Uganda: Brick by brick, an environmentally-friendly building technique prevents deforestation (UNDP)

| May 9, 2016

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Catherine Nabutsale manages a classroom of 150 students, aged five to eight. She is a primary school teacher in the Sironko district of eastern Uganda, on the slopes of Mount Elgon.

Mrs. Nabutsale is also the chairperson of the Sangaasana Women’s Collective, which has 40 members, including five men and 10 youth. The group started by making crafts and rearing poultry to earn extra income.

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Credit: UNDP

Mrs. Nabutsale says, “It is women who work hard around here to make sure that children can go to school and that we can improve ourselves.”

The group has turned its sights to a new venture that is building up the community and reducing deforestation: unfired bricks. They make the bricks with soil and lime, and then compress them in a machine rather than heating them in a wood-fueled kiln, which reduces the need for fuel.

Mrs. Nabutsale is proud that they are protecting their landscape, rather than having to choose between protecting nature and their livelihoods. Many of the members of the Sangaasana Women’s Collective relied on the forests of Mount Elgon for their livelihoods, but were displaced when the Mount Elgon National Park was created in 1992.

She says, “With this new technology, our forests in the region will be conserved, since these bricks dry without the aid of baking.”

The forest prevents soil erosion, ensures soil fertility, and preserves groundwater supplies in the region.

Joanita Gumonye is a farmer, and a member of the Sangaasana Women’s Collective. She was one of the first members to build an entire home with the new bricks. She is overjoyed because, for 15 years, she lived in a one-bedroom mud house with her husband and seven children.

Soon she will be moving into a new four-bedroom brick house.

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Credit: UNPD

The bricks have an interlocking design of three rectangles, which are offset and pieced together. This design provides stability during construction and requires less cement for mortar. Mrs. Gumonye’s new house used fewer than 5,000 bricks and 10 bags of cement for the foundation and wall supports, costing her less than $550 US. Labour was free, as group members take turns building each other’s homes.

Mrs. Gumonye is excited at the prospect of moving in. She says: “I am happy because this is a dream come true for us, since it would have taken us a lifetime to save and construct such a modern and spacious house. I am so grateful to the group and project for helping us achieve this dream.”

To read the full story on which this article was based, Brick by Brick, go to: