Before Russia launched its senseless and brutal war on Ukraine, builder Sergiy Kovalenkov was well into a mission to bring environmentally friendly, healthy hempcrete living spaces to Ukrainian citizens.
With the war destroying homes in many parts of the country, Kovalenkov now finds that mission heightened as more and more Ukrainians are displaced.
Hemp. Ukraine. Recover.
The bombs haven’t stopped Kovalenkov, who has launched “Hemp. Ukraine. Recover.”, a non-profit fund aimed at providing sustainable hemp housing solutions and psychological help for citizens and veterans affected by the war. The initiative’s centerpiece is a 30-unit apartment complex now going up near Morshyn, a small city in the western part of the country, specifically for refugee families and orphans. The complex is the first of a three-phase project that incorporates the restoration of a former dairy building and new construction.
“A lot of the projects we had planned were stopped and clients fled the country,” said Kovalenkov, the founder and CEO of construction company Hempire UA, Kyiv, which started building hemp houses in Ukraine in 2015. “There is a huge hit to the economy since millions of citizens are leaving with their savings.”
“Hemp. Ukraine. Recover.” has turned to crowdfunding to support the Morshyn development, where hempcrete is going up around a wooden frame for a structure designed by architect Roman Pomazan, who donated his services. Hurd sourced from Ukrainian farms is being mixed with a locally developed binder to go into the walls of the complex. Initial materials were donated by Hempire.
Skills for the future
Some refugees who “lost everything” are building their own homes as “Hemp. Ukraine. Recover.” educates them on hempcrete construction onsite, gaining skills that will be valuable in a post-war rebuilding scenario – based on hemp, in Kovalenkov’s vision.
Kovalenkov said while construction continues even during the winter months, “Hemp. Ukraine. Recover.” is concentrating now on lining up supply sources to speed up building in spring, while expanding its fundraising and media activities.
“It’s hard to do very much building in winter time, especially as the temperatures drop and power outages last for many hours due to the rocket attacks,” Kovalenkov said. “But we’re getting the buildings enclosed.”
So far, raw materials have been sourced within a radius of 1,000 kilometers of the Morshyn construction site. But Kovalenkov said turmoil caused by the war means fewer farmers put in hemp this past spring, so basic hemp materials could be hard to come by next year. While it’s feasible to import hurd into Ukraine, with transport costs having quadrupled since the war started, and import taxes, the costs are all but prohibitive. General inflation, price rises for raw materials, power disruptions and fuel shortages caused by the war contribute to the challenges, Kovalenkov said.
After starting crowdfunding earlier this month, “Hemp. Ukraine. Recover.” has raised $51,000 of a total $362,000 needed to complete the 30 housing units, phase one of a three-phase project that also envisions additional housing and a rehabilitation center for war veterans in a projected estimated to cost an additional $1,000,000.
Veteran to veteran
“We’ll be inviting veterans from other countries to assist us on the construction of his project and share PTSD recovery experience with thousands of our veterans, who will also be involved in hemp construction,” Kovalenkov said.
Kovalenkov was also among a group of cannabis advocates that recently drafted a law to legalize medical cannabis in Ukraine, legislation the government supports. “So we’re also asking foreign companies to donate their medicinal hemp products to help Ukrainian soldiers and victims of war suffering from PTSD,” he said.