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Saving trees, creating jobs

Ottile a sales person for the Paper Block Project, explaining the properties of a paper block at her stand at the Katutura Central Expo that was held recently.(Photographed by Melba Chipepo)

Ottile a sales person for the Paper Block Project, explaining the properties of a paper block at her stand at the Katutura Central Expo that was held recently.(Photographed by Melba Chipepo)

Wood shavings, used paper and newspapers have become a means of adequately providing for their families for disadvantaged men. This is happening through the Paper Block Project that was started by the Men on the Side of the Road (MSR) organisation which helps unemployed men.
Started in 2007 in Windhoek, the Men on the Side of the Road project has 800 registered members, all of them listed in a database. The members are issued with membership and identification cards, which indicate the skills they have to offer to prospective ad-hoc employers. At the organisation’s head office, copies of relevant documents like identity documents, place of residence, Curriculum Vitae, and contact numbers are kept on record.
The aim of the paper project is to reduce the indiscriminate gathering of wood for cooking and heating, by producing a cheap environmentally friendly alternative to wood, while at the same time creating an opportunity for people to generate a sustainable income.
The paper blocks are made from wood shavings, used office paper and newspapers. The paper is crushed or shredded into pieces and mixed with wood shavings and water into a pulp then poured and compressed into brick moulds that are about the half the size of ordinary cement brick moulds. The paper blocks are then left to dry in the sun. Each project involves six members, the bricks are made at the Men on the Side of the Road Habit at Centre where they are sold for N$1 per block. The blocks can burn for up to fifteen minutes. The profits generated allow them to buy the moulds and create more job opportunities. Compared to the exorbitant prices paid for firewood, these blocks offer a very cheap alternative for domestic energy.
The blocks do not only serve as an alternative fuel to cooking and heating but also lead to a reduction in landfill and land degradation, as well as deforestation. The MSR paper project helped changed the mindsets of members from being employer dependent, to being fully self-employed.

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