In August, as part of our long term goal for the village and community of Chikolongo, The Mlambe Project started working closely with a group called Ecolodgy, sharing our ideas on sustainable building.
Ecolodgy are a social enterprise organisation based in the Thyolo District. They use a different kind of building technique to the one that we use in Chikolongo; using natural stones of different shapes and sizes to build walls and buildings. These stones are abundant in the area and it is therefore a cost-effective way of using local resources to build for local people.
This connection has enabled The Mlambe Project experts to learn about natural stone building as well as having the opportunity to pass on what they have learned about Earthbag building.
Jamie, our founder and trustee, met them last year and was able to initiate a meeting and exchange of ideas and building skills. This led to a group of the expert builders and the two of our project managers going to the town of Blantyre to be trained on how to build stone walls and about how all stones have a face and a base. The training started in August and three of the experts have stayed in the town to complete their training by the middle of October.
Steven Kambalambe, one of the local project managers for The Mlambe Project, explained: “We are excited at how The Mlambe Project and the skills we are learning will help our community to become independent because we are now beginning to do activities that can bring in income’”
The Mlambe Project experts hope to return to Ecolodgy next year to share their knowledge of Earthbag building. There will be houses constructed using the stone method for foundations and then using Earthbags to complete them, so incorporating both techniques within a building.
As Jamie puts it:
‘’This is all part of the drive towards giving the local workforce skills and the confidence, both to build and also to become self-sufficient and self-run by the locals. This is something Steven and Geoffrey are already making happen.”
For example, Steven and Geoffrey are hoping to start building a school block in Lilongwe with an organisation called Building Malawi who aim to reduce dependency on wood fired bricks to save trees (a large number of which are being cut down at present!)
This is precisely the kind of project The Mlambe Project trustees have had in mind going forward. The local managers and workers will use the skills and techniques the charity has taught them to undertake projects for other organisations to generate income and become a self-sustaining enterprise.
As a project, we are aiming to build up the skill set of our Mlambe Project experts, and enable them to have things to offer as well as Earthbag building. This will develop the experts as individuals and also develop the team’s overall knowledge bank of alternative building techniques, giving us a broader scope of work in the future.
It’s also about furthering our relationship with local partners. As an organisation, we believe that having collaborative relationships with other NGOs is more effective than working in isolation, and something we hope to do increasingly in the future!