Malians Build Mud Homes Instead to Protect Vanishing Forests

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Nubian-Style Domed Mud-Brick Home
Mud rock masons build a home with a vaulted Nubian-style roof in the Sahel. REUTERS/UN Climate Change Secretariat

Malian communities are now adopting a new home construction system that is environment-friendly and cost-efficient. Building houses out of mud-bricks would conserve the remaining forest cover and resolve financial worries on saving up for iron roofing materials.  Nubian-styled domed houses that originated from northern Sudan and are now being promoted in other parts of Africa’s Sahel region to provide people better shelters resistant to climate changes.

Using mud to build a single earthen home saves four to five trees from being cut down for timber according to Mamadou Sidibe, one of the owners of the newly-built houses in Massako, Mali. Around 2,432 Nubian vaulted homes have been built without the use of wooden logs. Although the Nubian architecture dates back to the 13th century, Mamadou says that the idea is new to the community. The Association la Voûte Nubienne (AVN) an international non-governmental organisation, advocates building houses using mud bricks and has assisted in training the locals on how to do home construction. The NGO has finished training 328 Nubian Vault masons and continue to teach hundreds more. The objective of this is to develop a sustainable and self-reliant system to resolve problems on affordable and suitable housing. Moussa Diarra, an NGO representative believes that this project would succeed although it would take some time before completion.

Nubian vaulted houses have sturdy walls and provide cool accommodation suited for extreme weather conditions. Occupants have reported reduction in respiratory illnesses associated with climate changes.  In addition to these advantages, construction of these earthen homes is made more efficient with collective labour.  Neighbours help each other in building their homes, and there is increased demand for more homes.  However, building mud brick houses are put off during rainy months and resumes at the end of the wet season.  Areas prone to seasonal floods are also avoided zones for building earthen houses. Currently, there are at least 17, 000 Africans living in Nubian-styled homes.  

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change cited this initiative as an example of the efforts needed to reduce carbon emissions and to create alternatives to withstand the effects of climate variations.  The construction of houses reduced carbon emissions by 4,772 tonnes.  

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