Association la Voute Nubienne (AVN)

AVN's mission is to improve housing conditions through an appropriate architecture, as soon as possible, for as many people as possible. In sub-Saharan Africa, the struggle to obtain decent housing plunges millions of families into a vicious circle of poverty. AVN offers a solution to this problem, based on three integrated concepts: A Roof + A Skill + A Market AVN organises the training and support of local Nubian Vault (NV) builders and entrepreneurs to promote this solution on a large-scale, with a view to developing a self-sustaining market in NV construction. As a result, families can acquire affordable, sustainable, and decent housing, at the same time improving their economic cond...
Feb 12, 2014

Program Update

NV masons team, Burkina Faso
NV masons team, Burkina Faso

The scaling up of AVN's program in West Africa is now becoming a reality:

- there are now 10 regional AVN offices, including 5 in Burkina Faso (Boromo, Dedougou, Koubri, Bama, Yako), 3 in Mali (Segou, Dioila, Koutiala), and 2 in Senegal (Podor, Thies), with 30 local salaried staff in total (including 6 women), and 84 village 'champions' spreading the word around the regional offices,

- during the 2012/13 season, 219 NV masons and apprentices took part in 'top up' training workshops organised by our local teams in Boromo, Segou, and Podor,

- new programs are in the planning stage in Benin and northern Ghana,

- the average annual growth rate of the overall program, in terms of number of vaults built, is 31%

- in the last construction season, 22% of the NV housing market was completely autonomous, with clients contacting NV masons directly.

Since the AVN program opened in 2000, 916 NV buildings (comprising nearly 1,942 standard vaults) have been constructed by 270 experienced NV masons in 404 different localities in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Senegal. There are now 300 apprentices in training. And we estimate that around 2,600 trees have been saved, and 22,500 corrugated iron roofing sheets economised, as a result of the AVN program's alternative use of mud brick vault construction. Overall, some 14,000 people now enjoy the benefits of NV homes and community buildings.

The two main challenges of the 2012/13 season have been the conflicts in Mali, which have meant that our work has been limited to the south of the country, and the numbers of young men in Burkina Faso who have left their villages to explore for gold, reducing the pool of potential NV apprentices.

Many thanks once again for your interest in our work, and your support of our Program in West Africa, helping hundreds of impoverished families to not only obtain decent housing, but also improve their economic conditions.

 

Village women living in NV houses
Village women living in NV houses
Local AVN
Local AVN 'champions', Mali
AVN Boromo team planning session
AVN Boromo team planning session
A typical NV village house
A typical NV village house
NV building site
NV building site

Links:

Dec 2, 2013

2013/14 Season kicks off with 8 Training Workshops

NV master masons at Segou workshop, Nov 4-10
NV master masons at Segou workshop, Nov 4-10

The next stage of the scaling up of our program in Mali got off to a flying start this October, with eight 5-day training and up-dating workshops held in Segou, and in the two newly opened regional offices in Dioila and Koutiala. These workshops are part of the overall program of the 'AVN Academy', and provide opportunities for exchanging ideas, networking, and – for NV apprentices and masons – complementing the extended on-site training and experience which continues throughout the 6 month construction season.

Three familiarisation and up-dating workshops were held for a total of 37 local 'champions' in Segou, Dioila, and Katiola. These 'champions' (or 'clefs' = 'keys', in French) are locally respected members of the community who are convinced of the value of the NV concept, and who promote it in their own villages, attracting new apprentices, and new clients for existing NV masons. They play a key role in promoting the growth of the market for NV housing, and in helping local NV masons find potential clients.

Also in these three centers, a total of 51 new apprentices have taken part in three 5-day workshops, where they are inducted into the NV concept, and can meet trained NV masons who might take them on for the season of on-the-job practical training and experience.

In Segou, the AVN headquarters in Mali, 11 experienced NV masons took part in a 5-day workshop aimed at helping them in marketing, client relations, project management, and finance - helping them to develop their skills as independent entrepreneurs.

Finally, also in Segou, the 11 AVN field staff came together for a final workshop and meeting to exchange ideas on improving their efficiency and developing their skills in supporting the 'champions' and NV masons in their respective regions.

Your contributions have played a significant role in helping to fund these important start-of-the-season workshops. Once again, many thanks from our field staff, and from the NV masons and apprentices in Mali, for your continuing support.

Apprentices at Dioila workshop, Nov 18-24
Apprentices at Dioila workshop, Nov 18-24
Apprentices at Katiola workshop, Nov 18-24
Apprentices at Katiola workshop, Nov 18-24
Dioila
Dioila 'champions' workshop, Oct 21-27
Segou
Segou 'champions' workshop, Oct 28-Nov 3
Segou
Segou 'champions' group photo

Links:

Nov 11, 2013

La Voute Nubienne: results and impacts 2012/2013

A Burkinabe family and its NV house
A Burkinabe family and its NV house

The 14th Nubian Vault construction season has begun, and it will be a crucial one for the Association La Voute Nubienne. As our director Thomas Granier pointed out, the AVN bus is now ready and functioning in all its main component parts: the steering wheel (the local teams, increasingly composed by local employees in their managerial roles), the engine (the tested and proven efficient method for kick-starting the Nubian Vault market), the gasoline (the commitment and diligence of the dozens of employees and volunteers, in France and Africa), the passengers (the masons and clients, whose number and satisfaction is growing steadily). Now is the time for AVN to shift to turbo speed. Before explaining this accelerated approach and how it could dramatically increase NV production, we would like to highlight the results obtained during the last season 2012/2013.  

