The following is the traditional method of manufacturing bricks in Uganda. Damp earth is dug from the ground and shaped in a mold. Very many of these blocks are then piled up (there can be thousands in one stack). Mud is plastered over the whole surface to help retain the necessary heat. An opening is left at the base so that wood can be inserted in order that the bricks can be fired. This process may take up to 24 hours. Sometimes leaves from the banana plant are placed on top – the idea being that when these catch fire, the bricks are ready to use.
There are several problems with this process. One is that those bricks closest to the heat source are often burnt and those furthest away may be under-fired. It is certainly not a recipe for a consistent quality. Even worse though is the ecological impact on the people and on the land. Wood is important and is still widely used for cooking in Uganda. However this is only part of the story as it is also needed for the construction of homes and schools and of the things that go into them.
All of these uses and the enormous amount of wood needed for the manufacture of bricks leads not only to deforestation, but also to a deterioration of the land and to soil erosion. This is particularly harmful in hilly areas and in food producing regions, especially for uneducated smallholders who have not learned the benefits of soil improvement methods such as manuring and fertilising.
Les Amis d’Ouganda was concerned for all of these reasons, especially as we have already been involved in providing funds for the construction of teachers’ homes, classrooms, a school hall and kitchen. We are also currently in the process of building more classrooms. But there was another cause for concern. Our colleagues were having to purchase and transport a product which was costing them dear and was not always of a high quality.
So …. what could be done about it?
ThE ISSB (Interlocking Stabilized Soil Block) machine is a simple but effective alternative. This “cures” the bricks instead of firing them by means of adding a small amount of concrete to the sub-soil. It is also a cost saving process which produces a more consistent product. On our recent visit to Uganda, we were able to take a look at the machine and to secure the funds necessary for its purchase. We decided that the basic machine, although adequate, would be less valuable for our needs and we opted for the slightly more expensive inter-locking brick version. This has the added advantage of requiring less cement during the construction process.
Our colleagues have now had a full day training course on the use of the machine. Not only will this save money in completing the fourth classroom at Bulumbu which is now under construction, but will provide employment for young men (it does require some strength) who are unable to progress into secondary education. It is also planned to be an asset to the whole village community and could in time become an income generating project for our colleagues.
Sustainable social development… Sustainable future!