The Mountain Fund

The mission of The Mountain Fund is to eliminate poverty, its causes and symptoms, in developing mountain communities around the world.
Aug 19, 2015

Training for alternative construction methods

Randolph Langenbach building gabion walls, Mankhu
Randolph Langenbach building gabion walls, Mankhu

We've begun training the local villagers in various methods that can be employed to rebuild their homes. While very litttle construction will take place until after the monsoon season (September) this is a good time to meet with locals and demonstrate different ways they may wish to reconsider building their homes to make them safer in the event of any future earthquakes. 

The typical village home is historically constructed of stones and mud mortar and is two rows of stones wide. While heavy center beams are customary in the construction what is not customary is any sort of ring beam that ties all four walls together. With all walls free to then move in any direction, regardlesss of what an adjoining wall may be doing, the structures become very unstable in an earthquake or in more technical terms the walls become "out of plane."  This has happended in many earthquake zones around the world and especially those where poorer villagers live and construction techniques are not widely known. 

There are many solutions to the problems of typical construction and alternative methods of construction that can be done with local materials. Mountian Fund has conducted a workshop on how to build using earthbags. This method substitutes rice bags filled with dirt, compacted, stacked and reinforced as a substitute for local stone construction. It's a cost effective way to build and the technique has been proven to hold up well in earthquakes. At our farm in Nepal, Her Farm, we have classroom building that we made with earthbag technology that survived the quakes in Nepal with nothing but very superficial damage. We recently held workshops with locals and people from other communities as well, in which we spent several days demonstrating this method of construction. Several NGO's who attended these workshops are currently in the field using earthbags to reconsctruct housing and schools. 

A simple and cheap method to reinforce the typical village stone and mud wall is the introduction of gabion walls. A gabion is is stacked stones that are tied together with wire. In the case of our trainings in the villages it's stacked stones wrapped in wire fencing. This technique, whcih has been around sine the 1800's is proven to help withstand earthquakes. Randolph Langenbach is currently teaching this method in the village. Langenbach, a well repsected Architect has studied what causes building failures in earthquakes throughout the world and has consulted to UNESCO in the aftermath of many quakes globally on construction methods. 

Earthbag housing traning at Her Farm
Earthbag housing traning at Her Farm
Trained in earthbag building and ready to work
Trained in earthbag building and ready to work
Jul 9, 2015

What we've accomplished in Nepal

I'm attaching a pdf file and a link to youtube to this report. Both have compelling information that details what The Mountain Fund has accomplished post-earthquake in Nepal, particularly in the villages of Mankhu and Goganpani where we live and work. I hope you'll find both the PDF and especially the video informative and motivational. Our work goes on in Nepal, this is only the beginning. Right now it's monsoon season which means everyone has turned their attention to agriculture. The monsoon season is when nearly all of next year's food will be grown, especially rice. Rice is the staple food in Nepal and the monsoon season provides enough water for farmers to be able to grow rice. Typically they will get between two and three harvests of rice over the next three months. Once the monsoons end, rebuilding of homes, schools and health posts will begin in earnest. WIth 80-85% of the buildings destroyed by the quakes, there is much to do. 

Enjoy the pdf, watch the video and thanks much for your support. 

Links:


Attachments:
Jun 11, 2015

Accomplishments and Future Challenges

Cash Aid. A hand up, not a hand out
Cash Aid. A hand up, not a hand out

We’ve been trying to keep news updates on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TheMountainFund but power outages, internet issues and the sheer amount of work we’ve been doing have made it hard to update as much and as regularly as we’d like to do in an ideal world. Nepal is not, at the moment, an ideal world.

Immediately following the first big quake Mountain Fund mobilized and brought two truckloads of food and a load of tarpaulins to the villages of Mankhu and Goganpani. While Mankhu is home to Her Farm, the village of Goganpani is nearby. We have friends in that community and many of the young people from Mankhu attend school there, so it was natural that we assist Goganpani as well, especially since no other aid or relief groups were reaching this area. We set up a “command center” at Her Farm and brought in a solar system so people could charge mobile phones to contact friends and relatives. We upgraded that system a week later with a large battery storage component that allow us to run the satellite television and internet in order that the community could keep abreast of the news throughout the country since many in our village have relatives scattered throughout Nepal.

The second quake took the wind out of everyone’s sails. We were just beginning to work on temporary housing instead of tarp tent homes when it struck. It took perhaps two weeks before we could once again start bringing materials in for construction. It was hard to deal with the overwhelming sense of hopelessness that lingered for those two weeks but eventually spirits rose, work began again.

During this period of gloominess, we were able to contact and survey nearly every home to determine what each family needed to secure sturdy temporary housing and continue on with life. As would be expected the needs of each home were very different. Some needed clothing, some kitchen utensils, most needed tin roofing from which to make temporary repairs but some had plenty of roofing that could be recovered from their damaged homes. As Tolstoy noted in his novel that all happy families are happy for similar reasons and all unhappy families are unhappy for different reasons, all families affected by the quake had different needs and all had some similar needs.

Rather than attempt to manage goods and materials to fit each particular family need and thereby run the risk of abundance in one area and shortages in another, we opted to help by providing cash, which would allow each home to supply what was actually needed. Much to the credit of these sturdy farmers, almost no one came to us asking for a hand out, instead they wanted loans. We made loans on the basis of zero percent interest and “pay us when you are able” terms. In this way, each home was able to get just what they needed and each homeowner was put in direct control over the safety of his or her family. In short, they came to us with dignity and left with dignity. That’s one of the reasons, I’m sure, that everyone’s basic needs were provided so quickly and efficiently in these villages. We put them in charge, provided the cash to use as they needed to use it and got out of the way. I’ve seen many cases of huge stockpiles of goods no one needs while what is needed is being hoarded by someone who has too much. Mountain Fund to date has loaned $30,000 to villagers and expects to double that amount after the monsoon season when rebuilding will begin in earnest.

The schools in both Mankhu and Goganpani were damaged heavily by the earthquakes. In Goganpani we provided the funds to immediately clear and rebuild two buildings that were of steel frame construction with brick walls. The brick was all fallen down and reduced to rubble but the frames were still fine. We cleared the rubble, welded some additional crossbars to the exiting frames and attached metal roofing all around to create 8 ready to use classrooms. In Mankhu, the first thing we noticed was the toilet facility was a complete loss. We knocked it the rest of the way down and began rebuilding it. During the rebuilding process the entire building was inspected by a government engineer and found to be structurally unsafe. We are now starting work on 9 new classrooms that will be built on land directly adjacent to Her Farm. There isn’t enough room where the current school is to put temporary classrooms up while tearing the existing building down. The 9 new classrooms we are now building are steel truss and frame with shop fabricated walls that will be trucked to the site and erected. These are intended to be permanent classrooms for the 90 children attending grades K-5 in the village.

The water supply to the village of Mankhu has dropped by 50% since the quakes. The water is coming from springs on the hillside but post-quake, it’s barely coming. A nearby property owner has a large spring on his land and we are working now to secure the rights, or to outright buy the property so we can restore adequate water to the village. Time will tell if our former springs will return to full production or not. In the meantime it’s a struggle to meet the water needs of the community. We expect to resolve that within the next week.

Mountain Fund has been busy, using your donations wisely and systematically working hand in hand with the village to resolve issues caused by the quake, one-by-one. It’s going to take at least a year to fully rebuild and restore these communities. I hope you will continue to support us.

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