One of the panel debates SustainableEnergy participated in was entitled: “Building/habitat: A major asset for climate change adaption and mitigation.” During the debate it once again became clear how important housing and building are for climate change adaptation. During the debate examples from different countries, such as Senegal and Afghanistan, were presented.

Marilin Diara, Minister of Environment in Senegal, presented a UNDP-lead program on sustainable and energy efficient housing-solutions. The program focuses on the use of traditionally, local materials for insulation in households instead of emission-heavy materials such as cement and steel. This involves using the water weed plant, Tifa – a plant, which previously was considered a ‘problem plant’ in Senegal. The Minister explained that the objectives of the project are multiple: To lower energy use in houses, cool down buildings naturally, decrease wood consumption and lower emissions. The goal of the programme is to produce 10-50 housing units per year in Senegal using this method.

As an extra bonus, the spread of the Tifa plant is controlled while green jobs are created in the rural areas. All this has a potential positive impact on local economies and communities.

One of the main obstacles of the project has been to change the habits of people. When producing houses a majority of people living in rural areas of Senegal still prefer using cement and steel instead of traditional material such as plants. There is a higher social status attached to having a house made of cement and steel. To deal with this issue, the Senegalese government use the Tifa plant in the construction of some of its public buildings. The good example is used to encourage a positive future development for plant-produced insulation in private houses.