More often than not, ‘RDP houses’ in South Africa do not improve the quality of life for the poor. Poorly constructed, these houses have no gutters, multiple plug-points or even ceilings. As a result, they end up being a serious financial and health burden for families – and government!
By its own admission, government needs R58 billion to fix sub-standard RDP houses – estimated to take approximately 40 years based on an annual allocation of R1.3billion. But government can reconcile its concerns for quality while overcoming its acute housing shortages with The Kuyasa Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Pilot Project model. Kuyasa can help provide housing with dignity, help the urban poor reduce their carbon footprint and help residents save money too.
Kuyasa is at the forefront of sustainable development as South Africa’s first registered CDM project under the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change and the world’s first registered Gold Standard Project. It was developed by SouthSouthNorth in 2005 and implemented by the South African Export Development Fund for the City of Cape Town’s Environmental Resource Management and Urban Renewal Programme in 2008. Kuyasa provided 85 local people from Khayelitsha with accredited training who were then employed to retrofit 2 300 low-cost homes with solar water heaters, insulated ceilings and energy-efficient lighting.
As an environmental intervention, Kuyasa garners impressive results: 2.85 tons of C02 emissions are being reduced per household annually which amounts to a total reduction of 6000 C02 tons every year. Through the process, Kuyasa has created advocates for climate change awareness by empowering an entire community (over 10 000 who have directly benefited) through environmental education. It also appropriated mechanisms for reducing carbon footprints of the poor in one of Cape Town’s most impoverished and densely-populated townships.
This is just the start of Kuyasa’s social ripple effects. Many illnesses such as diarrhoea and various respiratory ailments are linked to the prevalence of dampness and overcrowding in inadequate low-cost housing. After Kuyasa’s retrofitting, 76% of households targeted, reported a decrease in respiratory illness after a baseline survey was conducted amongst them in 2009. Not only has the health of residents improved, but they no longer need to burn paraffin heaters. Residents laud the effects of the increased thermal comfort with homes now being 5% warmer in winter and 5% cooler in summer. An absence of paraffin burning also makes homes safer for children and the elderly.
There are also economic benefits for residents by eliminating the need to burn paraffin for warmth and boil kettles for hot water. Kuyasa’s beneficiaries attest to a saving of R50 a month on electricity in addition to a 56% decrease in the number of homes spending more than R100 a month on electricity. Particularly during winter, residents in more affluent homes save up to R400 per month. Furthermore, Kuyasa’s CDM mechanism allows it to earn approximately R1million annually which is put towards the maintenance, repair and replacement of the technologies installed.
Kuyasa is currently retrofitting an additional 20 homes which will form part of the additional 165 houses targeted for their phase two expansion. Kuyasa is the future of low-cost housing provision in South Africa, and their model should be integrated into national policy if government is serious about climate change and providing people with houses that do not threaten their well-being!
Read about the creative ways South Africans have pre-empted COP17 from the Impumelelo Social Innovations Centre, the country’s repository for solutions that improve quality of life for the poor. Visit impumelelo.org.za