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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