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I am in Namibia, and I think of the sweet-smelling thatch from the Kavango, dry-packed rock walls from the Kunene, and sandy hydraform blocks from the central areas.
I think adobe – the thick mud walls of Mali and Morocco and the inner sanctuary in Moorish architecture. In the past, indigenous architecture featured local material and the knowledge gleaned over thousands of years through trial and error to keep the home cool, well ventilated and insulated, and retaining the day’s warmth for the cooler hours by harnessing the sun’s rays. The Industrial Revolution marked the beginning of the shift from building harmoniously in villages to constructing mass housing complexes in city suburbs. We are now circling back, remembering the ‘down-to-the-earth’ principles, and returning to the concept of utilising what’s readily available (the most sensible option, after all) to construct our buildings more efficiently once again and to create healthy living and work spaces. The Habitat Research and Development Centre (HRDC), established by the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development (and often co-operating with NGOs and higher educational facilities) is making their findings accessible to others to promote sustainable housing. The office buildings were constructed using hydraform blocks, which were originally designed and developed in Namibia and consist predominantly of sand and a low percentage of cement.
In the HRDC buildings, use was also made of old tyres and rubble in gabions for retaining walls, as well as clay, sandbags, cobs and rammed earth.
Being a national research centre (as well as an educational, information, conference, demonstration and exhibition facility), different methods and products are developed and tested over the years to gauge their performance and durability, while simultaneously evaluating their costing. The Centre has researched various dry-sanitation systems – ideal for the conditions in an arid country – that it has on site for low-intensity usage. The impression made on a visitor walking through the HRDC is of innovative thinking and building that is pleasing to the eye, modern, natural and harmonious. The Centre reveals the numerous possibilities of using local construction materials and environmentally friendly techniques that are available to build efficiently. Dr Andreas Wienecke, director of the HRDC, points out a frightening fact, namely that the deforestation of the densely populated north-central area is clearly visible on Google Earth, with a distinct line showing the border between Namibia and Angola. Clearly the ‘flush-and-forget’ and ‘fast-food’ way of thinking is no longer an option as the consequences of our way of life arrive increasingly on our doorsteps.
Travel News Namibia is a high-quality glossy Namibia travel and lifestyle magazine tasked with promoting Namibia to the world. The idea is NOT comfort right away, but rather to use the RV, Camper, or Bus as a transitional shelter to make the move off grid. You would be amazed at how much money you can generate with the items you’ve collected over your lifetime. It sounds silly, but it will allow you to think outside of the norm and imagine what you really need to live. If you live in the city or suburbs, whether you rent or own, there is always a way OUT and off the grid. I know if I wanted to move to a place off grid and I had to do it now, I’d start selling my stuff for whatever I could get for it. Remember, you’re going off grid for a reason, and most people go off grid to live more sustainable fulfilling lives. These are EASY properties to get into with very little money down, and very small monthly payments.
Many of these parcels can be split into smaller parcels, and sold to other off gridders at a discounted price, essentially creating a small off grid community in a very short period of time.


