‘1000 modular homes’ project to revolutionise housing industry, increase forestry sector earnings

The DuraVilla ‘1,000 modular homes’ project, an initiative of local forestry company, Durable Wood Products Inc., will see more than 1000 pre-fabricated modular homes being sold to consumers in Guyana, other countries in the Caribbean, and on the international market.

While the launch ties into the government’s commitment to improve access to safe and affordable housing for Guyanese, it will also serve as a major revenue earner, as diverse, value-added wooden products are in demand both locally and internationally.

President Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali at the official launch of the DuraVilla Homes project

Already, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Durable Wood Products Inc., Rafeek Khan, has disclosed, that the company has been able to profitably export its products to a number of countries across multiple continents.

This is due, in large part, to deliberate, well-structured, well-positioned, articulate, and well-researched policies on forestry, housing, and construction crafted by the Government of Guyana.

President, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali, made this point when he delivered the feature address at the DuraVilla launch at the Durable Wood Products Land of Canaan Site, East Bank Demerara.

“Our policies have seen forestry as a true national asset, earning carbon credits, earning from the wood product itself, earning from ecotourism, and now we are moving to more scientific areas of pharmaceutical values,” he said.

The head of state underlined the importance of understanding and positioning the complexity of wood products to meet the vision outlined for the sector, and noted that in order to do this, there must be continued restructuring and retooling of the forestry sector.

President, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali, CEO of Durable Wood Products Inc., Rafeek Khan, and members of the public and private sector cut the ribbon for the official launch of DuraVilla Homes

“One of the first things we did [after entering government in 2020] after listening to some of the players in the sector, is we framed a new set of incentives to ignite the sector, to re-energise and reposition the sector; including duty-free on almost all the equipment that was needed to rebuild the sector,” President Ali stated.

Despite the new policies and incentives, challenges such as heavy rainfall and the COVID-19 pandemic posed a severe challenge to businesses in the forestry sector, especially small loggers.

“But what did the government do? We didn’t sit back and look at external challenges, and say, ‘listen, we’re really in a bad place’. We decided to invest in the infrastructure to support the sector.”

This included some $4 billion to support infrastructure in the hinterland regions.

“So, what occurred as a result of all that we did since we came back to government… production has increased. And it recovered, in 2022, an increase of over 50,000 cubic metres as compared to 2021. Export has recovered, from 2015 to now. We have launched a revolving fund of $900 million, the first ever such fund in this sector,” President Ali said.

During the five years under the rule of the previous government, he added, the forestry sector’s workforce declined drastically, from 25,000 to less than 14,000, with stagnation occurring for most forestry-based businesses.

“Today, as I speak, employment in this sector is back to over 20,000 persons,” President Ali disclosed.

The president also highlighted that both local and international demand for construction materials has grown exponentially.

He therefore commended the company’s CEO, for taking the initiative that will not only increase supply, but create a market for niche products as well.

“Not only is this product a timber home, it is one that meets all the international requirements that Barbados needs for hurricane-proofing currently. That is no easy accomplishment. And everything is engineered locally,” President Ali said.

He noted that the venture could bring major foreign revenue into Guyana, reminding that wood is an expensive commodity that could be utilised for luxury living.

Tiny homes DuraVilla constructed for Guyana’s International Building Expo last year

Dr Ali cited the success of Barama Trading Inc. from 2020 to now, noting that through investment of US $5 million, the company’s production has increased by over 50 per cent; with small loggers supplying some $3 billion worth of lesser-known species of wood to the company.

“Barama alone is expected to increase their production this year by 30 per cent. With about $3 billion by the loggers, 30 per cent is talking about $900 million more. Since we announced the incentives for small loggers, Barama has moved from a logging deficit to a floor surplus now, in many instances,” the head of state pointed out.

Barama is now moving to their third factory production line, which will be installed by July of this year.

President Ali sees similar success ahead for DuraVilla and Durable Wood Products Inc.

He made known his administration’s commitment to supporting this initiative, which he sees expanding into the wider Caribbean.

CEO of DuraVilla Homes, Rafeek Khan

DuraVilla CEO thanked the government for its continued partnership with businesses in the forestry sector, which he said has played a critical role in the realisation of DuraVilla homes, and the other companies under the Durable Wood Products umbrella.

He said the company’s innovative products, which were certified by the Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS), aim to set the bar for construction in the housing sector.

The CEO believes that Guyana can earn up to US$60 million annually from the export of timber houses that will aid in boosting the forestry sector.

The company is currently tasked with providing 1,000 homes for low-income earners in Barbados, and another 50 per month to St Vincent and the Grenadines.

A high-level team from Grenada is also in Guyana to engage with the company.

Through collaboration with the Government of Guyana, the company will continue to aid in the growth of the housing sector.

Other ministers of government, who were present at the launch, joined President Ali in commending the project.

Tiny homes DuraVilla constructed for Guyana’s International Building Expo last year

Minister of Housing and Water, Collin Croal, reflected on Durable Wood Products’ pitch at the International Building Expo in 2022, which was in keeping with the goal to protect the environment, while balancing extraction, while utilising it to the strengthen the country’s productive sector.

“From that, you will quickly realise that Guyana is the hub. Guyana is the place where people want to go. Guyana is a role model. And that was started by our then Minister of Housing and Water, who is our current President, who, under the PPP/C government, would have turned around the housing sector,” he said.

Minister within the Ministry of Housing and Water, Susan Rodrigues, expressed similar sentiments, while noting the role of government as a functional partner in the execution of DuraVilla homes.

“This is a remarkable achievement, and a great demonstration of what His Excellency has been saying all the time: that the private sector is an engine of growth, and we, the government will be your partner. And we will be there to support you,” Minister Rodrigues assured.

Meanwhile,Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat, called attention to the diversification the product brings to Guyana’s economic prospects.

“Today is another demonstration of the government’s commitment of growing the non-oil economy. Because we are not at an oil and gas event, but one where we are promoting wood products. We are promoting value-added products, which is badly needed in our country as well,” he stated.

Recognising the need for affordable, quality housing in poverty reduction and the improvement of equal opportunities, DuraVilla employs a building system that utilises traditional construction methods to offer sustainable, affordable and modern housing solutions.

The initiative has the potential to transform the housing landscape, providing convenient, comfortable and sustainable housing solutions to many in an environmentally friendly manner.