Through the eyes of a senior volunteer

Through the eyes of a senior volunteer Since spring of this year, Ali Henzel has been onsite in Otjiwarongo, Namibia, as a senior volunteer at the Clay House Project. Ali´s wide field experience in several African countries and at the headquarters of Werkhof in Darmstadt, Germany is being felt in the administrative and management area of the CHP. From time to time EcoSouth will share his experiences with readers of our e-magazine.

Winter in Otjiwarongo
While temperatures rise in Germany and many complain about the heat, in Namibia winter has arrived. Evening temperatures are just below zero, but during the day when the sun is high its strength is enough to warm the body.

Shortly before six o´clock the skies become light and the Clay House Project construction site begins to fill with women and men, who are still thickly clothed. Close to 100 people come with tools to the site, where more than 50 new clay houses, all with dry toilets, will be built by the end of the year. These people immediately "won my heart" and closeness to them is intensified by my daily visits to the construction site.

Today Ester Shikongo and Abrosius Ruzzo, both foremen in the team of 35 People who are employed by the Clay House Project, are responsible for the work. Abraham, who usually directs the construction site, is currently in the south of the country, almost 800 km away from Otjiwarongo near Keetmanshoop. Together with three other workers from the Clay House Project he is busy building 15 dry toilets within the framework of a European Union program.

voluntario_namibia_001.jpgDuring the long workday Ester and Abrosius struggle to ensure the supply of water necessary to mix the clay, as well as count the clay bricks (that are paid through piecework), and control production quality. The bricks are laid out to dry and piled at the site where the house will be built. The Municipality of Otjiwarongo transported the clay for the bricks, so that it is readily available near the construction site.

Construction will begin in a few days when enough dry clay bricks are available. Meanwhile, the foundations are dug and then filled with clay and stomped, to be ready when the masonry work begins.

According to the size of the family and its income, two different sizes of clay houses are offered. These houses are in the neighborhood of Orwetoweni, one of the poorest areas of Otjiwarongo. A 4-room dwelling costs around Euro 4,000. The houses are financed by Municipality of Otjiwarongo, BMZ, and SODI. An average family of 6 people contributes Euro 676 for the construction of a 48 m2 house, and a further Euro 1,500 for the land (ca 300 m2) and dry toilet is provided as a credit by the Town of Otjiwarongo.

Since mid-May almost 800 families have registered their names for a house. This demonstrates the great need for housing, as well as the growing acceptance and popularity of clay construction.

voluntario_namibia_002.jpgIt is not just the lack of an alternative between a tin hut and a customary cement house that makes the clay house choice easier. A house made of cement blocks is about 70% more expensive.

A pressing national problem is that 75% of Namibians still live in tin huts or other temporary shelter. Permanent financing from the exterior can not be the solution. The Clay House Project team hopes that this great interest in clay construction will provide enough pressure to mitigate the Habitat problem of the poorest members of the population through inclusion in a national housing program.

However, no matter from where the necessary money comes, from abroad or from Namibia itself, the Clay House Project will continue to contribute its part to the housing solution through appropriate technologies.

You are here: Home Past editions Edition 32 - September 2008 Through the eyes of a senior volunteer


Javier GilJavier Gil
Topography Engineer, Spain
Spanish, english, french
Project management, construction, budgeting, training


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