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close this bookBASIN - News No. 14 - August 1997 : Bridging Gaps through Cooperation (BASIN-GTZ-SKAT, 1997, 35 p.)
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BASIN-news is the international newsletter of BASIN, the Building Advisory Service and Information Network. BASIN-News is edited by GATE, Germany, SKAT, Switzerland, IT, U.K., CRATerre, France and SHELTER FORUM, Kenya. Publisher and Corresponding address for general issues:

Swiss Centre for Development
Cooperation in
Technology and Management
Vadianstrasse 42
CH-9000 St. Gallen, Switzerland
Telephone: +41 (0)71 228 54 54
Telefax: +41 (0)71 228 54 55

Production: SKAT
Layout: M. L
Printed by: Niedermann AG, CH
Number of copies: 2000
Cover Photo: A block press machine in operation in Asia, by Shelter Forum

The views expressed in BASINnews and in the advertisements are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publisher.

Helping south build south

Although it is often hyped that we live in a global village, the divides between the North and South remain more than geographical. The different ways in which we perceive the world, make decisions, measure our impacts, conceive co-operator and development imply much more than mere geographical distribution of the world's population. A classic illustration of this imbalance is evident in the information flows and technology transfers from north to south.

There is, however, the felt need that processes must evolve local experience and know edge in order to assure bigger benefits, stronger impact and wider replicability. This premise, that learning from one's achievements and mistakes is invaluable for progress, provides the basis for south-south collaboration

Obviously, south-south cooperation cannot, on its own, replace the traditions ways of transfer of know edge. It does, however, add a new d mansion to the learning process where peers stimulate exchange of information and borrow experiences amongst themselves, and then build on them.

This issue of BASINNews seeks to enhance this learning process. By focusing on development cooperation, BASIN seeks to provoke mutual debate with the aim of injecting fresh perspectives on know-how transfer. This underscores BASIN's conviction that development collaboration between southern countries is a central strategy for sustainable development

Cleary, there is a lot that the south can learn from the south: an understanding of the diverse socio-political systems; transfer of locally-based solutions to solve common problems; lessons from projects; experience of experts; a wealth of indigenous know edge; contacts for diverse products and processes, and innovative information-sharing and survival strategies

Likewise, the north can earn much from the south: a fresh thinking on social systems; innovative perspectives and solutions to similar problems; outreach channels for wider information/experience sharing and know edge transfer; and, lessons from application of new and indigenous knowledge and skills.

The importance of what the south can gain from the north should not be understated. This includes experience and expertise in solving problems; new knowledge and skills that can be appropriated to local conditions; relevant outputs from centres of technology development and research; new communication methods; and, useful sources of information, goodwill and assistance.

This issue of BASINNews explores these various dimensions of collaboration within the building and construction sector, and examines the nature, extent and benefits of the exchanges.

Rationale for collaboration in technology transfers

The building and construction materials industry in many developing countries is characterized by two extreme scales of operation. At one end is the vast number of small-scale and micro-scale enterprises (often family-based operations) producing a significant share of the total output of the industry, in a highly dispersed manner. For instance, in Sri Lanka, small-scale enterprises produce and supply more than 35 per cent by value of the total building materials used in the country. In China, 80 per cent of building materials (including bricks, tiles, fly-ash, sand and stone) as well as 64 per cent of the cement are produced by the small-scale sector.

At the other end are the large-scale mechanized, and sometimes automated, plants producing cement, bricks, burnt-clay tiles, sanitary wares etc. mostly set up through bilateral aid programmes and operating under state enterprises.

With some notable exceptions (e.g China and India), developing countries have failed to stimulate an indigenous supply of technologies that can replace or upgrade traditional technologies in the building-materials industry. This lack of innovation in the indigenous process is not surprising when one considers that the overwhelming bulk of technological development over the years has been restricted to only a few countries in the West and in Japan.

In the building-material industry specifically, two factors have combined to make the process of innovation slower than in other productive sectors. First, the bulk of the industry operates through the small-scale sector which has little capacity in terms of capital or skill to invest in innovation or on imported technologies. In contrast, the large scale-industries continue to operate with the state-of-the-art and have little motivation to innovate. Even so, attempts to adapt imported technologies have met with little success, mainly because of their "packaged" nature. Many of these technologies are too rigid to take account of specific institutional, technical, geographic, economic and social considerations.

In spite of the long-term benefits of indigenous innovation in building up local technological capacity, for most developing countries technology transfer hold the key to successful technology development in the building-materials industry. Transfer of the wide range of appropriate technologies in the international market to small-scale enterprises can be a cost-efficient means of upgrading the technological capacity of these industries by short-circuiting an otherwise lengthy evolutionary process.

However, most developing countries lack the domestic capacity to select, acquire and adapt imported technologies to their advantage and, finally, ensure their effective diffusion in the domestic industry. Such capacity can be built only with the concerted efforts of government, the industry and the professional bodies in the country, together with the support of the international community.

Surplus of cheap labour and the scattered nature of raw material deposits usually favour labour-intensive, small-scale production methods rather than capital-intensive-and, hence, import-inters-industries. However, developing countries are replete with industries using large-scale technologies for the production of bricks, tiles, cement etc. and which continue to operate below capacity because of the lack of sustained demand, importation of spares, transportation problems, etc.

Even when small-scale technologies are acquired, problems open arise during the early stage of operation for reason such as process incompatibility with locally available raw materials, and failure of the output to offer a clear price advantage over other established products in the market, among others. For example, the lime-pozzolana project sponsored by OXFAM and executed by SIDO in the United Republic of Tanzania ran into difficulties as the prices advantage of its product over Portland cement was only marginal, even though its technical performance was consistent with the original project specifications.

Similarly, use of FOR technology ran into trouble in many African countries. Charging a battery in order to operate a vibrator may seem a simple operation but is almost insurmountable to a small-scale producer in remote areas.

The inability of many developing countries to make a deliberate choice in acquiring new technologies has often led to the transfer of inappropriate technologies, some already obsolete in their countries of origin because of strict pollution control legislation. Recent acquisition of such technologies is retrogressive for developing countries as their eventual replacement by 'cleaner' technologies would prove to be too costly and slow the industrialization process of these emerging economies.

