Sustainable Housing for Rural Communities in Mali

by Association la Voute Nubienne (AVN)
AVN Regional Office, Koutiala
AVN Regional Office, Koutiala

Fifteen years on ...

The AVN program, launched in the year 2000, is creating an expanding market for Nubian Vault construction, with an average annual growth rate of around 30% for the numbers of NV masons trained through the program and the numbers of NV buildings and beneficiaries. By 2015, 380 NV masons had been trained, and a further 300 apprentices were in training.

The program is now formally established in five countries (Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Benin, and Ghana), with five national offices and 13 regional teams. In 2015, 55 salaried local staff were employed in these teams, supported by the actions of 120 volunteers (local village 'champions' promoting the NV concept). The main role of these teams is to establish and nurture local autonomous markets in NV construction through awareness raising and promotional activities (the 'kickstart' method), development of partnerships with local organizations, putting NV masons in touch with potential clients, identification of potential apprentices, support and training of NV masons to help them become independent entrepreneurs, monitoring of results, and technical R&D work. By 2015, around one-third of the NV construction market is autonomous, with NV masons finding their own clients without the need for intervention by AVN. 15 NV masons have set up their own NV construction enterprises.

The 2014/15 season has been particularly successful in Mali, with 16 new C4 level mason / entrepreneurs, 17 new C3 artisans, and 58 apprentices reaching the C2 level (passing from simple labourers to learning the basics of vault construction). In total, 119 NV building sites were completed during the season, including many village houses, and several agricultural buildings, schools, and mosques. AVN now employs 15 local staff in its 4 regional offices in Mali, including the very smart new office in Koutiala, close to the frontier with Burkina Faso.

AVN one of six Finalists in the Buckminster Fuller Challenge 2015

AVN has just been announced as a 2015 Finalist in the Buckminster Fuller Challenge, a prestigious annual competition named “Socially-Responsible Design’s Highest Award”. 

Each year, the Buckminster Fuller Institute invites scientists, designers, architects, activists, entrepreneurs, artists and planners from all over the world to submit their innovative solutions to some of humanity's most pressing problems. A $100,000 prize is awarded to support the development and implementation of one outstanding strategy.

Six Finalist proposals, including ours, have been selected out of an entry pool of over 400 applications from 135 countries, and have undergone a rigorous review for adherence to the seven-point Challenge criteria: Visionary, Comprehensive, Ecologically Responsible, Feasible, Verifiable, and Replicable. Our application has been through four rounds of vetting by the members of the Challenge Review Committee, including analysis and evaluation by an interdisciplinary team of experts and advisors.

"Each of these projects deserve the attention of the world for their commitment to 'solving for system' – an approach that takes an unusual degree of insight, patience, tenacity and courage", said Elizabeth Thompson, The Buckminster Fuller Institute's Executive Director. "The teams behind these initiatives have made extraordinary efforts to define the systemic context underlying the problem they are seeking to solve, and have designed strategies that provide enduring and sustainable solutions. Each is a remarkable example of the transformative power of individual initiative and provide much needed hope by demonstrating that solutions to our most entrenched problems are indeed at hand."

After being a semi-finalist in 2012 and 2014, we are delighted to have been chosen among the finalists of this 2015 competition and would like to thank the jury for the honour. We hope to be represented at the final Award ceremony in New York on November 18th. 

 

 

AVN Program deployment 2015
AVN Program deployment 2015
A NV school classroom
A NV school classroom
NV chicken house interior
NV chicken house interior
NV village house
NV village house
NV mosque, Dendjola
NV mosque, Dendjola

Links:

AVN regional office & team, Koutiala
AVN regional office & team, Koutiala

I have just received the results of the 2014/15 season from the AVN office in Mali. Despite the difficult political and economic situation in the country, the AVN-Mali team has achieved some great results.

A 28% growth rate in construction

119 new NV buildings have been constructed, predominantly for clients in rural areas and small urban centres: farmers, tradespeople, local government employees. These buildings are mainly small family houses, but also include barns, hen-houses, and AVN's new regional office in Koutiala (see photos). All this represents a very satisfactory 28% growth rate over the 2013/14 season's results. This brings the cumulative total since our programme started in Mali in 2007 to 436 buildings, for over 5,000 beneficiaries.

A 38% growth rate in training

11 new C4 (foremen) and C5 (entrepreneur) masons have been trained, and 22 apprentices have progressed to the C3 (artisan) level. This brings the cumulative total of NV masons, artisans, and entrepreneurs since the start of the program to 120.

Participation in AVN's training workshops and congresses, held at the national ofice in Segou, has been excellent: 80 NV masons have benefitted from our training modules, including 50 apprentices and 20 masons from the 'modern' construction sector (concrete block walls and corrugated irion roofing), who may well convert to the NV concept!

R&D developments

The new regional office in Koutiala falls within the scope of our R$D program on “Maintenance-free urban NV buildings in Mali”, co-financed by the French Air Liquide foundation. The 9 NV masons working on this site have been trained in the use of cement renders for the external walls, reinforced concrete parapets, and tar coatings on the roofs.

Involvement of a local construction company

The Karim Dembele construction firm in Koutiala is working with AVN on the creation of an artisanal zone of 14 NV's in Koutiala, with financial help from the GERES Association (http://www.geres.eu/en/) . This is a sure sign of the increasing interest being shown in the NV technique by the existing construction sector in Mali.

