South-South Global Assets and Technology Exchange

SS-GATE Case Study – The Housing and Employment Sunshine Project

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SS-GATE facilitated the transfer to Ethiopia of a patented technology named “FGC” from the Chinese company Sichuan Xinhe Building Materials Co. Ltd. The technology enables the manufacturing of building materials from agricultural waste such as post-harvest stalks or straw. These materials have gained considerable popularity, particularly in their use in partition boards, walls and doors. The materials are fire, water, earthquake and crack resistant, are long-lasting and insulating, and have a number of favourable qualities for the environment and climate.

Through SS-GATE, Ethiopia gained access to a more functional and affordable housing mechanism. Materials are manufactured through the comprehensive utilization of straw. About 8,000 special construction boards are made per day in the 8 FGC plants in which the Government of Ethiopia invested. In this period, the project generated a revenue of $8.8 million and a profit of $440,000, and employed over 12,000 Ethiopian workers. In 2008, an area of 150,000 m2 (approximately 37 acres) was allocated by the Government of Ethiopia to establish the Sino-Africa Xinghe Technological and Industrial Park, which optimizes the utilization of waste resources and has a processing capacity of 54,900 tons of waste materials annually.

Statistics from the Government show a 50 per cent reduction in the cost of building houses through the use of FGC products.

Straw-based building materials, which utilize agricultural post-harvest waste from stalks, have a number of qualities that contribute to their appeal as a sustainable building material:

  • Low cost compared to many other building materials, which contributes to the ability to promote inexpensive, affordable and decent housing.

  • Ability to increase the incomes and purchasing power of farmers, thereby serving to address rural poverty, promote rural development and reduce pressures for rural-urban migration.

  • Ability to assist with the negative effects of post-harvest straw disposal, (a) preventing its burning (which can generate undesirable air and environmental pollution associated with potential health hazards), and (b) reducing additional costs relating to straw removal from the fields.

  • Ability to promote more sustainable construction materials.

  • Potential to reduce pressures for deforestation or land degradation by replacing a portion of the timber used in construction.