Win-Win-Win: a Solution for Livelihoods, Education and Conservation

Posted on July 31st, 2018


Innovators in the field of development and sustainability are constantly searching for ‘win-win’ solutions: a problem is addressed and all stakeholders benefit. This elusive outcome proves difficult to achieve and many well-meaning ventures struggle with challenging compromises between conservation, social development and cost.



Ugandan flag proudly displayed at Wairraka Primary School



Win-win solutions are not exclusively found in the realm of optimist ideology, occasionally an innovation, an idea, or a strategy is created that ticks a lot of boxes.


HYT’s success sits upon two robust pillars: the ingenious innovation of Interlocking Stabilised Soil Blocks (ISSB) and a strong focus on youth empowerment. Uganda’s current social and environmental challenges accentuate the positive impact of the organisation.



The Tesla of the masonry world: Interlocking Stabilised Soil Blocks (ISSB)



Of course, working under the banner of HYT there is a risk of (shameless) partiality. However, an international award in sustainability indicates these words are not founded in bias. Over the course of the next few posts each ‘win’ will be explained and the evidence is in the outcomes. First up: conservation.






Uganda is an exceptional reservoir of wildlife, ranked among the top ten countries for biodiversity. Small and land locked, Uganda incorporates seven of Africa’s distinct biogeographical regions. Each region harbours a different set of wildlife from gorillas deep in misty mountainous rainforests to ostriches in the dry Northern savanna.



Uganda is home to 7.5% of the world’s known mammal species including around half of the world’s Mountain Gorillas. (Photo credit: charletphotography)



The exceptional flora and fauna award Uganda a special classification as a biodiversity hotspot (1 of 34 in the world!). However, Uganda’s biodiversity is threatened by a host of human practises, the majority of which contribute to habitat loss.



How many species can you count? The diversity of Uganda’s birds is world class. (Photo credit: charletphotography)


Habitat Loss



Deforestation is a form of habitat loss and it is occurring at an alarming rate. Since 1990, Uganda has lost a staggering 3.3 million hectares of forest and the rate of loss is increasing. Several processes contribute to this upsetting statistic, one of which is the overwhelming demand for burned bricks.



If current rates continue, there will be no forests by 2026 (Graph adapted from mongabay data)



Uganda has one of the fastest growing populations on earth, resulting in an increasing demand for housing, schools and other infrastructure.The bricks needed to construct a small to medium sized house require around 14 tons of firewood.The mass production of burned bricks in Uganda is a key driver of deforestation.



The construction industry in Uganda has experienced an 18% growth since 2015



A commonly seen alternative to the burnt brick is clay bricks: clay is excavated, shaped and cured in the sun. Unfortunately, this practice is also detrimental to the environment, resulting in the destruction of wetlands. Wetland habitats are some of the most productive on earth, providing homes for countless bird species and playing a pivotal role in the provision of ecosystem services such as water purification, nutrient cycling and flood prevention.



In the last 20 years, Uganda has lost about 570,000 hectares of wetlands in various parts of the country.





ISSB provides an economic and low carbon alternative to the destructive burnt and clay brick. Using only locally sourced inorganic soil and a small amount of cement, bricks are pressed and cured in the sun. Every ISSB structure saves countless trees and protects habitats for wildlife.



No trees were harmed in the production of blocks for this ISSB house


HYT buildings have saved an estimated 100 tons of COemissions which equates to 450 tons of firewood. ISSB technology is slowly being adopted in Uganda, this adoption has no doubt been accelerated by the work of HYT.


To be classified as a win-win solution it is important that these environmental benefits do not result in costs elsewhere. ISSB construction:




Keep an eye out for the next post looking at how HYT improves livelihoods of young Ugandans.

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