In the brick industry, for example, there exist numerous examples where modern tunnel kilns have been imported to service scattered and volatile local markets that could be best served by a small-scale. Bull's trench kiln constructed mostly with local factor inputs. Fortunately, these experiences have not gone far beyond the transfer of isolated production facilities where their viability under new conditions was questioned within a short time. Problems associated with such transfers can be directly traced to inadequate evaluation of the technology prior to transfer.

The following four cases of technology transfer, from Rwanda, Benin, Togo and Tanzania, discuss experiences that could have been avoided through better information collection and assessment, a careful technology-selection process and the provision of incentives to the domestic industry for technology mastery.

Mashyuza Cement Plant in Rwanda

As part of an industrial decentralization policy, Rwanda's Mashyuza Cement Plant, a State owned enterprise built in the 1980s with a loan from China, was located far from its markets. The site, relatively close to a dam, could have been advantageous, however, had an energy-efficient, "dry" cement-making process using hydroelectric power been chosen. The choice of technique was left to technicians from the loan-giving country, who designed, constructed and managed the plant

The "wet" process they chose relies heavily on oil imported through the port of Mombasa, Kenya, and trucked overland into Rwanda. With production at 64 per cent of capacity in 1985, imported fuel oil accounted for 52 per cent of production costs Although the Chinese are well known for effectively transferring technology, a lack of qualified staff at all levels meant that a year aver start-up, 80 Chinese technicians were still being employed in the plant - one for every four Rwandans.

Onigbolo Cement Plant in Benin

By appointing a supervisory board of 12, six each from the two participating countries, Nigeria and Benin, the evolution of the Onigbolo Cement Plant in Benin gave the appearance of intensive local participation. But because civil servants are transferred frequently - no less than 33 officers had represented Nigeria on the Board over a seven year period - some attended only one meeting each before moving on.

The ability to accumulate knowledge was thus considerably diminished in the planning stage and as it turned out in the design and construction phase as well since local engineers were not hired until the plant was nearly completed. Despite its supervisory powers, few of the Board members had experience in this sector. As a result, insufficient testing of local inputs was not corrected during the planning phase and only when production began was the high water content of local limestone discovered. The cost of grinding wet stones and drying the raw meal to meet product specifications has seriously affected production costs. Higher financing charges have also increased total costs. These resulted from a failure to secure project funding prior to undertaking negotiations with the various contractors who would be involved in the project. Instead, each contractor brought in its preferred financing institution, leading to multiple negotiations and harder financial terms. Costs also rose because the project was not completed on time and the contract contained provisions indexing costs to inflation in Belgium and Denmark. Lastly, additional costs were incurred because at the moment of takeover, only 30 per cent of the facilities had been fully tested.

CIMAO Joint Venture in Togo

CIMAO, a Word Bank-funded Cote d'Ivoire-Togo-Ghana joint venture located in Togo begun operators in 1980. Three years later, production costs were still almost twice those projected in the feasibility study. As a result, the price of clinker imported from CIMAO and sold in Cote d'lvoire was 74 per cent over that of clinker imported from Europe. CIMAO can be considered to have been ill-conceived from the outset. The feasibility study prepared by the project's promoter was based on exaggerated expectations of rising clinker prices, despite the fact that excess capacity in Europe has kept clinker prices low since firms in the industry export only a smalI percentage of their output and tend to use marginal pricing for exports This drives international clinker prices down and makes it increasingly difficult for plants in relatively high-cost regions like French-speaking West Africa to compete. To offset this difficult competitive environment special attention must be paid to the choice of technique and the training needed to bring costs down aver start-up. This was certainly not the case here. To the contrary, the plant was over designed by its engineers who chose expensive technical solutions. Investment cost thus rose as did the firm's debt Although use of a coals red plant had been suggested at the outset, the plant was designed to use electricity produced from imported fuel oil. The low sulphur content of this fuel, the use of siliceous sand and the frequent power shortages due to a scarcity of foreign exchange, resulted in the need for frequent rebricking. This in turn led to low capacity utilization and higher unit costs In April 1984 the CIMAO pant was shut down, truncating an industrialization venture that had neither generated backward linkages to the extraction and processing of local raw materials; contributed to the build of indigenous technological capabilities in a smalI least developed country, nor promoted intra-regional trade.


Government-to-government aid project

In Tanzania two large-scale brickwork’s were established in the early 1980s, one near Dar es Salaam, and the second near Dodoma. The first of these projects was the Kisarawe project at Dar es Salaam, constructed in 1979 The installed capacity of this plant is 20 million bricks per year. It was established with Bulgarian assistance, and uses a tunnel kiln, the most sophisticated and capital-intensive brick making technology. The original estimated cost of the project was Tsh 47 million, but this had escalated to Tsh 119 million by the time the plant was completed in 1985. Since commissioning in 1986, its capacity utilization has been about 27 per cent.

The Kisarawe brickwork’s is not an isolated case Another large-scale brickwork’s using sophisticated imported technology is currently being competed in Arusha, this time with financial assistance from Democratic People's Republic of Korea. It is producing a brick of different dimension to that which is familiar to builder in Tanzania. The cost of this brickwork has also escalated by a factor of more than 5 since the original estimate, creating another huge debt burden for Tanzania, before any bricks have been produced.

A part from the waste of scarce foreign exchange involved, large scale project of this sort can serious y distort the market for bricks, because public construction projects are put under pressure to purchase from these parastatal rather than supporting more economically efficient small-scale producer.

Role of promotion agencies

With some notable exceptions, industrial promotion agencies in developing countries, particularly those promoting small-scale industries, have so far played a very limited role in supporting small entrepreneurs in selecting new technologies In part, this is due to the lack of technical staff in these agencies, but more importantly, the weak linkage of these agencies with research institutions and other consul fancy facilities are open responsible for the present situation. Similarly, financial institutions in developing countries can do much more than their current level of involvement in assisting entrepreneurs with financial analysis of investment projects involving transfer of new technologies

Technology diffusion through the flow of information usually takes different routes such as information dissemination among research institutions through technical journals, research bulletins, specific networking arrangements with regions and by the exchange of technical personae on study tours. Such a flow of information is also common between research institutions in developing countries and certain industries in developed countries interested in marketing their technologies to developing countries

Notwithstanding the obvious advantages of such information flows to the recipients, the practical benefits of such technology diffusion are omen since what is usually transferred in the process is general industrial know-how and, to an extent, product related technology (e.g. product specifications, product operation, product quality standards etc.), rather than process related technology (details of tooling, line planning and balancing, production flow etc.) Further, such information is likely to be biased towards the source and often fails to present viable alternatives of interest to the entrepreneur.

