 12 years of experience is looking to lead the movement away from burnt bricks and transform Uganda’s construction industry.

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Winners of the Ashden International Award for Sustainable Buildings 2017.

Watch our exciting video, or check out our work at

2019: Greetings from HYT

Posted on January 18th, 2019

As the new year gets underway, it is good to let you know about the last 12 months’ activity in Uganda.  Here is our latest news. I hope you enjoy reading about HYT’s year of growth and success, much of which followed the Ashden International Award in 2017. If you haven’t seen the short film made by Ashden, you can do so HERE.

2018 has seen HYT go from strength to strength.

HYT goes Uganda-wide

Nakapiripirit House Construction Team
Nakapiripirit House Construction Team

This innovative training project, supported by the EU Trust Fund and Enabel (the Belgian Development Agency), saw HYT working throughout the country for the first time. From the remote region of Karamoja, to western Uganda and now in the refugee camps of the far north, HYT has undertaken a series of intensive training courses for some of Uganda’s most vulnerable communities.

Max Leads Roofing at Nakapiripirit
Locally sourced building materials used alongside innovative ISSB.

Refugees and particularly poor tribal groups have been given basic building skills that will empower youth and equip them to build simple, environmentally-friendly shelters for themselves.

Roofing in Nakapiripirit
Angelica and Charlie enjoying a masterclass in thatching

Working with international NGO’s, now including Save the Children, means the Trust’s reach is greater, with more Ugandans given vocational skills, with our approach to sustainable development having greater impact than ever.

‘One Village’ becomes a dozen villages

HYT Batten Classroom Block
HYT Batten Classroom Block

‘One Village at a Time’, HYT’s unique approach to sustainable development, continues to thrive. More rural communities have benefited from this work, with young Ugandans trained in HYT’s environmentally-friendly building technology and village schools transformed with new classrooms, boarding hostels and staff housing, constructed as part of the training programme. It’s a ‘build as you train’ idea, that works brilliantly.

HYT Trainee projects
Training for employment is a the heart of HYT projects

The ‘One Village’ project continues to be focused in the Kamuli district of central Uganda, where education is perhaps undervalued and school drop-out rates are high. We are particularly excited then, that last year saw an increased number of excellent women trainees completing the programme.

The site of HYT’s next 1 Village project

Harvesting… water!

Rainwater harvesting is still a very important part of what HYT does. It is simple: schools rarely have water on tap, while wells and boreholes can be a long and dangerous walk away, particularly for girls. Teenage girls also need decent sanitation at school. Rainwater harvesting helps meet that need.

The team are able to construct a tank in only two weeks!

HYT, working with Haileybury and a number of other charities, including the Rotary Club International, has installed 33 water tanks in 32 schools over the last year, giving 575,000 litres of water at schools for the first time.

Rainwater harvesting Projects
The large roof of an ISSB boarding house provides the perfect catchment to harvest rain.

Working with others – for others

The children of Wandago watched
excitedly as an ISSB classroom began to take shape.

HYT enjoys inspiring partnerships with other NGO’s and people working to improve lives in Uganda. Working with the wonderful Children on the Edge, the HYT team built an Early Childhood Development Centre and Latrine in the troubled Wandago area. Here families are vulnerable to the perils of home-brewed waragi, while children are particularly at risk. HYT has also supported Children on the Edge in Jinja, building an early learning centre, kitchen and latrine block in a slum area of the town.

The women of Wandago tending to improvised waragi distilleries.

RAVO (Refuge for Aids Victims and Orphans) is a much loved favourite of HYT. Supported by the generosity of a single donor, Peter Bond, the facilities at this beautiful rural site have been transformed by HYT over the years, with more to come in 2019.

RAVO new latrines
HYT trainer Musa, oversaw the construction of this 5 stance latrine at RAVO

The Australian NGO, Water Charity, has funded several HYT-built water tanks for schools in the endangered but ancient Mabira (‘forest of forests’) forest, where HYT’s sustainable approach to development complements the need for conservation in this wonderful old tropical woodland.


Country Manager, Mauricia Nambatya leading discussions at 1V13

At the heart of HYT’s success, are the people. Now with a fulltime team of ten and a part-time team of up to 60, the HYT team is loyal, dedicated, skilled and generous in time, spirit and humour. Led in Uganda by the Country Manager, Mauricia Nambatya, the team saw the departure of Assistant Country Manager, Charlie Tebbutt after two outstanding years. Charlie left for Oxford University and a prestigious Master’s degree in Conservation, Biodiversity and Management. You can read his heart-warming farewell blog HERE.

Charlie works on the HYT Enabel project
Charlie works on the HYT Enabel project

Charlie’s successor, Ed Brett, has already made a mark with his conservation science experience and has quickly become essential to the smooth operation of the Trust. We continue to welcome gap year volunteers from Haileybury, who add much value for nearly half a year. 

The year in numbers

HYT works hard to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and we are proud to have done so in 2018.

This year, 12 unemployed youths have received extensive, long term training in ISSB construction. A further 206 youths and refugees received shorter 3-week intensive training courses.

HYT has improved the infrastructure in 48 schools and colleges. These improvements come in the form of water tanks, kitchens, latrines, storerooms and classrooms, all designed to positively impact the school experience and learning environment.

24 Rainwater Harvesting Systems and 3 Improved Ventilation Latrines have been installed in schools across the Jinja and Kamuli districts.

Multiple projects throughout the year have generated paid work for over 60 HYT trainees and graduates; many of which have never had a paid job in their lives.

HYT has constructed a school resource centre; five round ISSB houses in refugee settlements and six classrooms. In addition, HYT has dispersed 10 ISSB presses – along with the skills to use them – to communities and schools across Uganda. The hope is that communities and vocational schools will continue to build using this innovative, environmentally friendly technology.

HYT structures have saved 88 tons of firewood, equating to roughly 145 tonnes of carbon dioxide that would have been emitted into the atmosphere had our structures been made of burnt bricks.

HYT builds better lives and transforms communities  – and does so in a way that does not cost the earth. With your support, we will do even more in 2019 and beyond.

Russell Matcham
Director, HYT

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Winners of the Ashden International Award for Sustainable Buildings 2017.

Watch our exciting video, or check out our work at