Shonali Banerjee and Aliza Appelbaum are In-The-Field Representatives for GlobalGiving. They are visiting projects in Morocco, Spain and France. Here is their most recent "postcard" from France:
On Thursday, August 16, 2012, Aliza and I had the great pleasure of meeting with Baptise Cammareri, newly appointed Community Manager for Association La Voute Nubienne (AVN) in Paris. The AVN projects are located in the Sahel region of Africa, but the organization is based in France, so we were thrilled to meet with Baptiste to discuss the projects and AVN's unique approach to ameliorating the housing situation in western Africa.
After speaking with Baptiste for just a few minutes, Aliza and I were both very impressed with the AVN approach- they do not simply raise money to build the vaulted homes, nor do they send in staff from abroad to build the homes. They help the African builders living in rural communities teach other local builders the necessary techniques to build the vaulted homes. We really enjoyed hearing about this "help others help themselves" type of approach that has been used so successfully all around the world.
Baptiste also mentioned that in addition to the Burkina Faso-based projects, AVN now also has expanded into Mali and Senegal. We were thrilled to hear that the AVN method has been gaining popularity in the region, allowing for the organization to expand into other countries. Baptiste also mentioned the difficulties of running a project like this. He explained that implementing change in these rural, traditional African communities can be very difficult. But its for this reason that the AVN method is so effective since they use local builders to train other builders, rather than using foreigners to go in to change centuries-old traditions.
Aliza and I thoroughly enjoyed our meeting with Baptiste and wished that we could fly down to Burkina Faso to see the AVN method in action. However, we felt assured that the AVN team is doing everything in their power to create environmentally sustainable homes for the Sahel populations while helping traditional African builders teach the AVN techniques to their local communities. We look forward to seeing more projects form AVN in the near future!
2011/ 12 Construction Season
Masons trained through AVN's program - a program financed in part by your donations, along with other sources - continue to build more and more NV houses, schools, churches, and mosques, in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Senegal. Photos of some examples of recent constructions are included with this report.
AVN at World Economic Forum Meetings in Ethiopia and China
Thomas Granier and Seri Youlou, co-founders of AVN, were selected by the Schwab Foundation to receive the prize of « African Social Entrepreneur of the Year, 2012», at the World Economic Forum for Africa, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, May 9-11. Since its inception in 2000, the Foundation has been identifying the world’s leading social entrepreneurs in over 40 countries around the globe. Social entrepreneurs implement innovative and pragmatic solutions to social problems by tackling the root causes and creating social transformation. As a result of this meeting, Thomas Granier has also been invited to the upcoming meeting of the World Economic Forum in China next month, and will use this as an opportunity to network with Chinese entrepreneurs working in Africa, to convince them to integrate AVN's strategy into their construction projects.
Both these meetings provide amazing opportunities to meet global leaders and media organizations from many sectors concerning African development, and to present AVN as an excellent case of a low-carbon development project to provide housing and empower local communities;
AVN support from French Government Agency
AVN has recently signed a co-financing agreement with the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, and from the French Fund for World Environment (FFEM), with a budget that could go up to 3.5 million euros over the next four years. However, this depends on us finding matching funds of two-thirds of this budget. We need all the help we can get to raise these matching funds, which would enable us to achieve a significant scaling up of our program in West Africa, for the direct benefit of impoverished rural communities.
Many thanks once again for your continuing interest in, and support of, our work.
AVN's model of social entrepreneurship has recently been recognised by three major organisations:
- AVN is one of 18 semi-finalists (out of 122 submissions) for the Buckminster Fuller Challenge 2012; the review team who chose AVN as a semi-finalist said that they were : "... very impressed with the success this project has had creating large-scale, attractive, affordable, culturally and socially appropriate housing using only local skills and materials, and engendering a cascade of positive socio-economic and environmental impacts. This model definitely has the potential to be emulated widely in much of Africa and beyond."
- AVN is winner of a SEED Award: the SEED Initiative identifies and supports promising small scale social and environmental entrepreneurs, and provides them with know- how and networks, as an Award winner, AVN benefited from a SEED sponsored workshop in Burkina Faso, and a chance to network with other winners at a meeting in South Africa, in March
- and, a crowning glory : AVN is winner of the Schwab Foundation 'Social Entrepreneur of the Year' Competition for Africa: Thomas Granier has just returned from the Award Ceremeny, held May 9-11 during the World Economic Forum for Africa in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia.
Burkina Faso and Mali results this season
The construction season in the Sahel (the dry season) runs from September/ October to May / June. As of March 2012, the masons trained through our program have built, or are in the process of completing:
- 81 houses, predominantly for rural families
- 4 community buildings (a church, a mosque, a library, and a health center)
- 6 small hotel rooms and 1 restaurant
- 2 offices
In Burkina Faso, 42% of the constructions came about as a result of direct contacts between an independent NV builder and the client, without any intervention from AVN. This shows that an autonomous, self-sustaining market in NV construction is developing in the regions where NV masons are active. In Mali, this 'autonomization' is happening more slowly (14%), as our program was only launched there three years ago.