The Information Transfer Agent: An Asian Approach

"Technonet Asia" is a typical example for another approach to technology transfer and adaption. National member organizations have a strong small and medium-scale industrial function and a national industrial policy role. They cooperate in the transfer of indigenous technology through:

· making available to one another industrial and technical information on products and processes developed and available in their respective countries;

· identifying technology seeds and technology needs for eventual facilitation of transfer or sharing of results;

· developing effective coordination and liaison with local institutions concerned with the development of small-and medium sized industries as well as with local sources of technical information and expertise.

Technonet has been fulfilling a significant function as technological broker and an agent for South-South cooperation. The limited geographical coverage of the organization and the limited scale of the operations may be considered its most significant drawback

Technology Transfer Through Purchase of Equipment

Many projects lead to an immediate increase in industrial production capacity rather than a significant development of endogenous technological capacity which, over time, can change the former. The limited knowledge and skills transfers that usually accompany the importation of packaged product on facilities mostly relate to the operation and maintenance of the equipment and little knowledge, skill or experience required to adjust or upgrade time are transferred in the process. In the absence of capacity to manipulate technology and to bring about incremental technical improvements, the initially imported production systems open remain technically stagnant with progressive decline in production efficiency

In the case of small-scale technologies, however, the importation of equipment has proved to be an effective means for building up a local technological capacity in developing countries. Even when such transfers involved packaged technology, the available ski is and infrastructural facilities have open made it possible to unpackage the technology and to adapt it to suit local conditions. This has generally led to a gradual accumulation of local technological capacity that has often diffused beyond the immediate environment of the recipient industry. The transfer of FCR tile technology through the sale of complete workstations has led to the commercialization of this technology in over 70 countries with nearly 80 per cent sold in Africa. An important factor that contributed to its successful diffusion is the scale and level of sophistication of the FCR technology that, a though not locally available earlier, was with in the grasp of local technological capacity and this capacity was further enhanced by the process of acquisition.

Technological vs production capacity

An analysis of technology transfer in the cement industry of Jordan shows:

a) The industry has remained dependent on foreign supplies for most substantive technological activities in investment projects. This has persisted over 30 years and through seven major investment project;

b) Efforts to implement changes to improve the production efficiency of p ants has been very minor, infrequent, and concentrated in recent years.

c) Operational off efficiency (as measured by simple labour productivity) has declined over the 30 year period

d) For one project, management had attempted to "unpackage" technology supply (using 40 different suppliers) This has been a disastrous and costly failure, inducing management to return to totally "packaged': turn-key projects

Another case in go at s the attempt by Egypt to introduce new technology to modernize the brick industry. Egypt has followed two different approaches n this area: One resting totally on "packaged" turn-key plant imports, the other involving totally independent p an design and equipment production. During the review of these two experiences in the Joint ECWA/FSTD Workshop, it was suggested that an intermediate approach might offer the preferred solution - one involving both import and local supply of technology, with the proportion of the latter rising through time. This, however, would require coherent and consistent government policy. The problem is that some parts of the Government might have interests in total technology imports while other parts might have interests in building autonomous technological capacities. Such conflicting interests, need to be reconciled before a coherent strategy for technology acquisition and technological development could be formulated let alone implemented.

Diffusion of Technology in Domestic Industries

In many ways, the process of diffusion of an imported technology is a crucial determinant of the ultimate success of technology transfer to the domestic Industry. Successful diffusion leads to improvements in the product on capacity of the particular industry to which the technology has been transferred and, more importantly, it leads to strengthening of endogenous technological capacity industry-wide, the extent of diffusion depending on a number of factors including the existing institutions infrastructure and the horizontal mobility of acquired skills. The diffusion process is usually made up of two stages:

a) the tailoring of the imported technology to suit local needs and capacity, usually known as the adaptation process; and

b) the absorption of the newly acquired technology by the industry, which in effect, involves further industry-wide transfer of the technology from the initial recipient enterprise or institutional.

Adaption process

The need for adaption may arise principal y from two considerations: demand-s de and supply-side constraints. On the demand-side, the existing market size and its dispersed character may ca for sealing down the acquired technology to conform with a viable production volume. This is quite common in the brick-making industry where imported continuous brick kiln technology is required to be scaled down to suit the specific market sized in developing countries. Adaptation may also be required to reduce production costs by lowering capita-output ratio of a technology through substitution of certain imported components of production equipment with locally manufactured items. The FCR technology imported from the United Kingdom has been successfully adapted and equipment cost lowered in some African countries by substituting electrically-powered vibrators in the tile-making kit by locally developed manually-powered ones and by replacing vacuum-formed plastic moulds with local variations using both concrete and glass fibre.

On the supply side, adaptation of imported technologies can often make them labour-intensive or downgrade the requirement of skills even though these may be associated with some lowering of the quality of products within limits of acceptability in domestic markets. Adaptation may also be required to use an imported technology with locally available low-grade raw materials or with locally available fuels. The experience of transferring Indian technologies for building materials production to African countries has shown that labour capital ratios of such technologies should be adjusted to suit higher labour costs (open due to lower labour productivity) in the majority of African countries. Similarly, most of these technologies, which use coal in India, require to be modified to use firewood or alternative fuels.

Similar adaptation to vertical-shot lime kilns and mini-cement plants have been required in transferring these technologies from India to the Islamic Republic of Iran, a country well-endowed with liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons.

The importance of the adaption process in endogenous technological capacity-building derives from the fact that it interfaces imported technologies with domestic research and development institutions as well as local design and engineering constancy agencies. The first step in adaption is the desegregation or "unpackaging" of an imported technology which essentially means breaking down a production process into constituent components such as basic process patents, basic designs, detailed engineering and specific engineering of the technology mix.

