Into Africa: NGO helps vulnerable local communities build eco-houses

PCPM worker, Kasia Szalbot (pictured) says that half of the inhabitants of Burkina Faso in West Africa survive on one dollar a day or less. PCPM

A Polish NGO is building 60 eco homes in West Africa to teach locals how to create resilient housing and improve living conditions for the most vulnerable in the region.

Working under the government-funded “Polish Aid” scheme, 30 professionals from the Polish Centre for International Aid (PCPM) started building sustainable housing for families in Burkina Faso, West Africa, on October 15th.

The designs use Nubian roof technology, which means the homes can withstand heavy rainfall and will be better suited than the previous corrugated iron versions used in the country. 

PCPM's Monika Nowacka told TFN: “The Nubian vaults are entirely built from organic bricks and mortar, without using timber either for shuttering or in the structure of the buildings. 

“This technique of building not only is aesthetic, it is also extremely resistant to the elements.”

Following building standards approved by the local government, each house will be adapted to the economic situation of the country. 

The planned 25 sq m homes will also include a bedroom and living room for families, Nowacka added.

The project is co-financed by the Polish development cooperation programme, and is implemented by PCPM in partnership with the Association la Voute Nubienne (AVN), and the Federation Nationale des Groupements Naam (FNGN).PCPM

To ensure the huts last years, not months, the project uses local, sustainable materials, that will also help drive down emissions.

“There is no need to transport any building materials for the homes, bricks are dried in the sun, not baked in a kiln and it doesn’t not use wood in any form, which helps reduce the rate of deforestation.” Nowacka told TFN.

Traditionally, clay, brick and corrugated iron roofs were used to build basic accommodation in the region. 

However, that didn’t meet the needs of the Burkina people. In the winter hammering rainfall caused homes to break, while in the summer the iron roof would trap heat within the house, bringing temperatures inside to near boiling point. 

The materials used for building are local, sustainable and resilient. 30 professional bricklayers will train 120 others on how to build the homes so the initiative can expand. PCPM

As a result, many families are forced to sleep outside their broken homes, submerging citizens into deeper poverty.  

With a population of 20 million people, 77 percent of the Burkina population don’t have the basic hygiene and security living standards set by the UN. 

Having to endure poverty, military unrest and terrorism, the former French colony is a hotbed of frustration and hunger. Young civilians are threatened by marginalization, involvement in criminal activity or Islamist radicalization. 

Many decide on a long trip through North Africa, and then a dangerous cruise through the Mediterranean to reach salvation in Europe. Many do not make the journey. 

Most of the building sites have been up and running since October 15th. The houses are scheduled to be completed by December 31, 2018.PCPM

To combat this, Polish Aid spearhead projects to empower the younger generation of Burkina Faso to improve their living conditions. 

“We want to provide a roof over the heads of the poorest families, create new jobs, and raise the professional qualifications of young people,” Nowacka explained.

Projected to be completed on December 31st 2018, Polish funding for the project is hoped to induce a ripple effect in the country. 

The eco social housing project alone has created jobs for 30 local builders which has in turn given an opportunity for 120 trainees to learn how to construct resilient houses in a sustainable way.

The houses are scheduled to be completed by December 31, 2018.