As always, we are grateful for your continuing interest in our work in Mali, and will continue to keep you up to date on how your support is helping to provide affordable housing in Mali, one of the poorest countries in the world.



South front of new AVN office, Koutiala
South front of new AVN office, Koutiala
Participants at AVN masons
Participants at AVN masons' congress, Segou
Closing session masons
Closing session masons' congress, Segou

Links:

Poster for COP20, Lima
Poster for COP20, Lima

AVN at COP20, Lima, December 2014

AVN was invited to attend the the 20th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP20) to the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), Lima, Peru, Dec 1-12, and was awarded the prestigious Momentum for Change Prize

The Prize was awarded to 12 innovative projects concerned with attenuation of, and adaptation to the effects of climate change. These are distinguished as "Lighthouse Activities", which have developed economic, social, and environmental solutions to the problem. AVN's work has been recognised as of major importance in the  Urban poor category for its success in disseminating the NV concept:

  • the relevance of the NV concept for resolving the urban housing problem

  • an effective  dissemination strategy which has resulted in the emergence and growth of a NV construction market based on trained NV artisans (the offer) and local clienteles (the demand)

  • the replicability of this strategy conceptually, geographically, and through effective partnerships in the field

  • the autonomy and durability of the NV markets leading to an endogenous,  home-grown solution to the housing problem.

The prize was received by Thomas Granier, CEO of AVN, and Cecilia Rinaudo, our Development Director (click here to watch a YouTube video of the ceremony)

AVN was recognised by the UNFCC meeting in Linma for the contribution its Program has made to adapation to and mitigation of the effects of man-made climate change. In effect, since the start of the Program in 2000, NV construction means that, in Mali, Senegal, and Burkina Faso:
- over 4,830 tonnes of CO2-equivalent have been saved, compared to likely alternative construction methods
- over 3,200 trees saved, that would have been needed for tradtional roofing 
- some 28,000 corrugated iron roofing sheets have not been used, making major environmental savings.

If you care about the future of the planet in the face of the challenges created by global warming and climate change, take action and please support our work...every little helps.

AVN receives Momentum for Change Award
AVN receives Momentum for Change Award

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House in Ngolofala, front door
House in Ngolofala, front door

Mathieu Hardy, a young architect specialising in earth construction, has been working with AVN from the end of 2008. Much of his time has been spent in Mali, helping kickstart and develop our programme there. Now that AVN-Mali is fully established with a HQ team in Segou, and three regional offices, all staffed by Malians, his role has become that of a part-time adviser to AVN, helping in particular to develop training materials based on our accumulated experience.

You can see here a selection of great photos that Mathieu has taken of three Nubian Vault village houses in Mali. They demonstrate the simplicity and beauty of the NV concept and the creativity of the masons building them - without any help from architects' plans, computers, or fancy surveyors' equipment! It has truly become a popular vernacular style...

House in Ngolofala, interior1
House in Ngolofala, interior1
House in Ngolofala interior2
House in Ngolofala interior2
House in Dioila
House in Dioila
Vault of house in Dioila
Vault of house in Dioila
House in Nitabogoro, Koutiala, exterior
House in Nitabogoro, Koutiala, exterior
House in Nitabogoro, Koutiala, interior1
House in Nitabogoro, Koutiala, interior1

Links:

Mamarila mosque and villagers, Dendjola zone
Mamarila mosque and villagers, Dendjola zone

A key element in AVN's aim to create a sustainable market in NV construction for the benefit of the trained NV masons and their rural clients is the DPPV strategy – the Deployment of the Program from a Pilot Village. Over a period of 4-5 years, the DPPV strategy should result in the emergence of an autonomous, self-sustaining market for NV hosuing, and AVN support can be transferred to new zones.

We now have confirmation that the DPPV strategy really works! The maps in the attached PDF file show graphically, from 2008 to 2015, the growth of the NV program in an area of 50 km2 around the village of Dendjola. During this 5 year period, from a starting point of zero, 24 independent NV mason entrepreneurs have been trained, and over 70 NV buildings constructed, ranging from small single-vault houses to larger buildings such as mosques and community centers. AVN has now withdrawn support from this zone, as a self-sustaining market in NV housing has developed. The extension agents can now concentrate on opening new zones, with the help of some of the master masons trained in Dendjola, who, in their turn, will recruit and train new apprentices elsewhere.

Overall, the growth rate of the AVN program in Mali has been 20% this season, with 83 NV buildings completed, and 3 under construction. There are now 11 AVN local staff – mainly extension agents promoting the NV concept in new areas - in Mali, in Segou and the two regional centers, Koutiala and Dioilia; plans are afoot to open three more regional centers, the first of which will probably be in San.

Your help – especially the generous donation of £4,000 from Global Giving / Just Giving donors in the UK in 2011 - has played a key role in the Dendjola success story and in the growth of our national program: once more, many thanks from our team in Mali for your ontinuing generosity....

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Organization Information

Association la Voute Nubienne (AVN)

Location: Ganges, N/A - France
Website: http:/​/​www.lavoutenubienne.org
Project Leader:
Tony Kaye
Milton Keynes, United Kingdom

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