Summary of Overall Results & The Consequent Impact

During 2012, the program faced some exogenous challenges: the Malian political instability and the gold rush in Burkina Faso among others, reduced the availability of masons and extension agents. On the other hand, some important assets emerged: a notable reinforcement of the capacities of local managers, the first training academies for masons and key-persons and the increased autonomy of regional teams. These factors supported the production and allowed to achieve the quasi-totality of the targets set at the beginning of season.

  • 315 new NVs built on 209 building sites: 123 in Burkina Faso, 72 in Mali, 12 in Senegal, 2 in other countries;
  • 2,309 new linear meters of NVs;
  • 11 new artisan masons completed their training, nearly 300 apprentices currently in training;
  • 98 new localities (villages, hamlets, suburbs...) reached;
  • 616 tons of CO2 prevented and 428 trees saved;
  • theoretical training given to 219, including masons, extension agents, key-persons and women involved in the programme through 22 dedicated modules of the “NV Academies”;
  • 16 new local employees in national and regional teams;
  • 220,462 € retained in local communities;
  • 1,886 beneficiaries among clients, users and builders;
  • 75% of NV buildings are houses for the poor rural population (subsistence farmers and merchants).

Since 2000, some 14,000 people have benefited from the 1,943 NVs built in 406 localities by 270 NV masons. This in turn has saved 3,846 tons of CO2 and 2,642 trees and has helped to keep nearly 1.5 million € in local communities. AVN has 5 employees and 1 intern in France and 2 Volontaires de Solidarité Internationale (VSI) and 33 employees in Africa (Regional and National Coordinators, Administrative and Financial Managers, Office Agents, Regional and National Production Managers, and Extension Agents).

The quality of our program has been recognized by several international institutions. In the last two years alone, we have been awarded with the Dubai International Award for Best Practices to Improve the Living Environment 2013 and we have been named Entrepreneurs of the Year 2012 for Africa by the Schwab Foundation; we were the semi-finalist for the Buckminster Fuller Challenge and Thomas Granier was made a Knight of the French Order of Merit on May 15th, in recognition of his tireless work in promoting sustainable and affordable housing in Africa. These recognitions join the several other awards obtained in the preceding years.

Future Strategies and Objectives

With the passage of time, it has become increasingly clear that the best way to disseminate the NV technique as fast as possible for the largest number of beneficiaries possible is to involve local communities and organizations at each phase of our work. Not only the NV technique, but also the dissemination strategy needs to be adopted and managed by the local population. With this purpose in mind, we are in the process of establishing a number of field partnerships with local groups: (community based organizations, farmers’ cooperatives, local NGOs and municipal authorities), in order to share with them our techniques and strategies, and to do the dissemination work in unison.

Furthermore, the forthcoming opening of the programme in Ghana gives us the chance, given the better financial conditions and the higher maturity of political class with respect to the countries we operated so far, to involve local and national institutions from the beginning. For the first time, the “Earth Roofs for the Sahel” could be a publicly sponsored programme, implemented in collaboration with the public agencies of the beneficiary country.

Last but not least, from having been focused exclusively on the diffusion of a building technique in rural areas, AVN programme is evolving into a comprehensive development programme pivoted on the NV concept. In partnership with specialized organizations and professional consultants, we are designing and implementing complementary projects: micro-credit for housing, capacity building and formalization of NV enterprises, NV for agriculture and livestock, NV for re-housing of dislocated families and NV in urban and semi-urban settlements.

These three factors combined could certainly  be great “turbo charge ” for the AVN bus. Internal deployment through the involvement of local civic society organizations, geographical extension (Ghana and Benin soon, but in the next years Niger, Sudan, Mauritania, Zambia...) and associated complementary projects, have the potential to increase the pace  at  which the technique will spread. If we also take into account, that once the technique has been assimilated in a certain area, it continues to spread autonomously, we can be confident of achieving our long-term ambition: by to 2025, 5% of Sahelian people will live in, have built or used a Nubian Vault.

In order to achieve this ambitious target, AVN relies on the considerable number of donations that you, our social investors, are making. We thank you all for your contributions to date, and we hope that your continued generosity will enable us to benefit many more poor people, providing them with decent housing and good jobs, at the same time mitigating the impact of climate change. 

Promotional Meeting in Burkina Faso
Promotional Meeting in Burkina Faso
AVN Academy - Module for Extension Agents
AVN Academy - Module for Extension Agents
Mid-season meeting at Boromo
Mid-season meeting at Boromo
Voute Nubienne women at the Academy
Voute Nubienne women at the Academy
The regional deployment: 10 regions in 3 countries
The regional deployment: 10 regions in 3 countries

Links:

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