Performance standards

Performance standards also serve as an effective vehicle for the diffusion of newly acquired technologies in the local industry. For example, in China, the availability of graded performance standards for cement has been an important factor in the rapid diffusion of mini-cement technology in the country. The role of standardization in consolidating the gains from technology transfer is, however, yet to be fully recognized by domestic building materials industries and governments in many developing countries. This has often favoured the tendency of importing packaged technologies with little regards to their suitability under local conditions of applications.

It is instructive to compare the diffusion of small-scale cement plants in China with that in India. In China, small-scale cement plants have made a significant contribution to total cement production is ace the 1950s. These are mostly plants based, as in India, on vertical-shaft kilns, typically with an output of 30 to 100 tons per day By 1965, 200 such plants were producing 34 per cent of China's total output; another decade later the number of plants had proliferated to over 2800, producing 57 per cent of China's total output By 1983 more than 4800 plants were producing over 75 per cent of the tote of more than 81 million tons. Thus cement production per capita in China in 1983 was nearly twice that in India Since the output of the large-scale industry in China was actually less than that n India, the improved output is entirely the result of the better achievement of the small-scale sector.

There are two principal reasons for the success of small-scale cement production in China. The first is due to the active policy of decentralization and rural industrialization pursued by the Chinese Government throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

The second reason for the success of small-scale cement production in China compared with India relates to performance standards. In India al cement, whether produced by the large-scale sector or mini-cement plants, has to satisfy the single India standard of Portland cement.

In China, by contrast, there is a range of standards according to the application of the cement. For important structures like highway bridges and high-rise building, standards equivalent to those of the industrialized countries prevail. But the proportion of the total cement production needed for these applications is a very small fraction of the total, and can be met by the large-scale sector. For application such as rural housing and agricultural infrastructure, a lower standard of cement is perfectly acceptable, and the Chinese standard specify six different grades of intended application. This provides the opportunity for the output of the small-scale rural plant to be used to these local applications without unnecessary concern about achieving the standard of the large-scale plants. Undoubtedly diffusion of the small-scale plants in China was assisted by the liberal attitude to product performance standards, while that in India was inhibited by more rigid one.

Recent efforts in a number of African countries have sought to increase the supply of good-quality burnt-clay bricks by means of transferring and diffusing new or improved brick making technologies. Three different levels of intervention can be distinguished. In a number of cases brick works have been acquired through government-to-government aid packages, and these have been set up as parastatal organizations. International appropriate technology organizations have also been active in this field, usually concentrating on smaller levels of output, and less sophisticated technologies. The private sector, also, both nationally and Internationally, has been to some extent involved n technology transfer and diffusion.

A fourth, and equally important, method of diffusion exists, through the operation of the informal sector. Clusters of informal sector brickmakers exist in several parts of Africa, such as a round the major towns in Zambia and Zimbabwe, in Botswana, and in the Western Region of Kenya for example. Little is however known about the informal sector in brick making and its methods of technology diffusion.


The thrust of this article is extracted from a report on the 'Development of National Technological Capacity for Production of Indigenous Building Materials' by the UNCHS (Habitat)

By Elijah Agevi, Shelter Forum


1 "Transfer and development of technology in the least developed countries: an assessment of major policy issues" (UNCTAD/ITP/TEC12), a report prepared by the UNCTAD secretarial in cooperation with Lynn Krieger Mytelka, Carleton University, Ottawa, and LAREA/CEREM, Universite de Paris-X, August 1990.

2. M.S.S. El-Namaki, "Developing and promoting technology and technical skills in small-scale rural manufacturing enterprises" in Small-scale Forest Based Processing Enterprises, FAO Forestry Paper 79 (Rome 1987)

3. Final Report of the joint ECWA FSSTD Workshop on Strategic Problems involved in Importing Technology for Industrial Investments, Baghdad, Iraq, 2-24 October 1983.

Regional cooperation in technology transfer and capacity building

The primary objective of promoting the development of cost-effective construction technologies is to provide affordable shelter to millions of rural and urban poor in developing countries. Past experience has shown that imported, capital-intensive building materials production facilities and related construction technologies have not been always cost-effective and appropriate to the prevailing situations in many developing countries, particularly in the sub-Saharan African countries.

Whereas certain isolated achievements in cost-effective technologies have been registered in some developing countries, they have hardly found wide-scale adoption in neighbouring countries or in countries of the same region. Facilitating regional cooperation with the purpose of transferring appropriate technologies from country to country is, therefore, vital for attaining adequate capacity in the construction sector at the regional level

Beyond technology importation

One of the ma n reasons for lack of expansion of capacity in the construction sector for shelter delivery in many developing countries is the dependence on imported capital-intensive technologies. The initial cost of acquiring such technologies is often so prohibitive that the opportunities for capacity expansion for the bulk of low-income house-builders tend to be limited.

Even where the imported technologies are affordable, experience has shown that there is hardly any local capacity for their effective operation and maintenance. The consequences of these gaps in technology acquisition is that the bulk of low-income communities remains isolated and cannot attain adequate capacity for meeting their construction needs.

By their very nature, most of the imported technologies for building material production (particularly those imported from industrialized countries) are large-scale and are set up in urban areas. These large-scale plants, even though satisfying (to some extent) the needs of construction activities in their proximity, are unable to meet the huge demand of building materials of rural and urban low-income population

However, there are certain types of technology transfer mechanisms based on regional cooperation which, if systematically adopted, could have a positive impact in the building industry in developing countries. A fundamental requirement for effective transfer of technology is that technology to be supplied should be consistent with the level of technological development of the recipient country. In other words, the recipient country should have adequate absorptive capacity to be able to diffuse the technology and strengthen its existing technological capacities.

A long-term strategy for an effective transfer of technology should, therefore, go beyond the importation of the viable technologies: the target should be for the assistance to be provided by technology exporting country to the recipient country to systematically develop national capacity towards self-sufficiency in a specific technology. This can be best achieved if, both the supplier and the recipient of a technology are from the same region and as such have comparable social, cultural, economic and geographical characteristics.

