Sustainable Housing for Rural Families in Africa

by Association la Voute Nubienne (AVN)
Khady Ly, Ndiame Fall & Fanny Dupuis
Khady Ly, Ndiame Fall & Fanny Dupuis

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.


Inauguaration of the literacy center, Thialma
Inauguaration of the literacy center, Thialma
Construction of literacy center
Construction of literacy center
Completed literacy center
Completed literacy center
Mosque, Guege Wourou
Mosque, Guege Wourou
2 storey house in construction, Thies
2 storey house in construction, Thies
2 vault house in construction, Thies
2 vault house in construction, Thies
NV house with pebbles incorporated in bricks
NV house with pebbles incorporated in bricks


New AVN office in Dedougou
New AVN office in Dedougou

Mid-season results

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.

Meeting with Dedougou district chief and AVN staff
Meeting with Dedougou district chief and AVN staff
New AVN office in Yaco, Burkina Faso
New AVN office in Yaco, Burkina Faso
Mayor launches AVN construction site, Nebba
Mayor launches AVN construction site, Nebba


Participants at the AVN Womens
Participants at the AVN Womens' Workshop

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.


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!

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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
$13,795 raised of $50,000 goal
111 donations
$36,205 to go
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