Sustainable Housing for Rural Families in Africa

by Association la Voute Nubienne (AVN)
Ouily & Diallo with table of cumulative impacts
Ouily & Diallo with table of cumulative impacts


Summary of Overall Results & Impacts

 The 2011/12 construction season has shown a steady growth in the results and impacts of our Program in West Africa (Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, and Mauritania);

  • 2,400 linear metres of vaults built, for 174 new clients

  • 82% of NV projects were for housing (142 out of a total of 174)

  • 62 new localities (villages, hamlets, suburbs...) reached

  • an annual increase of 34% in the number of vaults built

  • 47 new NV masons trained, bringing the cumulative total to 261

  • 91% of new NV construction being in the rural and semi-urban sectors

  • 35% of constructions resulting from direct contact between individual clients and NV masons, without any intervention from AVN – proof of a growing self-sustaining and autonomous market in NV housing.

In total, some 12,000 people now live in and/or use NV buildings, and we estimate that the Program has generated overall economic impacts of approximately 1.2 Million euros (= 1.53 million US$), whilst making carbon savings of approximately 3,200 tonnes of CO2-equivalent, as compared to the alternative traditional or modern construction techniques.

Most of the demand this last season for NV construction has been in Burkina Faso (62%), followed by Mali (25%), and then other West African countries, mainly Senegal (13%). The AVN teams in Burkina Faso and Mali are now headed up by nationals : Boubacar Ouily and Ismaila Diallo, respectively national coordinators for Burkina Faso and Mali.


 A second NV house was built last season in Mauritania (see photo); this beautiful house in the Guidimaka region (Arabic: ), was built by Moussa Kanoute, the first Mauritanian NV apprenticee. It is an imaginative adaptation of the NV technique to local vernacular traditions. Moussa built the house for his family, in their village of Ouloumboni, after only three months training with NV masons from Burkina Faso! For the time being he will be working on NV construction sites in Senegal, before returning to Mauritania as an NV mason.

Any support that you can provide to help us develop an AVN Program in Mauritania, one of the poorest countries in Africa, will be much appreciated....


NV house in Mauritania built by Moussa Kanoute
NV house in Mauritania built by Moussa Kanoute


Completed AVN home.
Completed AVN home.

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! 

New AVN home in use!
New AVN home in use!
NV Literacy Centre, Kodeni village, Burkina Faso
NV Literacy Centre, Kodeni village, Burkina Faso

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.


NV Promotional meeting, Burkina Faso
NV Promotional meeting, Burkina Faso
VN village mosque & community center, Mali
VN village mosque & community center, Mali
NV house, Bambrigouani, Burkina Faso
NV house, Bambrigouani, Burkina Faso
Family in Dendjola, Mali, and their NV house
Family in Dendjola, Mali, and their NV house
Granier with Presidents of Nigeria & Gabon at WEF
Granier with Presidents of Nigeria & Gabon at WEF
AVN team, Boromo, Burkina Faso
AVN team, Boromo, Burkina Faso


AVN promotional meeting , Deguele village, Burkina
AVN promotional meeting , Deguele village, Burkina

International recognition

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.


A VN village classroom, Burkina Faso
A VN village classroom, Burkina Faso
A VN village mosque, Mali
A VN village mosque, Mali


AVN-Mali's offices in Pelengana Cultural Centre

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 : 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

Tony Kaye

The AVN-Mali team
The AVN-Mali team
AVN seminar, Boromo
AVN seminar, Boromo
Masons' congress, Segou, Mali



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Organization Information

Association la Voute Nubienne (AVN)

Location: Ganges, N/A - France
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Tony Kaye
Milton Keynes, n/a United Kingdom
$13,529 raised of $50,000 goal
103 donations
$36,471 to go
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