Key policy guidelines

In formulating any meaningful policy and strategy for the promotion of cost-effective technologies through transfers, and capacity building in the construction sector, the following issues may be taken into consideration:

· An effective mechanism needs to be established to foster flow of information on different technological options available in various countries of a region;

· Support should be provided to local work force for their training needs in the application of imported technologies;

· Criteria should be developed to evaluate the existing levels of technological development so that the absorptive capacities of recipient countries could be assessed objectively;

· A local agency should be established to oversee and enforce the established criteria for the effective process of technology transfer;

· Strategies for mobilizing resources, including bilateral and international assistance, should be established to support the local initiatives for transfer and absorption of technologies;

· Incentives and institutional support should be provided to small-scale enterprises for setting up viable and environmentally sound construction-reated businesses;

· Exportation of popular and proven low-cost technologies to countries in the region should be encouraged;

· Regional /subregional standards and codes - where applicable - for low-cost construction sector should be developed to avoid repetitive nations endeavor.

Role of networking

Networking is an important strategy for promoting regional cooperation, especially, in the areas where physical resources and expertise are scarce. Networks have catalytic roles for strengthening the capabilities of member institutions and for institutionalizing contacts among professionals to exchange information on technological and scientific innovations.

One of the most important advantages of the networking approach is its cost-effectiveness. In fact, networks are able to create a link between institutions to enhance their individual and collective performance with modest financial inputs. An important requirement, however, is the existence of a good communication link in the geographical area covered by the network. Where such links are guaranteed, a network can prove to be a mode of regional cooperation with encouraging positive cost-benefit results.

Another advantage of networking is that if some member institutions are better endowed with expertise and facilities, they may become a source of inspiration and technology transfer to less fortunate members.

These institutions may turn to be centres of excellence which could help improve the performance of other member institutions.

More so, networks have the flexibility to tailor the volume and intensity of programme activities to the resources available to the network. The frequency of staff exchange, on-the-job training and organization of workshops etc., for example, can be increased where funding is favourable and decreased under budgetary constraints.

Furthermore, since the institutions are spread geographically worldwide, it is relatively easy to arrange joint research and training activities, based on networking arrangements, on a subregional or regional basis. Thus, a network could play a crucial role in fostering south-south cooperation and strengthening national technological capacity through such cooperation.

Operational strategies for networking

One of the best tried and accepted modalities for establishing a network is through the involvement of an international organization. International involvement in the initial stages of the establishment of a network is particularly advantageous, as it provides the best links and can facilitate providing the initial funding for the activities of the network activities (at least for a reasonable period).

From a socio-political point of view, the presence of an international body in the activities of a network could also help in supporting the process of technology transfer and could safeguard/protect the interests of the recipient countries. However, readiness and commitment of the participating countries for cooperation is a pre-requisite to successful achievement of a networks' goals, without which any effort by national, regional and international bodies would remain obsolete and meaningless.

Network of African Countries on Local Building Materials and Technologies

As part of efforts to support the initiatives of countries in the African region to develop local building-materials industries, the UNCHS (Habitat), in collaboration with the Commonwealth Science Council (CSC), established a Network of African Countries on Local Building Materials and Technologies in 1985 During the first four years, the Network, in addition to facilitating the flow and exchange of technological information, organized national workshops in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi aimed at supporting these countries in formulating standards and specifications for local building materials.

In 1989, a regional workshop organized in Kenya disseminated the experiences and achievements of these workshops and established a framework for other participating countries to replicate adopted methodologies and approaches in the formulation of standards and specifications. These efforts made it possible to convince policy and decision-makers in other African countries to take effective measures to develop new standards and specifications - thus contributing towards the improvement of the productivity and quality of locally-produced materials such as fibre-concrete roofing, stabilized-soil-block technology, lime and other types of binding materials.

Another regional workshop, organized in Kenya in 1993, reaffirmed the activities and achievements of the Network and recommended that, while sustaining and expanding its current activities, the Network should strengthen its role n field operations with a view to facilitating more regional cooperation and transfer of technology.

The objective of the Network is to strengthen local technological capacity through information flow, regional cooperation and to facilitate transfer of technology in low-cost budding-materials sector in African countries.

Pursuant to its overall objective, and as part of its efforts to promote the exchange and flow of information, the Network has been publishing a biannual journal since 1989. It disseminates a wide range of information on research activities, production technologies and case studies on issues re event to the mandate of the Network. The aim of the Journal is to provide a channel for information that could be of use to professionals, researchers and technicians as well as policy-makers It s a medium for information exchange and a facilitator for the acquisition of suitable technologies and know-how by needy countries.

Each issue is devoted to a specific element of the low-cost building-materials sector, such as walling materials, roofing, or cementitious materials Moreover, one article in every issue covers policy issues and information materials related to the objectives of the Network, the Journal is currently circulated to all interested parties within the African region and other parts of the world free of charge.

The Journal welcomes information or articles on low-cost innovations in building-materials technology. Information in the form of technical, research and policy papers, illustrations, news items and announcements of events can be sent from individuals or institutions in the private or public sector, from within or outside the African region.

Participation in the Network is through expression of interest to UNCHS (Habitat) by a Government or non-governmental organization from the African region and is free of charge.

This enables a participating country or institution to receive publications of the Network free of charge and enjoy the privilege of being involved in Network activities, particularly forums for information exchange. Expediency requires that each participating country nominates a national coordinating institution Such an institution can be a university, polytechnic, a research and development organization, a promotional and regulatory body or government ministry.

Current participating countries are: Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Correspondence relating to application for membership, contributing to the activities of the Network or to its Journal and/or subscribing to the Journal may be addressed to:

Chief, Building and Infrastructure Technology
Research and Development Division
The Coordinator of the Network

UNCHS (Habitat)
PO. Box 30030
Nairobi, Kenya

Tel: 254-2-623906/623039,
Fax: 254-2-624265
E-Mail: <>

By Baris Der-Petrossian
Building and Infrastructure Technology
Section, Research and Development
Division, UNCHS (Habitat),
Nairobi, Kenya.

The views and opinions expressed in this paper do not necessarily reflect those of UNCHS (Habitat).

To adapt or adopt: lessons in technology transfer


The concept of technology transfer is of late being regarded less favourably, especially amongst the donor community whose expectations have in many cases been lowered.

