Posted on October 13th, 2017
This week marked the beginning of HYT’s latest project, and one of its most exciting yet! The Trust has partnered with Mabira Forest Integrated Community Organisation (MAFICO) and Australian benefactor Bob Sayer, to carry out a project to benefit both the forest and its people.
Spanning over 30,000 ha, and with more than 200 tree species, Mabira is one of the last large blocks of moist semi-deciduous forest in central Uganda. Thanks to its rich array of wildlife, including the endangered Nahan’s partridge, it is classified as an Important Bird Area.
But the forest is under growing pressure from expanding industry, with cash crop cultivation replacing ancient vegetation and polluting waterways. Firewood extraction further impacts local wildlife, and disrupts vital ecosystem services such as water regulation, nutrient cycling and carbon storage.
HYT is introducing Mabira’s forest communities to the Interlocking Stabilised Soil Block (ISSB) which, unlike the widely used burnt brick, cures in the sun without the need for firewood. Local youths are getting to grips with the technology as they learn to build six 10,000 L rainwater harvesting tanks in regional schools. These make use of the forest’s abundant rainfall to give communities easy access to clean water.
The course is led by expert trainer Musa, who passed through the programme himself seven years ago. We joined him on a tour of the area to understand the current situation of its people.
These kilns are used for making Uganda’s principal building material – the burnt brick. This involves firing clay from wetlands, which contributes to widespread degradation and threatens the habitats of species like the sitatunga and vulnerable shoebill.
Each kiln of 10,000 bricks consumes fourteen tonnes of firewood, or three large, mature trees! The brick-makers we met here had sold their entire stack within a week. It is HYT’s mission to transform this lucrative business from an environmental disaster into a sustainable industry.
Last week, unemployed Irene Nakafeero was amused by the possibility of being selected to take part in construction in her village of Kizigo. However, she and two other trainees from the local area will soon become employable, environmentally-friendly builders as they learn alongside experienced HYT masons.
Within a few months of intensive training, the youths of the Mabira Forest region will gain vital skills to benefit both their communities and their environment. The water tanks will allow schools to collect water from regular rainfall, saving long trips to polluted water sources. They will also introduce the forest’s people to low impact building techniques, so that they can develop in harmony with, rather than at the expense of, Mabira forest.
Winners of the Ashden International Award for Sustainable Buildings 2017.
Watch our exciting video, or check out our work at hytuganda.com
Posted on August 28th, 2017
The trainees at Kayembe Primary School, HYT’s 11th community training project, have come a long way from building newspaper structures on interview day. Thanks to the expertise of HYT trainers and the generosity of international partners Water Charity, they have had the chance to practice building both a double classroom block and a rainwater harvesting tank.
Before commencing construction, the trainees were thoroughly versed in the arts of block-making, producing over 8000 interlocking stabilised soil blocks (ISSB). Some of these were cuboid, for the classroom, and some were curved, for the water tank. All of them were made from locally-sourced marram subsoil and cured in the sun, rather than being fired in a kiln using traditional methods.
HYT takes pride in efficient use of resources, and at this foundational stage in their masonry careers, trainees learn the importance of precise, responsible workmanship. Plaster, for example, is only applied to joints like corners and pillars, and tools such as building string, set squares and spirit levels are employed to make sure that they are coated as thinly and accurately as possible.
Of course, the gift of learning is extended by the trainees to the pupils of the school, who will soon be able to use the classroom for their own lessons. An indoor teaching space allows year-round classes free from distractions and the constant threat of rain.
Rain can also be a blessing and, before it can get to the heads and papers of pupils at Kayembe, it will be caught by the 170m2 roof and channelled into the nearby 20,000L water tank. This saves pupils from going to fetch water from the community borehole which, in busy seasons, can consume up to 5 hours of learning time a week.
The tank has also provided a practical training course for the building team, who now possess the skills necessary to produce these unique structures. Following their graduation, they will use their construction expertise to continue building, providing water for the region, food for their families and a new path for development that makes innovative use of, rather than exploiting, Uganda’s environmental heritage.