Democratic Republic of Congo: Cooler houses with bamboo roofs (Syfia Grands Lacs)

| June 20, 2011

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Lemba is a small town in the west part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. One part of the town has earned the name madiadiMadiadi means bamboo in the local dialect. Many houses in this part of town have bamboo roofs.

Bamboo roofs began appearing in Lemba and other villages in Bas-Congo province in the last few years.

Roger Buanga is from the village of Patu, near Boma, the second largest city in the province. He describes these houses as “A breath of fresh air.” Bamboo roofs are less expensive than the metal sheets commonly used for roofing. It can be suffocatingly hot inside a house with a metal roof. But houses with bamboo roofs stay cool inside.

Bamboo is common in this forested region, and provides an inexpensive alternative to hot and stuffy houses. Noella Poba lives in a house with a bamboo roof. She says, “Nature gives us everything. People who buy tin roofs are just losing their money.”

But environmentalists fear that bamboo’s growing popularity will result in huge quantities being cut. They urge people to use bamboo responsibly. Bamboo roots hold the soil and help prevent soil erosion. Anderson Mavungu represents the provincial Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Tourism. He advises, “We have to stop the unregulated and uncontrolled cutting [of bamboo] if we are to avoid a catastrophe later.”

Despite these warnings, bamboo roofs are replacing straw roofs. Straw roofs provide cool housing, but often leak unless well-maintained or replaced. It is now possible to find small brick houses with bamboo roofs. These are effective at keeping inhabitants cool and dry. Barnabé Pembele lives in the village of Mvululu, near Kasangulu. He says, “Since I discovered this idea, I got rid of my straw house that leaked when it rained. Now I sleep peacefully.”

Building a bamboo roof is similar to building a tiled roof. Edmond Kimpioka built a large house with a bamboo roof. He says, “We start by cutting bamboo from the forest. The poles are then dried in the sun until they lose their green colour.”

Once the poles are dry, each pole is cut in half lengthwise. One row of bamboo poles is laid with the hollow part facing upwards. Other poles are placed lengthwise on top, hollow side down, so that the top poles rest in the hollows of the bottom poles. The poles thus interlink to make the roof waterproof. The whole construction is bound together with ropes, and is very solid.

Villagers who live in houses built in this fashion say they do not need ceilings, unlike houses with tin roofs. They are happy with the cool bamboo roofs provided by nature.