Most attempts were made to transfer technology from North to the South, although there have also been a number of South-South projects. Spontaneous technology transfers across national boundaries in the south, and without the direct or indirect intervention of international organizations, are scarce. Nevertheless, there do exist specific instances of technologies that have been transferred successfully to or between the South.

Global information exchange is important to ensure that knowledge is disseminated. However, it is often not sufficient just to know that a particular technology exists. Equally important is an understanding of the local socio-economic and cultural contexts Lack of awareness of these factors, rather than failure of the technology itself, has often been the main reason for failure of some projects with somewhat blinkered technology transfer objectives.

Case studies of successful examples contribute to the learning experience to ensure that mistakes are not repeated and that successful components are identified and built on. Examples from various different technical areas also help to draw out common threads in the approach and to highlight parallels.

Access to credit might be an important constraint, whether for a self-help builder, a building materials producer or a small-scale food processor. Similarly, the high cost or unavailability of suitable fuel might be the biggest single problem faced by a small potter or a small-scale lime producer. Local production of equipment, whether for rural transport or for making building materials, may also be entirely appropriate in one area and not in another, depending on the skills, capacities and markets available.

This article draws lessons from the successful transfer of oil seed press technology from India to Zimbabwe. It discusses how technology transfers within the building and construction sector in the south can extend from this experience

Who should be involved; why?

Just as there is demand for housing (hence building materials) worldwide, there exists a very large market for oil from pressed seed, particularly for cooking and some industrial applications. Numerous oil presses have been developed, ranging from simple manual to very large-scale industrial types.

In Zimbabwe, cooking oil is important for preparing staple foods. Production used to be carried out using small manual presses which yielded a low quality product and with limited application only in rural areas. Four large-scale, industrial producers served the urban markets. There was no intermediate scale production at all, although there was considerable interest.

Clearly, there was also an opportunity, but neither the private sector, Government ministries nor NGOs and cooperatives had taken up the initiative. This might have been due to:

· Iack of awareness of a market opportunity;

· Iack of information on cases of successful intermediate level production elsewhere;

· difficulties in importing equipment from another country in the South;

· Iack of suitably trained and competent producers at the intermediate level;

· inadequate access to credit;

· the risk factor;

· inadequate technical support;

· the influence of vested interests on markets;

· the difficult transformative phase in introducing a new technology. This involves getting the technology accepted and developing the necessary local skills to run it, trouble-shooting, optimising performance, etc., all before the venture breaks even.

However, most of these difficulties could be surmounted by intervention of an external agency with good international links and the capacity to go through with the initial development phase. This was the entry point for Intermediate Technology (IT).

Transferring the technology

During the initial phase, a number of different intermediate scale oil pressing mills from various parts of the world were evaluated on cost, technical specifications and supplier track record. At a cost of US$ 6,000, the Tinytech plant from India was considered to offer the most advantages.

After initially piloting the operation of the mill with a Zimbabwean NGO working with farmer's cooperatives, it was decided to run a trial with a small number of entrepreneurs in rural areas. The aim was to fully under stand the implications involved in operating the Tinytech plant in a commercial environment and to test market the sunflower oil in rural areas.

The trials revealed the need for some technical modifications to be made to the plant itself. These were fed back to the Indian manufacturer who incorporated the modifications into the presses to be supplied to the African market. Four entrepreneurs were chosen and importation of the Indian technology was arranged.

Since Tinytech was a new technology to Zimbabwe, there were significant risks involved. For example, the expected yield might not be obtained, the machinery may develop mechanical complications or the market might be smaller than anticipated. Intermediate Technology was prepared to carry such risks, rather than expecting the entrepreneurs to do so.

When to withdraw

Although two of the four enterprises failed, largely as a result of lack of management know-how rather than through problems with the mill or with markets, the other two have been successful Economic studies indicated that operation of Tinytech could be viable, even if a bank loan was needed to buy a mill.

The next step, therefore, was the dissemination of Tinytech to rural enterprises throughout Zimbabwe. The dissemination phase required other local organizations to undertake certain specific activities. These included machine procurement (since no suitable import agent could be found in the commercial sector); testing, installation and commissioning; technical and business management training; technical support; marketing the technology (for example at agricultural shows); and, other assistance such as help in securing bank loans.

An evaluation carried out five years into the project established that there were 21 Tinytech oil milIs existing in Zimbabwe. A single plant was run by about 10 fur-time staff and a smaller number of part timers, but it was a so contributing indirectly to employment generation among oil sellers and oil bottle recyclers. However, the market for oil seed cake for animal feed had not taken off, nor had markets for alternative uses of the oil such as soapmaking. Producers who could supply these diversified markets would increase profits and make their operation more secure It was concluded that a though there were some opportunities to establish additions plants, the market demand for cooking oil in rural areas was largely being met.

Intermediate Technology has considerably reduced support to producers and potential producers in the confidence that the technology is viable and firmly established.

Lessons learnt and relevance to other technologies and regions

Intervention by an external agency was undoubtedly a key factor in determining the success in disseminating the Tinytech technology is Zimbabwe Close monitoring of the implementation of the project helped to identify and surmount constraining factors before they developed into serious probems.

Particulary significant was the regular contact established with the Indian manufacturer on panning, procurement and technical modifications. A medium-sized equipment manufacturer from India would probably have made less impact with its product without collaboration with an intermediary with experience and Formation of conditions in Zimbabwe. There are, in fact, very few instances of successful south-south technical transfers purely through the commercial route.

Where a support or development organisation has intervened, the likelihood of successful technology transfer is increased.

Moreover, for sustainability, the project needs to have clear and significant development objectives rather than be purely about technology transfer. Such objectives could include employment generation, contributions to the meeting of basic needs, poverty alleviation, environments beneficiation, reduced vulnerability, education, health improvement, benefits to women, diversifying options and information dissemination. The Tinytech project was formulated very much in terms of development needs and opportunities rather than purely on a technology transfer basis.

A summary of the factors that affected dissemination of the technology is outlined below;

Factors for success

· Intervention by an international development agency or NGO with local knowledge and international links able to determine local market potential and identify suitable equipment internationally, as well as to carry the risk of failure and to provide extensive support services.

