Communities Combine: Shared Knowledge Speeds Up Development

As COCO partner rural communities, we’re used to operating in areas well off the beaten track. In rural areas, basic building materials can suffer inflated prices due to the high transport cost and their scarce supply in the area. With this in mind, it is often necessary to be innovative to keep construction costs down.

Last year, COCO supported the Maasai Academy in Olorte, Kenya towards the construction of a kitchen. As the name suggests, the Maasai Academy is located in Maasailand with Olorte happening to be in a particularly remote corner!

The dusty and rocky ground of Olorte doesn’t lend itself to the manufacture of traditional bricks and the difficult roads make transporting bricks from elsewhere a laborious process. Therefore, in order to manufacture a good quality kitchen at reasonable cost, it was necessary to be resourceful.

Olorte walls going up

COCO’s partners in Olorte are Red Tribe, an organisation who are operating within the Maasai community to promote development through education, health and entrepreneurism. When constructing the kitchen at Maasai Academy, Red Tribe trialled a method which involved sewing an old maize sack into three chambers. The two outer chambers were filled with sand, dirt and whatever else was lying around and the middle chamber was left empty to enable the bags to stack together snugly.

The bags were piled high before the structure was plastered. No one would ever know that some old maize sacks had been used in the construction! Each maize sack cost 23 Kenyan Shillings (approximately 16 pence) and the building required 800 sacks giving a total cost of 18,400KES (£128); far cheaper the anticipated cost of using stones in the construction, but equally as sturdy!

Having visited Olorte late in 2014, George Odhiambo, who is coordinating the development of Mercy Primary School in Mbita was taken aback by the simplicity and effectiveness of the technique.

George is now aiming to use the construction technique for a new administration block at Mercy Primary. Last week, George returned to Olorte with two fundis (contractors) to observe the construction of Red Tribe’s new beadwork building, which is being constructed using the same method. The beadwork building will be used for the manufacture of jewellery by the Maasai community, which generates income and will sustain the longer-term development of Olorte.

2015 01 George Mbita LP (3)George explained that the visit was successful; “I was delighted that the fundis learnt the process very fast. They were so mesmerised by the method of
building and agreed that the earth bag building is cost effective and does not require a lot of skilled work.”

“We agreed to have a model similar to the beadwork building in Olorte, which will be cost-effective, simple to construct and will allow us to construct the administration block at Mercy Primary quickly!”

If you wish to see the eco-bricks at Maasai Academy, take part in our Maasai Cycle Challenge, which visits the school en route! Spaces remain for theSeptember 2015 and January 2016 challenges, email brad@coco.org.uk for more details.

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