Posted on February 24th, 2017
As HYT begins its 11th ‘One Village at a Time’ project, it’s fair to say that the organisation has some experience working with different communities here in Uganda. The HYT family now stretches all the way to Kadungulu in Serere district, and therefore boasts an array of vibrant cultures and languages. While celebrating these unique characteristics, the Trust has developed a standard procedure for engaging with communities in order to ensure the best outcomes for inhabitants, schoolchildren and trainees. Here’s how we do it:
Upon arrival in a new neighbourhood, HYT arranges a community meeting in order to introduce the team and explain the organisation’s objective: empowering Ugandan youth to develop local infrastructure using sustainable Interlocking Stabilised Soil Block (ISSB) technology. Community members are encouraged to ask questions and to learn about HYT’s unique methods of building and training. Local participation, whether as trainees, cooks or site helpers is emphasised, as the Trust is committed to providing a hand up, not a handout.
Particularly keen applicants for the training programme make themselves known during this initial meeting, and are encouraged to attend the following interview day. The organisation aims to teach as many people about ISSB technology as possible while ensuring the highest quality training, and looks particularly for individuals capable of good teamwork and solid effort. Many applicants did not manage to finish school due to financial constraints or family commitments. HYT training represents a golden opportunity to learn a new skill and unlock a career path as ISSB masons.
Training commences shortly after interviews. Given the disparate levels of education within each group of trainees, theory is introduced alongside practical exercises. All our trainers and their assistants, such as Johnson, have passed through HYT training in their own communities, and fully understand the joys and challenges of the process.
Joys include daily servings of maize meal. This takes the form of porridge in the mornings and thicker, mashed-potato-like posho with beans at lunch time. Schools provide and prepare these dishes in return for the vital building work that trainees are carrying out. This encourages communities to take ownership of the project by contributing to the construction effort.
Challenges are equally part of the learning process; it is wonderful to see them overcome with hard work and experience. This is most evident at the end of the instruction period, when the trainees’ practical and theoretical skills are assessed. The former involves the construction of ISSB benches, which simultaneously provide teachers and pupils with places to sit around school. Theory is tested via exams which take place in the very classroom blocks that trainees have constructed. The examination process gives HYT the chance to assist those individuals who need further instruction, and to celebrate trainee graduation upon successful completion.
The result: communities are furnished with a set of distinctive, durable and high quality buildings, along with a well-trained team of ISSB masons able to maintain and expand them. Graduates are also encouraged to obtain employment beyond their hometowns, building with ISSB and spreading the technology across the country. In this way, HYT graduates earn a living as they work to alleviate Uganda’s critical housing shortage, all while helping to preserve the country’s dwindling forest through sustainable earth brick technology. You can see some of the marvellous work carried out by both trainees and graduates in our Project Pages and gallery below!
Recent HYT Buildings Gallery
Posted on February 6th, 2017
Kadungulu Secondary School’s new dormitory has been the talk of the town now that HYT and Billington Vocational Training Centre (BVTC) have added a shiny red roof! Eric, Sam and the team have been hard at work training and building, and the project is nearing completion. Let’s find out just what’s been wowing the local community, and how the two organisations are working to improve lives for the people here in Uganda’s Teso region.
With the roofing complete, trainees will soon learn essential finishing techniques such as plastering and painting. In the meantime, however, the durability of Interlocking Stabilised Soil Blocks (ISSB) allows the masons to leave them exposed and begin work on another structure: the water tank. This vital building affords trainees the opportunity to work with the curved block, a key form of compressed earth technology.
Rectangular blocks are great for building classrooms, houses, washrooms and many other structures, but water storage pressure requires round tanks. Fortunately, Makiga Engineering supplies a press for making curved blocks that are perfectly suited to this purpose. The technology has been causing quite a stir here in Kadungulu, where circular architecture is extremely popular. There have already been requests for round ISSB houses!
Though the manually operated press and wide availability of necessary soils make ISSB suitable for use all over Uganda, the technology offers particular benefits within Teso. Not only are people already familiar with round earth structures, but the region also lacks the dense forests of the West. This means fewer trees for firing brick kilns, raising prices and making ISSB a lucrative alternative. Hit hard by the drought currently sweeping Uganda, it is imperative for Teso to save as many trees, and as much rainwater, as possible.
Having a rainwater tank on site not only improves health and sanitation, but provides educational benefits. Without one, students miss lessons in order to collect water from the nearest borehole. With everyone using such facilities during the dry season, queues can become extremely long and delay students further. Our tanks help to tackle both the symptoms and roots of this problem. The water stored helps to shorten queues and keep kids in class, while the bricks help to prevent crippling deforestation.
As well as contributing to global warming through increased carbon emissions, deforestation has been found to affect local rainfall negatively. According to David Ellison from the Institute for World Economics, “evapo-transpiration is a very large component of rain generation”. It’s therefore critical for Teso to conserve its remaining trees, allowing them to store and release life-giving water. HYT’s sun-dried ISSBs enable communities to build structures for harvesting rainwater, without burning the very forests that provide it.
Empowering communities to develop sustainably involves more than just constructing buildings. HYT’s partnership with BVTC covers the training of 10 youths, who can continue to build beyond the Kadungulu project. To aid Sam and Eric in the teaching process, newly appointed HYT assistant trainer Alamanzani has arrived on site. Having first joined the organisation as a trainee at St. Mulumba, Kiseege, he has now progressed to become a fully-fledged teacher of ISSB technology!
The enthusiastic response to HYT’s work in Teso bodes well for the future of ISSB. Environmental conditions, eagerness to experiment and the presence of a highly trained team will all contribute to the proliferation of this innovative technology. We’re extremely grateful to BVTC for their central involvement in the project. With their help, we will bring the practice of sustainable construction to the areas that need it most, improving lives and preserving trees all over Uganda.
 David Ellison, cited in Kate Evans’ ‘Make it Rain: Planting forests could help drought-stricken regions’, Forest News, (July, 2012).