Polycentric Infrastructure and Community Development Paradigm for Sustainable Urban Transitions (PICD-SUT)

This project combines building social housing in a sustainable way with financing biodiversity programmes from social housing rentals

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Eligibility Criteria

  • I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Act for Biodiversity Challenge and that I am eligible to apply.
  • I am 18 years old or older.

Initiative's representative name

Dumisani Chirambo

Initiative's representative date of birth

16 November 1981

Initiative's representative gender

  • Man

Headquarters location: country

  • Malawi

Headquarters location: city


Where are you making a difference?


Website or social media url(s)


Date Started


Project Stage

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working toward the next level of expansion)

Yearly Budget : What is your current yearly budget for the initiative?

  • €10k - €50k

Organization Type

  • Nonprofit/NGO

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.

The inspiration for the project came through general observations of how people want to live sustainably but yet do not always know how. The project developer then thought about what if every month from the rent people pay they can also be planting a tree. The idea then transformed from into integrating the trees planted into a carbon offsetting scheme to using building materials for the houses being build.

2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Climate change is making Malawian societies to become poorer and poorer since the economy is significantly agriculture based. The country’s cities also have poor planning systems and poor infrastructure hence with urbanisation, more people are being exposed to climate hazards and risks. Our concept was therefore to choose an intervention that could enable people and institutions to follow lifestyles that had less consumption on energy, water and materials in order to have lower carbon footprints

3. Your solution: How are you working to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Creating sustainable cities through the development of decent housing is vital not only from an environmental perspective. Where people live and how they live has impacts on human security and human health too. The project has two main focus areas- reduce the amount of resources consumed in building houses and increase the number of trees planned in Malawi annually. Accordingly, we contribute to SDG 11, 12 and 13 targets. Home building in Malawi consumes no less than 1,708,074m3 of natural forest wood annually because most houses use kiln burnt bricks. Our project therefore mainstreams using solid blocks as a sustainable alternative. In combination to this, Malawi also has one of the world’s highest deforestation rates of between 1.6 - 2.8% of forest cover a year. To avert deforestation, our concept uses 10% from the houses as a source of finance to support communities in tree management exercises. This approach is more sustainable as it is a bottom-up approach and also ensures that there is a consistent amount of finance streaming to the communities. Additionally, once the project reaches scale, it will be integrated in a carbon offset scheme to get more finances in.

4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?

The PICD-SUT framework embodies four principles in-order to promote the construction of sustainable houses and dissemination of sustainable resilient urban development strategies. The four principles are (i) Create Smart Infrastructure and Inclusive Communities; (ii) De-risk Investments; (iii) Augmenting the Informal Sector; and (iv) Social Innovation and Partnerships. The innovations include using various environmentally friendly material and linking rent payments to financing rural afforestation projects, something that has not yet been done in Malawi.building materials and technologies, and on the demand side provide incentives and mechanisms to promote the uptake of low-cost sustainable dwellings.

5. Collaboration: How does your initiative seek to bring key players together to preserve biodiversity?

The project has a diverse set of stakeholders. The funding for the pilot was through the One Planet Sustainable Lifestyles Programme (SLE). We are also working with various Community Based Organisations as they have better links to communities and we are also imparting our knowledge to them. We will soon be embarking on collaborating with City Authorities to see how we can influence policy changes for improved biodiversity management in cities

6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far — in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?

Mbayani Primry School has approximately 1,500 students. At this school we provided 200 trees and are providing monthly transfers of money to help their Wildlife Club to look after the trees and undertake other environmental activities. Our other beneficiaries will be the tenants that will be moving into our 5 dwellings from April 202. In total that will be approximately 9 households /26 people. Tenancy will be restricted to Key Workers (i.e. public sector employees in sectors such as health, education and community safety). Additionally, tenancy will also be extended to the youth (persons under the age of 35), early career personnel (less than 5 years’ experience in their chosen career) and single parent households since such persons/groups have limited disposable income and are very vulnerable to socio-economic shocks.

7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

The project has developed a framework which other private sector and NGO entities can adopt in their practices. By using this framework the philosophy of the project will be replicated elsewhere by other stakeholders. The Malawi National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan II (2015-2025) considers Malawi to have Terrestrial Ecosystems consisting of forests, mountains and grasslands, and Aquatic Ecosystems consisting of lakes, rivers wetlands, aquatic fauna and aquatic flora. Currently, the pilot project has only focused on forestry and afforestation activities. However, with the growth of the project, there is potential to fund other biodiversity sectors and themes since we utilise house rentals for financing initiatives.

8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for society? Or different stakeholders?

The project allows various institutions and people to contribute towards sustainable development. If it is about choosing where to live and how to live sustainably the project shows people how they can achieve that or the technologies they can integrate in their daily living to minimise their environmental footprint. If it is about institutions, the project allows institutions to donate trees to communities and then our project pays money to the community to help them manage the trees.

9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

The project has a hybrid business model to ensure financial viability for both the project and financing of biodiversity programmes (i.e. use of either grant finance or commercial finance). Access to finance in Malawi for local biodiversity programmes is problematic due to the socio-economic contexts of developing countries. So with the grant option, we can secure a grant to build low cost houses and then use 30-60% of the revenues from the rent towards supporting local biodiversity projects. With the commercial finance option, we can secure a loan from a commercial bank to build low cost houses and then use 5-30% of the revenues from the rent towards supporting local biodiversity projects and the rest for the loan repayment.

10. Team: what is the current composition of your current team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

This project is implemented by Seeds of Opportunity. The team is led by Dumi Chirambo Ph.D, the Founding Director of the organisation. Dumi is supported by two staff directly working on the project. Arrangements to change or modify the team will be dependent on the success in scaling up.

11. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media


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