The new AVN Program in Senegal is firing on all cylinders!
In addition to the first family houses being built around Thies, where the new AVN Senegal headquarters is based (see my last report), masons trained through AVN have recently completed three important projects:
- a maternity clinic in the village of Nguendar, near Podor, in the north of the country (see the photos, including the one of the first baby to be born in the Clinic),- a primary school in the neighbouring village of Kodith (photo),- a prayer room in the first motorway (freeway) service area to be built in Senegal, at Cambarene, near the capital Dakar (photo).
The maternity clinic and school were built through a collaboration with Le Partenariat, a Senegalese / French NGO workingi n the Podor region. The motorway prayer room was part financed by Eiffage Senegal, part of the Eiffage group of construction companies (and a 'descendant' of the original company that built the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Statue of Liberty in New York!)
These three buildings, so different in their functions, share features which their users really appreciate, especially the fact that they are nice and cool indoors, and the thick walls deaden any external noise. However, the primary mission of AVN, of course, is to promote a market in affordable and long-lasting Nubian Vault (NV) housing for rural and peri-urban families. But community use buildings such as schools, clinics, churches etc are important because, in addition to their primary use:
- their construction provides opportunities for training of local apprentices, who can progress to become NV masons in their own right- they are highly visible demonstration buildings for local people, who, having realised how affordable, attractive, and comfortable they are, then contract locally trained NV masons to build family houses.
If you want help us in the challenge of scaling up our Programme in Senegal, any funds you may want to give will be allocated to increasing the recruitment and training of young men as apprentices, and to our work in supporting trained NV masons to become independent entrepreneurs in the country's housing market.
On May 24, 2014, AVN inaugurated its permanent office in Senegal, built by NV masons from Burkina Faso and Senegal. So the AVN-Senegal team, created in 2013, now has a permanent office and show-house, open to the public, to be used as a base for promoting the NV concept throughout the country - in particular in the regions of Saint-Louis and Thiès where AVN is already active, and, soon, in the regions of Diourbel, Fatick and Tambacounda.
The first AVN office built in an urban context
This is the very first time that a team of NV masons has built an AVN regional office in a town centre. It is a two storey building, with a roof terrace, sanitation, and external staircase. The external walls and roof are rainproof, using a technique developed by AVN, using pebbles embedded in the bricks' surface, thus allowing for waterproof cement rendering to be successfully applied. The building is a showcase for the successful use of the NV technique for modern urban housing.
Many local stake-holders attended the inauguration ceremony
The inauguration ceremony (see the photos) aroused a great deal of interest from NV clients, partners, local builders, and many people from the town, impressed not only by the thermal, acoustic, and aesthetic features of the building, but also by the fact that a basically mud-brick house can be made weatherproof, and include modern features and fittings.
Khady Ly & Ndiamé Fall, extension agents with AVN-Senegal said :
" People who had never seen a NV building were much impressed by the concept. Some of our friends had made fun of us when we told them that we had joined AVN, but on the inauguration day they were overwhelmed by the quailty and style of the building, and at last understood our enthusiasm for the technique. "
Comments from visitors:
"No need to talk about what we saw that day - the building speaks for itself: you see it, and you want a house like that for yourself.""It's lovely and cool inside the building - no need for aircon or fans. We were really surprised by the technique !"
During the inauguration, two new partnership agreements were signed with:
- the Belgian NGO Aide au Développement Gembloux (ADG), active in Tambacounda and Thiès,
- the Association Jaambar, a farming organisation in the region of Diourbel, near Thiès.
Building on these new and existing partnerships, the scene is now set for a rapid and successful extension of the AVN Program in Senegal, not only in rural areas, but also, eventually, in the overcrowded urban slums of many of Senegal's towns.
Any help you can provide, as always, is much appreciated.
The NV program in Burkina Faso is growing very successfully – in fact, during the last construction season, the growth rate, in terms of numbers of NV buildings constructed, has been 13% over target: 100 NV buildings completed, with a further 45 under construction. The completed buildings include 35 NV houses for homeless families who were victims of flooding in the Nebba region (financed by the Selavip Foundation), and 3 onion storage barns. Progress has also been made with identifying sources of micro-fiance for impoverished familes, with 12 contracts having been conluded, for 6 completed houses, and 6 more under construction. Much of this progress can be attributed to the fact that AVN now has 21 local staff working to promote the program, with 4 regional offices in the country in addition to the HQ in Boromo. An interesting and encouraging recent development has been that conventional masons, used to building houses with concrete blocks and corrugated iron roofs, have asked to be trained in the NV technique, and have now incorporated the concept into their ongoing work.
In Mali, the program's growth rate has been 20% this season, with 83 NV buildings completed, and 3 under construction. There are now 11 AVN local staff in Mali, in Segou and the two regional centers, Koutiala and Dioilia; plans are afoot to open three more regional centers, the first of which will probably be in San.
In Senegal, the latest development is the construction of the very first NV motorway rest area , including a mosque, on a new section of motorway outside Dakar – built by a team of NV masons from Burkina Faso, who are at the same time training local Senegalese apprentices on-site. This has been a joint neterprise between AVN and Eiffage-Senegal (Eiffage is the present-day incarnation of the company that built the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty!).
After 14 years, the AVN Program is now having a significant impact on housing in the Sahel, with many new partners and sponsors being signed up, and with plans to extend our work to two more countries - Benin and Ghana - next season. As always, we welcome your support to help in the opening of our prgram in these two new countries.
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.
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.
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.
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