Earth building, in this case with rammed earth, in such a remote place was the only option for this project. Espungabeira is a small town on the Mozambique border with Zimbabwe. It was from here that Michel Lafon, a French linguist running a women’s literacy program took me to the most remote site I have ever worked on. The challenge was to make rammed earth accessible to an area of forest where the project Land Rover could penetrate only in the dry season. Remote and extremely poor with only the traditional ‘pole and dagga’ or wattle and daub technology affordable, the project to house granary equipment for the local farmers required something sturdier. So I assembled basic timber shutters and end stops, bolts and two simple blockouts for window and door openings. This was tried and tested technology but forming arched openings which could be easily copied gave me some pause for thought. Finally I picked up a torn truck tire with a 1m diametre and 300mm depth, which we cut in half for the arched door opening. So we loaded the Land Rover and set off down the Buzi Valley, passing the shattered remains of bridges destroyed in various wars and countless ruined tanks, army trucks and bulldozers until we turned off the road and into the forest. We followed a footpath, close but not too close for fear of mines, until we reached the site. The sandy mica soil was mixed with a small proportion of termite hill and hand rammed into the formwork. A building quickly emerged under the expert tutelage of Nhamo Chasakara, whom I took with me and who could speak the local Ndau language. He later told me that following the Cyclone which hit Mozambique the roof sheets on the building were ‘bent like bananas’, but otherwise the building was undamaged.
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©2007 Rowland Keable