Saturday, July 27, 2013

House construction - Rwandan style

We had a chance to help to build a house near Rwamagana.  The basic construction material is bricks made of sun-baked mud.  The bricks are not fired in a kiln.  They are simply mud shaped into rectangular blocks and dried under the sun.  They are surprisingly hard, but as one can imagine, is not very durable, particularly when it rains.  I remember vividly how a dog house made with mud bricks in an orphanage collapsed in the rain, nearly killing the dog Michael.  In this case the mud bricks were purchased and trucked over to our building site.

A cooperative supported by African Enterprises is building a house for a children-headed household.  There are several (7, I believe) brothers and sisters in a family where the parents have passed away.  The children have been scattered and living among relatives.  African Enterprises decided to help them to build a house so that they can live together with the semblance of family life.

Part of the house has already been built when we get there. Some of us help to level the ground around the house.  It is hard work hoeing to remove the dirt and debris that has piled up several feet high around the house.  I know, because I spent more than half an hour helping to level the ground. I was so enthusiastic I almost toppled a banana tree that they wanted to keep.  The villagers laughed but I was embarrassed.

There is no running water.  It has to be trucked in, for building the house and to water the passion fruit field nearby.  The water is poured into a big hole in the ground lined with a canvas.  Then it is carried by hand into another pit where it is mixed with mud to form a rudimentary mortar.  Then the mud bricks are stacked, with a layer of mortar filling the gaps between layers of bricks.

For those who can afford it, a real of cement is plastered over the brick walls, to protect it against the rain.  Most of the houses in the country side are built this way.  Such is the state of rural development in Rwanda.  As for our students, they are exhausted and sore all over.  But they also learn that physical labour can be exhilaratingly satisfying.

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