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Deforestation and climate change have triggered a housing crisis in West Africa but an ancient technique of earth-building could provide relief to millions
Millions of households in the Sahel region of West Africa live under a growing threat.
Deforestation and climate change have decimated the available supply of wood that is used for traditional roof construction, forcing many to use imported sheet metal.
This is both prohibitively expensive and unsuited to the climate, entrenching poverty and making homes that boil in summer and freeze in winter.
One creative enterprise is reaching back over 3,000 years for a solution, borrowing an architectural technique from the ancient Nubian civilization of latter-day Sudan to offer superior homes at minimal cost.
The NGO La Voute Nubienne (Nubian Vault) is training an army of masons to build homes from the earth, and the ancient innovation is having a profound impact.
The Nubian technique uses bricks and mortar produced from local earth, laid over a foundation of rocks. A home can be produced in 15 days, and the method is versatile enough to produce a range of buildings from mosques to farmhouses.
La Voute Nubienne is working in five West African countries; Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Benin and Ghana, where around 20,000 people now live in the Nubian homes.
“We have proved our concept is viable and works for the population,” says Thomas Granier, a French builder who co-founded the NGO with Burkinabe partner Séri Youlou. “There are half a billion Africans living under corrugated iron roofing and our target is to provide a strong alternative.” […]