Hello dear followers.
We are a little bit behind schedule now as we have struggled a long time with getting the formworks in order for our rammed-earth walls (we will explain later how this actually works). But as we finally got things under control the beginning of this week we have finally produced our first wall sections! We think they look spectacular but we are probably not very impartial :-).
The week has probably been even more intensive as the ones before as we worked almost every day till sunset. Because we still had our experts with us we decided to make the most of their stay. Kwame and Joelle (also check out Hive Earth) have stayed with us for several more days as planned and we are really grateful for that. We have learned a great deal during their stay and it has been a lot of fun. So thank you Kwame and Joelle for being with us! Besides the walls we have almost finished the columns for Module 2. This is very positive because we might be able to start with the roof soon. The welder from the village, Mohammed, will start welding these the next week and we are optimistic he will be able to produce our trusses quickly.
So with work went ahead at full speed this week and the result has been very satisfying. We almost finished 5 load-bearing section which is very good considering the difficulties that faced us during the week. The ramming process is complicated and the especially setting up the formwork is a difficult and exact process. The pressure on the formwork-walls is extreme during the ramming and it is a big challenge to keep it from bending. We have constantly made improvements during this week but we believe we have most issues sorted out now. So next week we start with fresh energy and we hope we can speed things up a bit (no rain please!)
The mixture that we use for these walls is 25 % rough earth, 60 % light earth (sieved), 10 % sand and 5 % cement. Because these walls are load-bearing we decided to add cement for security. We however hope to do without for the other wall-parts as we are experimenting with a locally used substance called rice-husk. This is the shell of a rice-corn that comes off during the cooking process and it is supposed to have a binding effect. It is easily visible in many of the mud-houses in the village and it looks promising that it can serve as a substitute for cement. We will see how the experiments turns out next week.
When the formworks are working the ramming process is actually relatively simple. We mix the earth, sand and cement on the floor and gradually add a little water. Because the mixture needs to have the correct humidity we test it by forming a ball in our hands which should easily stay in form, but if we drop it to the floor from shoulder height, it should nicely breaks apart. If the ball does not break or only slightly, the mixture is to wet. When the mixture is ready we poor about 15-18 cm in the formwork which we then compress to about 10cm. This is done manually with the help of a ramming tool – a large post with a flat and heavy weight at the bottom – and compressing one layer is therefore a serious work out. After having compressed one layer the process is repeated until the wall reaches its desired height. We finish the walls off with a small concrete slab in which we embed a steel-plate which will allow us to fix the roof-trusses later. And that is it. A very strong and heavy wall (same weight as concrete) made with foremost earth and with probably about a third of the amount of cement used for a load-bearing concrete wall.
After waving off quite some people last week this week our team was relatively small. Luckily we have had two new volunteers arriving on Thursday (George (and) Michael ) so we are almost up to full strength again. Today also some Belgium engineers (from the organisation Humasol) arrived and they will help us the next days with some water-management and purification installations for the cafeteria. We are very happy they have had some spare time in their schedule and very grateful they are offering their help free of charge! Thank you Midas, Klaas and Jolien!
Well we have another busy week ahead of us and we really hope we can make up some time this week. Unfortunately we ourselves and some of our volunteers are suffering from some digestive issues so hopefully we will recover soon so we can fully focus on the work at hand this week. Luckily we are eating a bit more diverse now as we have made some changes to our cooking plan. This has already boosted our energy a lot this week and we are finally looking forward to supper again.
Well we hope you all like the pictures and we will try to post as much as possible of them on our social media accounts. So keep checking out our facebook or instagram page.
Greetings from a warm and humid Sang and till next time!
The MUDcafeteria team