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.
After the successful opening of AVN-Senegal, we are glad to announce you that we are ready for a new scaling up of our program. Awareness on qualities of Nubian Vault buildings is spreading: more and more people want NV for their houses, schools, health centers, barns... Also, the effectiveness of AVN's pump-priming market method is increasingly recognized by NGOs, private enterprises and institutions, asking us for partnerships in order to diffuse NV technique in their areas of interest.
The next step we have scheduled is the opening of AVN dissemination program in the first regions of two new countries: Benin, Atacora-Donga region, and Ghana, Upper-East region.
Our teams have already made explorative missions in order to assess the need for Nubian Vaults and the existence of the conditions required to the development of the program in those areas, finding positive answers. The regions, in both cases among the poorest of their countries, have the same climatic and economic conditions, and face the same housing challenges, of the regions where AVN already works successfully. Local people showed enthusiasm in welcoming AVN, and a number of interested clients have already been contacted. Potential partnerships and collaborations are on discussion with private enterprises, NGOs, local authorities, and national institutions.
For each country, 4 years of project will lead to: 130 NV built on 23 locations, 66 local people involved (masons, employees, key-persons), 260 tons of CO2 economized, 520 trees saved, 1,000 total beneficiaries. Most interestingly, these benefits are not limited to the years of deployment of program: the triggering of a virtuous circle will allow these figures to persist and increase in the following years. We have ambitious goals, but we can achieve them by relying on our experience and our strong motivation. What we need, now more than ever, is your support. The opportunity for Ghanaian and Beninois communities to enjoy the benefits that people in Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal have already enjoyed depends on the generosity of our community of supporters. Thank you for what you have done so far and for carrying on to give us your precious support.
A permanent AVN team now established
Following the successful completion of a technical training center by NV masons in the region of Matam, a permanent AVN team has now been established in Senegal: in April, Khady Ly, Fanny Dupuis and Ndiame Fall set up office in the town of Thiès. Khady Ly, from Thiès, has been involved as a part-time 'ambassador' for AVN in Senegal for several years, and was joined in November 2012 by Fanny Dupuis, an urbanist, as national coordinator. Ndiame Fall joined the team in May 2013 as an extension agent and assistant to Fanny Dupuis.
They will be working with our partner Le Partenariat ( PSLR )on our program in the north of the country (Saint Louis, Podor), will start an urban program in Thiès itself, and in 2014, a regional office is planned for Tambacounda - all part of an overall strategy to lay the foundations for a self-sustaining market in NV housing in Senegal.
A promising start
To date, there are two main poles of activity for AVN in Senegal:
in the region of Podor, a literacy center has been built in the village of Thialma, and a mosque in the village of Guege Wourou, by NV masons from Burkina and their Senegalese apprentices; both projects were part financed by Eiffage -Senegal (the French construction company Eiffage, previously known as Eiffel, after its founder, is famous historically for building the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty...).
In the region of Thies, pilot projects on construction of NV buildings in an urban environment have been launched, with several houses now completed, including a two-storey one. Tests are underway of the use of mud bricks incorporating pebbles on the external surface, to which a waterproof and maintenance-free cement render can then be applied.
The setting up of a third national team in West Africa (after Burkina Faso and Mali), marks an important turning point in the growth of AVN's program in the Sahel.
As always, your contributions towards the costs of recruitment and training of Senegalese apprentices and masons will provide invaluable support for the scaling up of our work in Senegal, providing employment and better housing and community facilities for the families in our target groups.
Half-way through the 2012/13 season (at the end of March) , the latest results showed consistent progress in the growth of AVN's Program in West Africa.
Since the start of the 2012/13 season, the following, very encouraging, results have been achieved:- new regions of activity, each with their own AVN team, have been created - two in Mali, and three in Burkina Faso (see photos of the new AVN office buildings in Dedougou and Yaco, Burkiona Faso);- 10 more local staff have been recruited, including 5 dissemination agents, and 3 regional production managers;- the first AVN Congress in Senegal has taken place, bringing together NV masons and 'champions' and supporters in the country;- at the end of 2012, 219 NV masons and others involved in the Program took part in technical and management training workshops under the auspices of the Académie Nubienne ;- 151 vaults were built, for the benefit of 928 people;- 34% of NV buildings were a result of direct contacts between clients and independent NV masons / entrpreneurs - gradually, a self-sustaining market in NV housing is developing.
We are particularly proud to see the opening of four new regions of activity, and the success of the first results of the Académie nubienne training workshops.
AVN's First Disaster relief project
NV houses are being built for 27 families who lost their homes after a dam burst in the Nebba region of Burkina Faso in 2010. The project is financed by the SELAVIP Foundation, and implemented by the local Tinyenga Niyemba Burkina (TNB) Association, in partnership with AVN. The first three of the 27 houses houses are already under construction, in the villages of Onguro and Diakongoudjo (see photo).
AVN's role in the project consists of identifying teams of independent NV masons, supporting the recruitment and training of local apprentices, and helping promote a self-sustaining market for NV housing in the region.
SELAVIP is a private foundation that supports housing projects for very poor families, with a focus on “extreme social emergency”. By choosing the Nubian Vault concept for this project, SELAVIP is enabling the families concerned to acquire decent and permanent housing, as well as the skills needed to contribute to further re-construction in their region in the future.
UN Habitat - Dubai International Award for AVN
Thomas Granier (AVN CEO) and Mathieu Hardy (AVN-Mali) went to Dubai in March to receive a UN-Habitat / Dubai International Award for best practice to improve the living environment. The Award, co- sponsored by UN-Habitat, specifically recognises our program in Burkina Faso for 'best practice transfer'. At the same time they met potential partners, investors, and sponsors for our work with Muslim communities in West Africa.
On Feb 13th and 14th, the first workshop for Burkinabé women involved in the AVN program was held in Boromo. The participants came from 6 different regions of Burkina Faso, and included wives of VN masons, local 'champions' of the program, and future extension agents and 'ambassadors'.
This workshop, the first one aimed specifically at women, was part of the series of training and familiarisation workshops launched in Autumn 2012 under the auspices of the AVN Academy - set up for the continuing suppport and training of NV masons, entrepreneurs, and supporters and their families. The workshop, run by women members of the AVN team in Boromo, was conducted in several local languages, and covered promotional techniques and issues, styles of VN houses, and sharing of experiences and ideas.
This first workshop marks a turning point in the evolution of the AVN Program, creating a direct engagement on the part of groups of mothers, wives, and daughters in the country in the active promotion of decent housing for their families.
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