Since my report of three months back, we have been looking into ways of continuing and scaling up our pilot program in Zambia; this would involve setting up one or more partnerships or franchises with local organizations, and recruiting a project manager to coordinate the program. Progress is being made, and our medium-term plan is to establish a program to start at the end of this year.
Andrew Jowett, Director of the British NGO Build--It International, has recently returned from a visit to Zambia, and took time to go to Mutakwa, in the Chibombo District, and look at the first two VN houses built there a couple of years back. He kindly sent us some photos (attached) of these houses, and told us he was most impressed by them - he feels they are very well suited to the villagers' budgets and needs. As a protection from the rains, the owner of one of the houses has had a cement-based render applied to the roof, and her house is clearly well looked after.
You can follow the evolution of our pilot programs in Zambia and other countries outside the Sahel on our new website, which is bursting with superb photos and videos. Check it out at :
(Note that the English version of the site is completed, but the French, Spanish, and Arabic versions are still under development).
One final bit of good news this week : I have just learnt that our 'Earth Roofs in the Sahel' program has been selected as one of 18 semi-finalists (out of 122 entries) for this year's Buckminster Fuller Challenge - so, please keep your fingers crossed for us over the next few weeks, as the Jury deliberates. To have got this far is a great tribute to our work... and , if we win, apart from the prestige associated with this, there is a prize of $100.000, funds which we could put towards recruitment and training of apprentice masons for our program in Zambia.
This is now the rainy season in Zambia, so no further work has been carried out for the AVN project in the field. There have been some technical problems to analyze and overcome, concerning the quality and composition of the earth used for the adobe bricks in the vaults. When the next construction season starts in the Spring, tests will be carried out with different samples and mixes of earth mortar.
In the meantime, progress is being made in developing contacts with potential partners (including two UK-based NGO's active in Zambia) for progressing AVN's pilot program. It is clear that , for the program to develop successfully, we need to form partnerships with existing organizations with a successful track record in Zambia.
Best wishes for Xmas and the New Year from all the team at AVN, to our sponsors and well-wishers in the Global Giving community.
As mentioned in my last update, two experienced masons and a coordinator/manager were sent from Burkina Faso to Zambia by AVN in May for a period of six months, to launch the second year of our pilot program in this country..
By the end of October of this year, 5 - 6 houses will be completed, two in the village of Mutakwa (see photos), one in Kayoba and two in Fringilla along the road going from Mutakwa to Kabwe.
The houses in Fringilla will initially serve as show-houses in the region, as part of our strategy to publicize the AVN program, and to attract the attention of potential sponsors / investors, such as NGO’s involved in helping families gain access to decent housing. The first of these houses has already been completed in a record time: less than 3 weeks (see the attached photos of stages of construction - it takes time to get these pictures, involving a 1 hour bicycle ride to the nearest internet access place, a small hotel, and the connexions don’t always work…once I receive photos of the finished houses, I will post them here).
Jean Stasse, President of AVN Belgium, travelled to Zambia and Botswana late August. Various contacts have been taken with local NGO’s (involved in housing for many years in Zambia)) who could become potential partners. They have shown great interest in the AVN concept (based on the advantages in terms of lower costs, superior insulation, environmental respect, long life etc …) compared to other housing concepts. Contacts have also been taken with potential clients in preparation for the next season (2012) as well as with potential sponsors.
Obviously, starting a new habitat concept in another country, with a different language and culture (AVN’s main base being in Burkina Faso), is not an easy task. People have to be convinced. This takes time and efforts but we are confident that AVN concept will be a success in the southern African region. Any help you can provide to smooth the path to this success will, as always, be very welcome.
The rainy season has now ended in Zambia, and the AVN program for 2011 has just started. Three experienced NV practitioners traveled from Boromo, Burkina Faso, to our pilot zone in a cluster of villages in the Chibombo District of Zambia in May, to join the seven apprentices whose training started last year:
- Camille Sanon,VN master-mason, entrepreneur, and trainer (level 5), who has spent the last three construction seasons successfully running and training a team of NV masons and apprentices in northern Senegal
- Karim Ouédraogo, NV master mason (level 4), with eight seasons experience of vault construction and apprentice training in Burkina Faso
- Adama Guira, an English-speaking extension worker from the AVN office in Burkina Faso , whose tasks will include promoting the NV technique in the villages in the District, and training a local project manager to replace him at the end of the 2011 season.
These three brave men are currently touring round the villages in the District on new bicycles provided by AVN-Belgium, and with the help of the two Zambian masons trained last year ( Christopher Phiri and Kasalama Moobela), recruiting apprentices and organizing the first building sites of the season. We hope that they, in collaboration with our local partners and 'champions' in this pilot zone, will lay the foundations for an ongoing program of development and growth of a market in NV housing in the region, and eventually, maybe, in neighbouring countries (as has happened in the Sahel with the extension of the AVN program from Burkina Faso to Mali and to Senegal).
Any help you can provide in supporting the improvement of housing conditions for village families through the nurturing and growth of this program in Zambia, will, as always, be very welcome.
The construction season in the villages of the Chibombo District in Zambia runs from May to November, during the driest months of the year. So there is little to report from the field since my last update in November, at the end of the successful first VN construction season.
However, there has been a lot of activity behind the scenes, in planning and organising the 2011 program:
- around 10,000 euros ( 14,000 $ ) has been raised from institutional sponsors by AVN-Belgium to support the program, and a further $350 has come in through your donations via Global Giving,
- ongoing discussions with the Zambian Ambassador in Brussels have ensured that there is growing official support for AVN's program,
- an experienced project manager from AVN Burkina Faso will go out to Zambia at the beginning of May for a month to tour the villages in the district, asses the needs and demands for VN housing, and help train up a local project coordinator and select suitable apprentices,
- at the end of May, two VN master masons from Burkina will go there for the duration of the six month construction period, to train a new batch of Zambian apprentices and, at the same time, build more VN village houses.
So, the foundations have been laid for the next season, when we hope to see at least a doubling of the results from 2010. The start-up costs of this program are far higher than those of our projects in the Sahel, because of the need to provide air fares, insurance, and subsistence for the skilled masons and other staff brought in from Burkina Faso; Clearly, these costs will reduce in a couple of years' time, when the technology transfer process will be completed, and a local AVN team will have been established in Zambia. But, in the meantime, any help you can provide will, of course, be very welcome
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