Sustainable Building MaterialsIn today’s world, access to affordable housing remains a persistent challenge and a lack of low-cost housing traps people in a cycle of poverty and substandard living conditions. As populations grow and urbanization intensifies, the demand for safe and affordable housing continues to rise. Traditional construction materials often come with exorbitant costs, further exacerbating the affordable housing crisis. It is in this context that innovative solutions like Cocoboard emerge as game changers, promoting an alternative to sustainable building materials that hold the potential to uplift communities and break the barriers of poverty.

By providing low-cost housing solutions through the recycling of coconut husks and other waste products, Cocoboard not only addresses a fundamental human need but also paves the way for improved quality of life. As a result, it is empowering individuals and families to thrive and contribute to their societies.

The Problem of Waste Management and Coconut Husks

Coconut husks are one of the most commonly discarded commodities with valuable applications that communities around the world can utilize. The Philippines produces more than 14.72 million metric tons of coconuts every year. In India, this number stands at around 13 million. And, with husk waste accounting for more than half of all coconut waste, these nuts produce more than 20 million tons of husks per year. Unfortunately, in most parts of the world, these parts of the coconut simply go to waste. Clogging up landfills and waterways, reports suggest that low-income farmers and families contribute to discarding coconut husks, with more than 85% of the resource going to waste.

Transforming Waste into Sustainable Building Materials

Coconut-fiber-based building materials are a revolutionary invention that converts used coconut husks into extremely valuable structural resources. While various companies and research groups use this pioneering process, Cocoboard’s primary composition comes from the same core set of straightforward procedures. Initially, the shredding process breaks the husks into small fibers. These fibers bond together with eco-friendly adhesives, ensuring the cohesion and structural integrity of the resulting material. Finally, through the compression of fibers, sturdy boards form which can serve for various housing applications. Since the introduction of the products in 2014, this process has been refined and redone, and coconut-based walls and panels have proven to be a comparable and equivalent alternative to traditional housing materials.

Alleviating Poverty

Over the last 12 years, nominal housing prices across the entire globe have risen by over 84%. As the worldwide population continues to increase and resources become more and more scarce, this number is only projected to grow. However, with Cocoboard, which is a significantly less expensive solution than traditional building materials, impoverished communities can build affordable homes without sacrificing safety and quality. In the Philippines, for example, the government has implemented a program that utilizes Cocoboard to build low-cost housing for marginalized communities, providing safe and sustainable homes for those who would otherwise be left without shelter. Through this solution, thousands found a suitable place to live.

Empowering Communities & Sustainable Development

Cocoboard not only offers affordable housing solutions but also empowers local communities and contributes to sustainable development. Among Cocoboard’s key strategies for achieving such feats is the creation of job opportunities and fostering of skilled development within communities. One of the parent companies of Cocoboard, NaturLoop, has established a local supply chain team in the Philippines to involve local farming communities in the value chain. By working directly with farmers and low-income workers and establishing consolidation centers, the NaturLoop team has made it significantly easier to collect and process coconut husks. This creates additional income streams for farmers, improving their welfare and livelihood.

The manufacturing process of Cocoboard often involves local community members as well, providing employment opportunities and imparting valuable construction and waste management skills. This not only enhances their livelihoods but also promotes economic growth at the grassroots level.

Additionally, NaturLoop is also a strong proponent of building strong, circular economies, reducing the overall environmental impact in the areas they serve. The production process for Cocoboard requires minimal energy input and emits fewer greenhouse gases compared to traditional construction materials. This not only mitigates environmental harm but also supports sustainable development by utilizing local resources and minimizing waste accumulation in landfills. Through its focus on empowering communities, improving living conditions and promoting sustainable development, Cocoboard emerges as a transformative solution that tackles the intertwined challenges of poverty and housing affordability.

Challenges and Future Prospects

While Cocoboard presents an innovative solution to the affordable housing crisis and waste management, several challenges and limitations need to be addressed before widespread implementation can be successful. For one, the scalability of the production process. The increase in demand for affordable housing solutions could necessitate the establishment of efficient and scalable manufacturing facilities for Cocoboard. This would require investment in machinery, the training of workers and streamlining the production process to meet the rising demand without compromising quality. To address challenges like these, collaboration among governments, NGOs and private sector stakeholders is crucial. Governments can play a significant role in promoting the use of sustainable building materials like Cocoboard by providing incentives, subsidies or regulatory support. Investment in research and development could also lead to improvements in the manufacturing process, making it more efficient and cost-effective.

Looking Ahead

The prospects for Cocoboard are promising. As the demand for sustainable and affordable housing continues to rise globally, there is a growing recognition of the need for innovative solutions like Cocoboard. With advancements in technology and increased awareness about environmental sustainability, the potential for Cocoboard to make a significant impact on addressing poverty and waste management is substantial. Innovative solutions like Cocoboard offer hope to millions of individuals living in poverty and substandard conditions worldwide.

– Sanjith Sambath
Photo: Pixabay