Good afternoon! I am so happy to highlight this milestone in our construction project, where we reintroduce the vegetation back to its environment. And I am excited to have the support of various entities here today- the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation, and the National Botanical Research Institute to name a few. Your presence highlights how important environmental conservation is to Namibia as outlined in your constitution.
We listened to your concern over the removal of the natural fauna when we started construction a few years ago. We relocated as many trees as we could during that timeframe to protect Namibia’s natural beauty and conducted our operations in accordance with the permits. And for this reason, we consulted with the National Botanical Research Institute to ensure that we are planting native species that will not rely on an irrigation system but will instead be hand watered to conserve water. We are planting in such a way to prevent erosion and take advantage of rainfall. Our plants will feature Namibia’s camel thorn tree, one of the oldest trees in Namibia. Approximately 5,000 plants are being reintroduced to the compound, almost 300 of which are trees. The plants represent 33 different species in Namibia.
Our efforts reinforce that the United States is a responsible partner and is here to invest in Namibia. The United States takes our partnership with Namibia seriously. In fact, our investment extends past the natural fauna. We have employed over 2,000 Namibians in this construction project, more than 100 of which have been women, and ensured that the working conditions were safe. I am proud to say that it has been 650 days since the last accident, which is five times better than even the most stringent of U.S. Construction Industry standards.
We have ensured that the building is being constructed in accordance with green building standards and sustainable practices, incorporating solar panels that will support half of the embassy’s electricity needs. And 97 percent of the waste from this construction site has been recycled. Our investment does not end with the construction project but extends to the community. B.L. Harbert International, the company responsible for the construction, has offered financial training to all its workers. They have provided tours to engineering students from NUST to learn about our practices. They even held a lunch donation project, providing over 350,000 meals to school age children. They are also exploring a soccer field donation in Katutura. The U.S. government does not just talk the talk when it comes to corporate social responsibility. We also walk the walk. In short, we have invested approximately $17 million USD (approximately 310 million Namibian dollars) into the Namibian economy with the construction of this new compound.
Let the planting of these trees today be a symbol of our partnership with Namibia, deeply rooted, enduring, and fruitful.