Zambian Copperbelt housing projects to use MCR

 Peter Dunckley  

Sister Aggie smiles proudly as she turns to display the first MCR tile produced by her Project. She has volunteered, along with 19 colleagues, to attend a two week training course in MCR Production facilitated by EcoSouth Training Consultant Peter Dunckley.

Her Project has drawn together 50 families from the informal settlement of Kawama, outside the small Copper mining town of Mufulira in Northern Zambia. A Deswos grant enabled the Catholic Diocese of Ndola to organize two Social Housing Projects, one in Kawama and one in Kapishe, 50 km away. Participants have been selected on a non-sectarian basis according to criteria of vulnerability, unemployment, informal sector income below 300 000 Kwatcha/month, good standing in the community and preparedness to undertake voluntary labor in the house construction process.

The grant has enabled members to build a Housing Support Centre, clear land, bring piped water, invest in Hydraform blockmaking machines and MCR production equipment, and will subsidize materials costs for the construction of 50 houses on each of the two sites. Members will pay back the materials subsidies over time to form a revolving fund for ongoing maintenance and more house construction.

As we drive back across the African savannah to Kapisha the full moon is covered by towering rain clouds. Project Co-ordinator, Mr. Lawrence Chimpwen, explains the importance of introducing these low cost technologies. With the depressed Zambian economy dependent on largely foreign owned mining concessions, and most industrial products imported from South Africa, diversification and local economic development are critical to building viable grassroots economies … and to meeting people’s needs for affordable, durable shelter.

The MCR technology must address two needs in these projects, first the need to produce durable roofs for the two clusters of 50 houses … then the need to create livelihoods for project members as their MCR production capacity is commercialized and the projects sell tiles and roofing services to their communities.

Our training program has four objectives : Technology transfer - empowering participants with theoretical and practical competencies to produce quality micro-concrete roof tiles; Operationalizing production capacity – we must leave the two training groups with all the necessary means of production, positioned to commence operational production; Establishing effective competencies at roofing with MCR tiles; and Production and Enterprise management skills transfer – the social organization of production, calculating and projecting raw materials quantities and costs, preparing quotations and marketing the roof tiles and roofing services.

It’s a big day, our work is complete. Kawama participants bus into Kapisha in their Sunday best. The Hall is decorated, chairs and tables set out. Cooks have been hard at work over smoking fires and big pots from the early hours, cool drink crates are piled high. Distinguished guests arrive with reporters and the radio station. Soon a happy throng, headed by the District Commissioner and local government officials, winds its way down the dust road to inspect the housing sites, watches participants do a tiling demonstration on the prototype house, and back to the Hall for block and tilemaking demonstrations. The projects and technologies are described and appreciated in a number of speeches interspersed with small plays animating project issues that draw waves of laughter from the audience. Finally people get down to some serious eating and small talk while reporters stalk their targets.

Then many photographs and sad goodbyes before the Kawama bus pulls away and we gather the last pieces of our lives in Kapisha into bags for the journey home.

You are here: Home Past editions Edition #2, March 2004 Zambian Copperbelt housing projects to use MCR


Pedro Seijo
Professor of Civil Engineering
Spanish, English
Teaching, ecomaterials workshop management, research (municipal waste)


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