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).