· A market niche for the product in areas not adequately served by other producers

· Identification of a suitable production technology appropriate to potential producer aspirations and product needs.

· Adaptability of the technology to local conditions, including use of locally available raw materials.

· Technical reliability and ease of maintenance.

· Thorough training of potential entrepreneurs during the dissemination phase.

· Extensive marketing and promotion

· Acceptable quality of the product

· Affordable costs, significantly cheaper than competing products.

· Willingness of the technology originators to participate in the transfer process and learn from it

· The carrying out a thorough economic feasibility study beforehand.

· Low cost per workplace compared with other technologies

· Secure livelihoods for the new technology owners and employees, and increased employment opportunities for others, including those benefitting indirectly from the transfer.


· Limited access to available capita for small producers to buy equipment and start production

· Market size, particularly constrained by the large-scale industrial producers

· Acquiring sufficient technical knowledge and business skill. Even with extensive training, it was not always possible to ensure that these skills have been successfully transferred together with the technology.

· Inadequate raw material, severely affects the project's viability, especially if its supply is affected by natural calamities.

· Withdrawal of external support usually creates a vacuum with decreased opportunities for new producers. This limits the pace of dissemination.

· Inadequate support to develop other products from the by-products in order to enhance incomes and profits. For example, oil seed cake, soap from oil wastes, printing ink products from the seed shells and alternative oil products.

· Macro economic factors, such as structural adjustment programmed, create barriers to enterprise development especially due to constraints on access to credit and foreign exchange.

Lessons learned in the building context

There is little doubt that the Tinytech project can be considered a success in development terms. However, it does need to be queried whether if sunflower oil was only one of a number of cooking products on the market, rather than the principal one, the project might have achieved the impact it did.

Within the building and construction sector there is the option to use a variety of building materials or methods, and the choice is often made less on economic grounds than on factors such as status, appearance and a perception by users of fitness for purpose. It could be therefore more difficult to achieve the sustainable introduction of a building material or building process within a particular area compared with a process such as Tinytech.

Marketing of materials or processes and associated activities, such as the introduction of relevant standards and specifications, would probate y be of greater importance than disseminating the purely technical aspects of materials and building techniques.

Undoubtedly Tinytech was successful in Zimbabwe because its development there did not involve products or processes which were complete y new. Sunflower oil was already being produced, although using different levels of technology than those being developed. Additional y, existing skills within rural areas were adaptable to operating the Tinytech plant.

Therefore, it is likely that, for example, where bricks, roofing times or lime are already being produced the possibilities of improved production technologies being successfully adapted from other areas are far greater than where these materials are not being produced at all.

A well-researched discrete input, such as piloting a particular type of production equipment, by a development or support agency, rather than some form of more diffuse support, may also be vital in achieving successful dissemination of a technology.

By Otto Ruskulis, ITDG

Lessons in technology transfer: a case study of the vertical shaft brick kiln

An interesting, though less-known, historical fact is that the Vertical Shad Brick Kiln (VSBK) is among the impacts of the Cultural Revolution in China. The "Great Leap Forward', as the socio-political reforms became known, emptied cities of their teeming millions and sent them to the rural an leas to work on farms or to labour on large construction sites.

The resulting mass migration precipitated a huge demand for fired bricks to service the increasing need for housing This led to the development of the VSBK technology, described as a continuous updraught kiln. No one had tried to fire bricks in this way before. The first prototype was built in 1958.

The Chinese used this technology for many years until a project was started at the Henan Academy of Sciences in Zhengzbou to study the operation and efficiency of the VSBK. The study recommended an optimum height and firing shad, and added a chimney to the kiln. An improved design of the kiln based on the recommendations was finalised in 1988.

Since then there has been a widespread dissemination of the technology in China. The number of kilns in operation has increased dramatically throughout China, especially since the liberation of the economy which replaced collective farming with individual lease tenure on land. Estimates by engineers at the Energy Research Institute in Pecan indicate that there are currently about 50,000 VSBK-units operating in China.

The skills required to build and run the technology have also improved as the VSBK is specially designed for small-scale production (4,000 to 7,500 bricks per 24 hours). More so, landowners do not need a large space to locate the kilns and it is now possible to find as many as 40 operational kilns in one small village.


The unique design of the VSBK combines the simplicity and low-construction cost of an intermittent updraught kiln with the energy savings associated with continuous firing kilns It uses low-grade coal fines and has an energy efficiency and ow brick wastage comparable to that of a high technology tunnel kiln.

Within a roofed and buttressed rectangular support building are one to two we l-insulated firing shafts, square or rectangular in sect on. The shafts are open at the top and bottom and lined with one layer of firebricks in the hot firing zone in the mode of the shaft. At the base of each shad is an arched unloading tunnel which runs through the centre of the kiln. It allows access to both sides of the base of the firing shaft and contains the brick support and unloading equipment.

The kiln operation is very similar to that of a vertical shaft lime kiln, with coal and bricks being loaded at the top. Fired bricks and a small amount of ash is unloaded at the bottom (see figure 1), one batch approximately every hour, using a chain pulley system, or a screw unloading mechanism.

Apart from the skill required to prepare the "green" (raw) bricks, special skills are required when putting up the kiln and to keep a check on the firing zone mid-shaft during operation of the VSBK. The quantity and quality of the coal fines and the condition of the green bricks determine the speed of firing.

During initial firing operation, a wood fire is lit among the bricks at the bottom of the shaft. After the fire is established, during continuous operation, the draught of air which moves up from the bottom cools the fired bricks and itself gets heated Maximum temperatures between 960°C and 990°C are attained n the central firing zone. The hot gases moving upward dry and heat up the green bricks which move down the shad batch by batch. The firing temperature is controlled by the amount of coal fines spread in the space between loaded green bricks n each batch.

The energy efficiency of the VSBK is essentially due to this intensive use of genes ated heat values. Energy savings of between 30% and 60% are achieved, considerably more efficient than the brick clamps traditionally used in the villages and the conventional Bu l's Trench K Ins (BTKs) which are common near larger towns.

It is not surprising, therefore, that this kiln technology should arouse considerable interest in countries outside China with a tradition of fired clay brick production and availability of coal as an energy source.