New programs in Senegal and Benin
Thomas Granier, CEO of AVN, was recently in Senegal for the launch of a new program in the region of Saint Louis, with sponsorship and field support from the French- Senegalese NGO Le Partenariat, based in Saint Louis. Two extension agents from Le Partenariat – have now completed their induction and training period with AVN in Burkina Faso, and have started on the launch and 'pump-priming' of the AVN program in the District of Podor (home town of the famous musician Baaba Maal). An agreement is about to be signed with the Eiffage Foundation to provide further financial support for this program.
A pilot village project was opened this season in northern Benin, with the German NGO Dassari Benefiz as a franchised partner, with their local project managers trained by AVN.
Recent Sponsors and Investors in Earth Roofs for the Sahel
Confidence continues to be shown in our work; during the last six months, new financial support and sponsorship has come from:
- the Artelia Foundation, and the Abbé Pierre Foundation for our work in Burkina Faso
- the Air Liquide Foundation, and the Lemarchand Foundation for our program in Mali
- the Servir Foundation for a pilot village project in Koubri, Burkina Faso.
NV Masons' Congresses
The 2011/12 construction season kicked off in October with regional masons' congresses in Boromo, Burkina Faso, and in Segou, Mali, as well as a sub-regional seminar in Boromo . The local AVN-Burkina and AVN-Mali teams took part, as well as Thomas Granier, Bruno Jarno (AVN statistician) and representatives of our franchised partners from Benin and Senegal. Work on the first VN building sites started at the same time, but will intensify this month, when farming work tails off. However, this year, the rains have been less than usual, demonstrating yet again the fragility of the environment of the Sahel. This season’s harvest is likely to be reduced, which probably means that construction activity will also be affected.
AVN-Mali Office opens
The new AVN team in Mali has moved into its dedicated office space in the Cultural Centre in Pelengana, Segou.. The Cultural Centre was built by a team of VN masons last year, and is well situated close to the Mairie in Pelengana. The AVN team at present consists of Ismaila Diallo (Assistant Director), Souleymane Koné (Extension Agent), assisted by Francis Tiene, on secondment from the AVN team in Boromo, and Mathieu Hardy, architect and acting Director. A second extension agent will be recruited by the end of the year.
Senegal: Opening of a new AVN Program in the Podor Region
AVN has set up a partnership with the Association "le Partenariat St-Louis Région Nord - PSLR" , which coordinates links between the French Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, and the region of St-Louis in Senegal. Two PSLR members (Bachir Niang et Malyck Sy) went to Burkina Faso in October to take part in the opening congress of the 2011/12 construction season, and to complete their training as AVN extension agents. This new program, in the next few years, will pump-prime the market for NV housing in the Podor region - birthplace of the famous Senegalese musician, Baaba Maal.
New AVN Website
Please check out our stunning new website, at www.new.lavoutenubienne.org : the newly designed site contains more information, images, and videos, and is much easier to navigate than the old one. The English version is now complete, although the French, Spanish, and Arabic ones are still being finalized.
With best wishes to all our supporters for 2012
In September this year, we had a chance to collate the necessary data to provide a review the impacts of the last ten years' work by AVN and its network of masons; the results are very encouraging:
Since the start of the program, 1309 vaults have been built by Nubian vault (NV) masons and entrepreneurs, for 533 clients, in 244 locations (villages, hamlets, towns) in 3 countries (Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal) If all the vaults built were to be placed end-to-end, this would reach a total length of 9.7 km (Note: a standard vault, our unit of measurement, has internal dimensions of 7M long X 3,25 M wide) In total, 214 NV masons have been trained, of whom half are at the foreman and/or entrepreneur level; and there are currently 296 apprentices in training 10,000 people use, live in, or sleep in NV buildings; of the total built, 85% are for private houses, and 15% are community-use buildings. Approximately 18,000 trees, 25,000 tonnes of CO2-equivalent, and approximately 15,000 corrugated iron roofing sheets have been saved as a result of NV construction, as compared to the alternatives Approximately 750,000 Euros of local economic impacts have been generated by the program Since 2000 the program has experienced an average annual growth rate of 36%.
One of the most encouraging findings is that over one-third of the NV construction market is now completely autonomous and self-sustaining: 37% of NV clients are found directly by NV builders / entrepreneurs. Of the remainder, 40% come via a local intermediary or ’champion’, and only 23% via AVN itself. So, in the regions where AVN is active, we are well on the way to a growing and independent market in NV construction, permitting us - with your help - to soon move on and target our resources in new regions.
The attached PDF file contains slides and images highlighting the above findings - feel free to download this and use to help explain to your friends and colleagues the impacts of our work.
PS Some other news - at the last meeting of the General Asembly of AVN, held in Septamber, I was elected President of the Association, with David Sillou, our IT specialist and strategy expert, as Vice-President.
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