This recoups any money lost by selling all your stuff, and can be reinvested into your property to upgrade your power systems, or, if you wanted to grow the property you could buy surrounding parcels of land to expand your homestead.
Once you get your RV or Camper, and you have raised the $2500-$5000 for the land by selling your stuff.
This can all be done within 2-3 months of selling, planning, packing, and reorganizing your things and most importantly, reorganizing your priorities. I see run-off water feeding flowers and trees, solar panels collecting the energy provided by the abundant Namibian sunshine, and rain tanks storing the bounty of summer storms. The western tradition of housing proliferated, drifting further and further away from ecologically sound construction. Old printing plates have been used for the light fittings and reeds for the ceiling, creating a light and airy finish. In one building a mixture of sandbags, tyres, burnt clay and hydraform blocks have been used for the walls, displaying a medley of building alternatives, choices and possibilities. A team of contractors stretched their boundaries of conventional building to embrace an out-of-the-box approach, using locally sourced building materials and practising sound environmental principles. A range of projects is currently being developed in conjunction with the Namibian Government and the private sector, with the more successful ones already implemented in schools and communities. It also makes use of a biogas plant for its conference centres where the effluent is treated naturally, running off to feed a wetland of reeds lower down on the property (while producing usable fuel).
Two roof gardens are tended on the roofs of the two ablution facilities for insulation, fans turn in the wind on the tops of the dry toilets, enormous solar panels lie comfortably on the amphitheatre roofs, and packed-stone walls create a strong and earthy effect. Contrary to popular belief, these building techniques and methods are not aimed at the wealthy, creative or wacky; nor are they methods devised merely for impoverished communities.
The unequal equation of the time it takes for a tree to grow and the time it takes for one to be cut down provides a clue to our predicament, especially with an ever-increasing population.
With riveting stories, first-hand encounters and magnificent photographs showcasing tourism, travel, nature, adventure and conservation, TNN is the ultimate and most comprehensive guide to exploring Namibia. If you don’t have money to go off grid right now (like most people), you could sell your stuff to generate enough money to buy an RV or temporary shelter. If you own a car or jewelry, or anything of value, you can sell it to generate money for your mobile shelter.
And now in this economy, it’s about living affordably, consolidating, and cutting living expenses. The comforts and luxuries you have now can be turned in CASH to get you off grid now, and then once you’re settled on your new homestead, you can start to rebuild your life again, better and more inexpensively than before. To raise the money for it, sell your big bulky power hungry desktop computer and buy a smaller laptop. An A-Frame of tiered shelf-type system is easy to build, and produces about 5-10 times the food in the same space a tradition raised bed will produce, depending on what veggies you grow.
In most conventional building operations, structures were often erected with little awareness of environmental considerations, or of optimising conditions so that the home used as little energy as possible, or made little effort to return water to the soil and thus continue nurturing life. Rooms are built with high roofs (insulated with sheep’s wool from the south of the country or with recycled styrofoam and cardboard) and large windows, allowing in optimum light and reducing the need for artificial lighting. Ducts from an energy-efficient evaporative cooling system run cool air through the rooms, lowering temperatures on scorching summer days.


Placards on various buildings inform visitors what material has been used in their construction, with ‘windows’ showing the un-plastered raw material that is still visible in parts. It has, however, become a norm in conventional housing that good drinking water is used to flush toilets. It is, therefore, not connected to the municipal sewerage network and saves the service fees. Conversely they reveal an alternate awareness of living (and building) that is relevant to everyone. A culture that once utilised trees for their homestead fences, now makes use of reeds, sheeting and bricks as the majority of the trees have already been cut down, turning the land into a barren swathe.
Large RV’s sleep 4-6 people comfortably for short periods of time, and can be purchased for a few thousand dollars. They’re cheaper (you can get a good used camper for about $2500-$5000) readily available, and they can also be used to store items you will use off grid while you generate more money.
If you don’t want to change jobs, then try to find a place near your current place of employment.
They’re inexpensive, and once you get your piece of land a chicken coup is easily built with old pallets and some chicken wire which is VERY CHEAP.
Most people think they must save the money to go off grid for years before they make the move.
A little creative thinking, and moving your money around and you can go off grid with less effort than you might think. It is, thankfully, centres like these that are showing us the way to move forward positively, even in these dire times. A water well can cost $10,000-$25,000 to drill, and there is no guarantee you will get water. For a few hundred dollars you can buy enough food IN BULK (rice, flour, sugar, honey, beans, canned foods, dry goods, preserved foods from local canners and farmers markets) to last at least a couple months. Large solar panels provide ample electricity, even a surplus over weekends, which is returned to the City of Windhoek. Always a positive spinoff to environmentally sound practices is the greening of an area, as insects and birds are attracted to the site and a healthy ecosystem is enabled.
But you could stay there while you search for small property suitable for your new off grid homestead.
This is not for everyone, so you should make that decision with your partner about what to do about the children’s schooling. The money saved on rent, and all the other utilities and expenses living in the city may be offset enough to make up for commuting to a nearby school.



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