Make it Rain in Mabira: Strengthening Forests and their Communities

Posted on October 13th, 2017

Mabira Forest Water Collection

It’s a long walk through the forest to the nearest water source for these two brothers.


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.


Mabira Forest Foliage

‘Mabira’ means ‘forest of forests’ in local Luganda dialect.


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.


Mabira Water Source

Surrounding communities suffer along with the forest, as water becomes increasingly polluted.


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.


Mabira Brick Kilns

Musa is proud to teach a sustainable alternative to these environmentally damaging fired bricks.


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.


Mabira Brick Makers

Until recently, the forest fragment to the right covered the entirety of this degraded wetland.


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.


Mabira Trainee Irene

Irene is one of the new trainees, soon to become experienced in sustainable construction.


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.


Mabira Kikube Primary School

Collecting water is a time-consuming and often dangerous task for the children of Mabira.


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.


You can keep up-to-date with Mabira and the rest of HYT’s work by following us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.









Winners of the Ashden International Award for Sustainable Buildings 2017.

Watch our exciting video, or check out our work at

Kayembe and the Class of 2017

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.


HYT Uganda team building exercise at Kayembe Primary School

HYT doesn’t encourage building houses out of paper, except on interview day, where it is a key team building exercise.


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 Uganda ISSB construction press at Kayembe Primary School

Jenipher has proved to the community that women can play a key role on any construction site!


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.


HYT Uganda plastering and set square at Kayembe Primary School

Moses has a particularly keen eye for detail, and has been leading the way in plastering class at Kayembe.


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.


HYT Uganda outdoor learning at Kayembe Primary School

Learning under the mango tree is not quite so idyllic when it’s pouring down with 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.


HYT Uganda pupils collect water at Kayembe Primary School

It is pupils who lose out on time in the classroom to go and collect water for drinking, cooking and washing.


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.


HYT Uganda sustainable ISSB construction team at Kayembe Primary School

Many thanks to Water Charity for helping to train a fantastic new tank team!