Edition #7, October 2004

New link: CIUDAD research center

A new link is available as a result of a recent cooperation agreement between two Ecuadorian institutions, Red EcoSur and Ciudad. Ciudad has been active in the area of urban investigation, social projects and sociological investigations for more than 28 years and enjoys national and international prestige. In fact it is an intellectual reference for the country. From time to time EcoSouth will publish certain information directly in this WebSite.
However, the Ciudad Site is always available through www.ciudad.org.ec

Visit to Shelter Forum in Kenya

An EcoSouth consultant recently participated in an evaluation about construction materials in Africa. The goal is to determine what type of materials production could be improved or introduced in order to reduce costs in popular construction in a project of COMESA (Common Market for East and Southern Africa). As part of the activities the team visited Shelter Forum, a member of the BASIN network where they were gracefully received by Michael Arunga in his humble office in an apartment building in Nairobi. He explained the difficulties of their work in responding to the demands of the hundreds of millions that live in the slums of this city. The meeting almost became a mini-BASIN encounter, as a consultant from ITDG also formed part of the team.

Seeds of change: 25 years Grupo Sofonias

ImageBack in 1979 a few cross-cultural visionaries, Latin American and European, formed a small work team to seek ways to confront the permanent social disaster of poverty. The founders of Grupo Sofonias lived off their savings for more than a year until projects were approved.

It was in Nicaragua after the revolutionary war ended in 1979 where the thrust of their work began. At the same time they began to respond to the needs in the Dominican Republic after Hurricane David in 1979.

Certain themes began to emerge and became permanent components of their projects over the year... disaster resistant construction, use of local materials, women´s development, community participation, community oriented micro-projects

Seeds of change
Their Leitmotiv has been  “Small is Beautiful”.  They have learned that through small and simple beginnings a wide-spread impact can be achieved.  Their long-term projects or activities are virtual seeds of change:

Rural school construction program: In Nicaragua where a rural school became the seed for a program that over a period of eight years (1984-1991) built 350 rural classrooms using locally available and locally produced construction materials and with the participation of the communities.

ImageHousing projects: In the Dominican Republic in some 20 communities over more than a decade (1981-1994) where people learned how to build  with locally available and locally produced materials in a manner to resist  recurring hurricanes. A pilot project in one community attracted dozens of villages to ask for similar projects.

Dissemination of micro-concrete roofing tiles: For more than a decade in Latin America where 20 pilots plants (1991) initiated a process that in 2004 revealed some 650 workshops employing more than 3000 people in 12 countries. Annual MCR production in Latin America is around 3,000,000m2, about 50,000 roofs. Accumulated production has resulted in some 350,000 roofs.

The EcoSouth Network for an ecologically and economically sustainable habit grew along with the MCR dissemination process and today is a dynamic South-South forum for interchange about the habit (Spanish/English). EcoSouth experts provide consultancies throughout Latin America and beyond - Africa, Asia, ex-Soviet Union. (1991)

Project centers
ImageOver the years it has had project centers in several countries, currently in Nicaragua and Ecuador, and close partners in Cuba and Namibia and formerly in the Dominican Republic.

SofoNic has a history of projects since 1980 and recent examples include reforestation, housing for the working poor, applied investigation about ecomaterials, secretariat of the EcoSouth Network, post-hurricane reconstruction and urban and rural housing, as well as the sale of recycled bicycles.

The Sofo Ecu Foundation has a history of projects since 1993 and recent examples include rural housing programs, earthquake reconstruction, applied investigation about ecomaterials, and management of the EcoSouth website.

In Cuba, Grupo Sofonias and the EcoSouth Network have cooperation agreements with two university research institutions, CECAT and CIDEM that focus upon ecomaterials research, as well as implement urban housing programs using ecomaterials.

In Namibia Grupo Sofonias has a cooperation agreement with the National Planning Commission and has been involved in the introduction of ecomaterials as well as promotion of imcor-enterprises for ecomaterials in Southern Africa. Since 1996 it has managed the Clay House Project in Otjiwarongo, whose current project of “Squatter Upgrading” is teaching people to build with clay and MCR tiles.

Image

A roof at the source of the Nile

The city of Jinja in Uganda is situated on the shores of Lake Victoria at the place known as the source of the great African River Nile. A technical school almost at the source of the Nile introduced the technology of "Fibre-Concrete Roofing Tiles" (FCR) during the 1980s. We encountered the roof built in 1987 in perfect condition, with tiles of only 6mm thickness. The tiles were produced with sisal fiber prior to the scientific-technical  knowledge that exists today, where this technology no longer requires fiber and is known as "MicroConcrete Roofing Tiles (MCR)".

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Consultants

Kurt RhynerKurt Rhyner
Architect, PhD. Professor
Spanish, English, German, French.
Project conception, analysis of technologies and materials appropriate to the specific situation, financial analysis, executive management, backstopping, evaluations

Humour

Videos

In 2005, SofoNic has started a dual education program for masons in Nicaragua, using its house-building programs as a base. Teaming up with the local technical school in Jinotepe they are graduating about ten masons every year since. Most f them have found jobs in construction or have started a business on their own. SofoNic has contracted several of them as master masons in the reconstruction programs in Haiti.