Earthstones „made in The Gambia“ – an elementary „booster“ for the building trade

BANTABA | Mai 2022 | Samuel Gebert

Since The Gambia has had a new government, whose president was re-elected at the end of 2021, the construction industry in the country has been booming. The fact that a few weeks ago the parliament was also newly elected with many young MPs strengthens the confidence of the people in Africa’s smallest country. People want to live and work there again. In a way, this also applies to Gambians in the diaspora: they send money to their families back home … to build. A wise decision, because I can observe a strong upswing in The Gambia – despite „Corona times“.

What is crucial now, however, is HOW construction is done, with what know-how and what quality standard. In the medium term, this will make the difference between the proverbial „African art of improvisation“ and a building substance that will actually retain its value and increase in value in the long term.

A week from today, I will be back in The Gambia for a few months. During this period we will start to build our training centre in Koli Kunda. It will consist of many buildings for different training purposes. We are using this construction phase directly to train young men and women in construction so that they can deliver showcase quality. The aim of this measure is that they no longer have to work at the level of unskilled labourers or henchmen, but can use this knowledge and skill to build a solid professional existence for themselves and their families.

The curricula are different from those in Europe, where training takes three to four years. We will offer a gradual dual training with shorter training units and with a qualified certificate.

The training centre will consist of „African round houses“, which we will build with pressed earth stones.  These earth bricks offer many advantages over the often used clay or concrete bricks. On the one hand, we can find suitable soil in abundance everywhere in The Gambia. In addition, this building material is easy to produce and of good quality: 5% cement and a little water are added to the earth to produce a wide range of differently shaped and permanently stable bricks with a good manual or mechanical earth press.

* Job title: earth block maker. Occupational perspective: Establishment of a locally / regionally effective, artisan-oriented production business.

* Another emerging occupation: bricklayer. Occupational perspective: Skilled worker with the potential to develop into a foreman and master craftsman.

And this is only the beginning … I am very much looking forward to this start !

At the beginning we will borrow the manual presses, because first the trainees need enough time and guidance to internalise the basic processes. This is physically hard work, but a prerequisite for the qualified handling of a mechanised earthstone press. Only when the production process has reached a consistently good quality level and at the same time we can foresee a reasonable demand, we will purchase a mechanical press.

On our new website we will now report regularly on the progress. And of course we are happy about every financial and in kind contribution.

Our first, earmarked donation projects :

  • Funds for the construction of the training centre in Koli Kunda and the training of a first construction team.
  • Funds for the purchase of a mechanical earthstone press to build up a regionally effective, artisanal earthstone production.