Better bricks, better futures

By Will Forester. 11/02/2020

In March of 2020, when our worlds seemed to be spinning out of control, we told you about projects we had just completed with the community of Monze, Zambia. These projects were managed in collaboration with Wales-based nonprofit Friends of Monze and local partners Zambia Women and Girls Foundation (ZaWGF). Our team, lead by masons from the Uzima Centre in Mwanza, Tanzania, trained 20 local participants in three of our technologies: rainwater catchment; BioSand Water Filter; and Interlocking Stabilized Soil Block (ISSB). Using two ISSB presses, the entire team learned how to test soil, mix it with cement, and create 400 bricks – an amount that a team of four will be able to make in just one day with one machine.

Single ISSB brick

Why are Interlocking Stabilized Soil Blocks so special?

  • Non-fired (reduces pollution/climate warming) 
  • Sustainable
  • High production volume
  • Mortar is only required at joints
  • Uniform in shape, size, and properties
  • Materials can be sourced locally
  • Machine presses are portable
  • Prevent desertification
  • Less likely to rot
  • Better temperature control

How Schools Get Selected

In Monze, the local Department of Education (DoE) provides ZaWGF with a list of schools that need to be constructed or rebuilt in some way. ZaWGF has built seven schools so far, at least two of which are now connected to Friendly Water for the World rainwater catchments. Once a new school is constructed, both the school building and any teacher houses are handed over to the DoE. The government designs the schools, selects the location in partnership with the community, and makes regular building site inspections.

In April, our Coach in Monze delivered the news that ZaWGF, using the team we had trained earlier in the year, was in the process of pressing bricks for a new school in nearby Mungolo. Mungolo is a small town about 67 kilometers from Monze located on a stony, hilly road without signposts. They’ve never had a purpose-built schoolhouse. Their original building had long since collapsed and most recently the children have been meeting under a large tree.

The school class takes children from six different villages, with the next closest state school more than 12 kilometers away. 

As part of building this new school, the local DoE approved the use of Friendly Water for the World bricks that ZaWGF can now create thanks to our training and the machines you helped provide. Without these new bricks, the schools would be constructed with traditional fired-bricks. And the making of those bricks looks something like this.

Malimba Zambia gathering wood
Malimba Zambia clay-fired brick kiln

The Many Disadvantages Of Clay-Fired Bricks

The kilns pictured here with the little pyramid openings were constructed for a previous school in another local town named Malimba. The wood is cut from local trees and brought by oxcart to fire the kilns. This process of deforestation is helping the Saharan Desert expand 20 kilometers south every year. And with limited canopy cover in the area, we were informed that the local Buildings Officer is particularly concerned about the loss of trees.

These bricks are fired at a clay-pit and then trucked to the site. They are not evenly fired, have disparate properties, and inconsistent shape. Everything that Interlocking Stabilized Soil Bricks are not.

The building of the school in Mungolo took about five months. Once all the bricks were made and cured, masons started building the walls. Soon there were rooms and windows and a brand new roof.

ungolo bricks and foundation
Mungolo mason

This new school in Mungolo will be used to teach children from a community of almost 2,000 people, including 23 boy orphans, 21 girls orphans, and five disabled children. It includes multiple rooms and two teacher houses. Chairs and desks have been delivered. Not only is school in session, but the building also serves as a meeting place for community meetings, and will be another useful site for rainwater catchment tanks.

This is how bricks can become water and a better future for the children and families of Mungolo.

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