Friday, March 16, 2007

Building Bagamoyo

Help Arrives!

Last year BH built homes for two families in need (see Newsletter Dec 2007). Both houses benefited the families greatly, but the building methods needed improvement. I (Terri) did some research on natural building and came across a website created by some people in Canada who build homes using “cob”, which is mud mixed with fiber such as straw. I wrote to natural builder Elke Cole to ask if there was a way that The Baobab Home could use more sustainable building methods. At best I hoped for some email advice and maybe an expressed longing to visit one day and help. Instead, Elke flew to Tanzania with enough donated funds to build a house for a family in need. She even repaired Mama Habibu’s house to prevent water damage.

In October 2006, we were asked by ward leaders to help Mama Rehema and her family- four generations of women and children living in a completely run down house. We teamed Elke up with some great local builders who call themselves the Renovators (more on them soon). Together they used traditional methods with new knowledge added by Elke. The Renovators and Elke exchanged technology and laughter while building a gorgeous, structurally sound house for Mama Rehema and her family. Mama Rehema pitched in and the team taught her how to perform maintenance on her new walls. She is thrilled, grateful and proud about her family’s new dwelling. You can see more of Elke’s work at Elke, thank you for gracing us with your vast knowledge, team spirit and joyful presence!! Karibu Tena! (Welcome Again!)

Building in Bagamoyo

I often describe the state of housing using the story of the Three Little Pigs. The poorest of the poor live in houses of thatch. The vast majority of people live in houses of mud and stick. For most though, the “”goal”’-- the status symbol--is a house of made of cement. Many believe that cement is more modern and therefore ‘’better’’ than dirt as a building material. However, even as early as 1975, the first President of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere said that “The widespread addiction to cement…is a kind of mental paralysis”” He urged Tanzanians to get out of the trap of coveting western ways and to work with what they had and could afford, and what worked for this climate.

Good, sticky soil for building is hard to come by in Bagamoyo because the soil is often sandy. Sometimes cement is helpful as a foundation, however, our goal is to build houses and to teach people to build houses that do not use up natural resources like wood, faster than they can be replenished. Also mud is cooler than cement, much more energy efficient and far more environmentally friendly. Thanks to Elke, we know it is possible to build strong, comfortable houses made predominantly out of mud and clay.

“”Sustainable Construction .”supports human dignity, while minimizing negative impacts on the natural environment- Building Without Borders- Joseph Kennedy

BH Wants to Build MORE!

Hundreds of families are without adequate housing in Bagamoyo. Heavy rain can blow a thatch roof off, erode a mud wall, or create dangerous molds in poorly built houses. If you are interested in joining us here in Tanzania or if you would like to donate the money for a house from afar, please write to us at We would love to tell the next family that we are ready to build again. We can’t build homes for everyone however and we hope in the future to pay the Renovators to teach the techniques to people who can build their own houses.

If you are interested in natural building, we highly recommend that you get a copy of Building Without Borders, edited by Joseph Kennedy. Also check out

1 comment:

plaiche said...

I love what you've done with the place!