An environmentally friendly building technology saving trees in Sironko district

Joanita Gumonye with some of her children stand in front of their new house built with the unbaked bricks. On the right side is their old house.

Joanita Gumonye, a peasant farmer in Sironko district is over joyed by the opportunity to have a new house, for fifteen years, she has been living in a one bedroom mud house with her husband and seven children.

In a few months’ time however, she’ll be moving into a four bedroom house which she’s been building with the help of her group, the Sangansana Women’s group.

Found in Bumanza ‘B’ town council, Sironko district, this group is not unlike many other such groups that bring rural women together to save some money to help them address their immediate and sometimes long term needs. What sets this particular group apart is their innovative way of reducing deforestation and indiscriminate cutting of trees on private land through promotion of unbaked bricks technology.

Key Highlights

  • The Sangansana Women’s group has 30 members, five of whom are men. Most of the members were displaced from the Mount Elgon area and adapted the technology as a way of saving their environment.
  • The unbaked bricks technology is environmentally friendly and does not use wood to burn bricks biomass. The technology is also economical as it requires very little cement for construction and easy to access as it uses locally available materials.
  • The EBA project’s aim is to use promote community initiatives such as these that promote resilience and reduce vulnerabilities in a rapidly changing climate.

This technology is environmentally friendly and does not use wood to burn bricks biomass. It is also economical as it requires very little cement for construction and easy to access as it uses locally available materials.

The group’s thirty members, five of them men took up the idea of using the technology after many of its members were displaced from the Mount Elgon National Park area where they derived much of their livelihoods harvesting forest products like poles, firewood, bamboo and timber which they used to build their houses, firewood as well as rich source of food.

After being displaced, they could no longer access these forest products as restricted access was enforced by Uganda Wildlife Authority, hence the idea to look for a quick and viable alternative. The unbaked bricks using mud and sand came in handy since the raw materials are easily accessible from their environment, all they needed to buy was lime to dry the bricks.

Now the group is using the technology to put up houses for group members, Joanita is one of the first three members who will initially benefit from her group’s technology.

“I am happy because this is a dream come true for us since it would have taken us a life time to save and construct such a modern and spacious house. I am so grateful to the group and project for helping us achieve this dream,” Joanita says.

Using less than 5,000 bricks and 10 bags of cement for building the foundation and the ring beam, Joanita adds that she has spent less than two million out of her savings from petty trade and subsistence farming to put up the four bedroom house. The labour for putting up the house was free of charge as group members were the ones doing the construction.

"My family and I will be comfortably settled in the new house by the end of the year,” Joanita says of the house which is left with plastering, fixing doors and windows before they can move in.

Although her husband, a subsistence farmer is not a member of the group, he too played a big role of supporting her to actively participate in the group’s activities which increased the family’s chance to get a new house.

Due to their environment saving environment initiative, the Ecosystem Based Adaptation (EBA) project decided to support the group in 2012. The project gave the group 13, 940, 000UGX to enable them repair their machine, which had broken down and also raise awareness in their communities on it use and the importance of sustainably managing their forest resources through promotion of the Unfired bricks technology.

Re-energised from the funding, the group then started construction of three model houses including Joanita’s. The group also plans to roll out the technology to individuals and institutions who are interested in it.

“With this new technology, our forests in the region will be conserved since these bricks dry without the aid of baking compared to the ordinary ones which need firewood for baking before they can be used,” Catherine Nabutsale, the Chairperson Sangasana Women’s group says.

The technology aims at reducing the consumption of biomass fuels most of which are extracted from the Mount Elgon protected area, this then would buffer the effects of population pressure on their land and entire eco-system which is crucial to their livelihoods.

Additionally, the technology is also cost friendly in terms of since members need less bricks and less cement for the construction and most of all no trees are cut down to burn any bricks.

As the demand for the bricks goes high, the group hopes to buy a motorized brick making machine from the savings they will make from hiring out the machine and selling bricks.

Initiatives such as these are part of the four year EBA project’s aims at strengthening the capacities of Uganda to promote ecosystem-based adaptation which promote resilience and to reduce the vulnerabilities of the communities in a rapidly changing climate. It is focusing on the mountain Elgon region in the districts of Sironko, Kween, Bulambuli and Kapchorwa.

The EBA project is being implemented by the Ministry of Water and Environment in partnership with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). It is funded by the German Government through the International Climate Initiative of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMUB).

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