Unfortunately, successful transfer of the technology through Chinese expertise has been constrained by poor planning in the replication process. In some cases, the international donor organizations and beneficiaries involved did not undertake thorough feasibility and market studies, and analysis before the first kilns were erected for test firing. The transfer periods involving Chinese expertise and training among the users/owners were also too short. Furthermore, no clear and future oriented strategies were developed to disseminate the technology beyond the testing sites in the respective countries.


The first VSBK outside China was put up and tested in Nepal in 1991. A local brick-producer involved in the technology transfer successfully operated the test units on his own for about a year and even put up a four shahed kiln. There was, however, no clear programme for further dissemination of the technology on expiry of the external financing period. Beset by ownership quarrels and lack of official support, the kilns have since been dismantled and the transfer dispute moved before a local court.


Pakistan is Asia's leading producer of bricks per head of population. The VSBK was introduced in the country with external funding in 1993 to "replace" Bull's trench kilns, predominantly used for large-scale brick-firing in Pakistan. While the VSBK in its present design is only suited for small-scale production, a single BTK is capable of producing between 7,000 to 28,000 bricks per day, depending on the size and configuration. The VSBK was therefore unable to pose any match for the BTKs since construction costs were higher for the equivalent yield of bricks, even outweighing the fuel savings.

Thus, in spite of the heavy air pollution caused by BTKs, the VSBK is not (yet) economically viable to compete with BTKs under present conditions in Pakistan, to the face of the niche gained by BTKs, the VSBK will not be fully accepted in Pakistan. But it will have its place in the rural areas with small-scale producers.

The VSBK technology transferred to Pakistan was not the improved version (with larger firing shafts) in use in China. Also, the Chinese experts spent too short a time in Pakistan for the technology transfer to be sustainable. There were no long-term strategies to disseminate the VSBK to, particularly the local brick industry, after the funding period was complete.

Present technical shortcomings, such as the poor quality of fired bricks partly caused by poor preparation of clay raw material for the green bricks, could, no doubt, be overcome through relevant training of the local brick makers.


Production units on the outskirts of Khartoum yield some 600 million bricks annually. The bricks are usually of very low quality, being poorly formed and then under-fired in inefficient wood burning clamp kilns. Elsewhere, such as in Khorobhagarat, an oil-fired Hoffman kiln is used.

The VSBK was adapted for use in Sudan in ate 1995 and early 1996. A test kiln was erected by the Building and Road Research Institute (BRRI) of the University of Khartoum, assisted by a foreign expert ceramist who had studied and analysed VSBKs in China. The transfer of this kiln cost US$ 3,000.

The kiln fires bricks made on the production line of a brick plant which the BRRI owns and operates. The fuel used is can bonised agricultural waste from cotton stalks, sunflower stalks or bagasse. These carbonised fuels, reduced to a granular size, are dispersed among the bricks when loading the kiln from the top.

The VBSK is the first of its kind which uses carbonised agricultural waste. Unfortunately, there have been no recent updates on the operations of the technology.


Transfer of the VSBK-technology to India was initiated by an NGO, Development Alternatives (DA), following a survey of the test kilns in Nepal and Pakistan and an evaluation of the VSBKs environmental performance in China conducted from 1994 to 1996. It was then decided that the VSBK was suitable to replace energy-inefficient brick clamps in the rural areas of India.

Fig.2 Cross-section of a VSBK single shaft, chain block unloading.

In 1996, a test kiln with two shafts was put up at Datia in Madhya Pradesh and fired under the guidance of a Chinese expert team (see Fig. 4). The entire technology transfer programme, including the testing period, was thoroughly planned.

The results achieved since the test firing period are very promising:

· breakage of fired bricks is only about 2% to 4%, much less than that observed in VSBKs in Nepal and Pakistan;

· the quality of bricks produced, in terms of colour and ring, is better than those made in nearby clamps;

· compressive strength of the fired bricks is between 65kg/cm2 and 110 kg/cm2;

· energy consumption is much less than in nearby clamps and BTKs;

· the technology is viable with reasonable margins for the brick producer. The profitability can further be improved by reducing the present cost of green bricks, by a reduction of capital cost and by increasing the scale of operation.

Subsequently a second VSBK has been constructed in 1997 at Kankia near Berhampur in Orissa State in the coastal area, by Gram Vikas a partner NGO for Development Alternatives. DA engineers, supervisors and craftsman participated in the construction and operation of the kiln and training their Gram Vikas counter parts, with the support of a skeleton two-man team of Chinese experts. The kiln was fired on May 24, 1997 and produced more than 80,000 bricks.

It is planned to erect another VSBK in south India with varied socio-economic environments and conditions.


The technology transfer in this country followed training of Afghanistani engineers and kiln crew at a VSBK unit that had been operating in Peshawar, Pakistan, for about three years A Pakistani expert went across to Herat, Afghanistan, twice in 1995 to assist with the construction of a six-shaq VSBK for the Afghanistan Rehabilitation and Energy Conservative Association. Three six-shaft units, arranged in a row, back-to-back, have since been put up by private entrepreneurs.

The traditional technology used in Herat to fire bricks is the brick clamp, which is heavily dependent on scarce woodfuel from the desert. The abundance of coal around Herat and the large demand for burnt bricks for reconstructing the country, therefore, make the VSBK-technology the right choice for this area Unfortunately, there is no current information on the functioning of the VSBKs in Afghanistan


There are lessons to be learned from these VSBK-technology transfers between developing countries:

· Fully utilise the technical expertise during the planning, testing period and also when planning the dissemination process;

· Involve the beneficiaries of the new technology on a participatory basis at all times in each process, be they private entrepreneurs, self-help groups or official government representatives;

· Train the brick makers and kiln operators thoroughly during each stage of the technology transfer period;

· Remember always that the VSBK in its present design is an economically viable alternative for small-scale brick manufacturers, who are currently using brick clamps or stove kilos

· Do not plan a dissemination of the VSBK-technology until a second kiln has been built and tested under different conditions and in another area in your country;

· If the technology transfer is funded with external technical or development cooperation financial provisions, develop a concept for sustainability of the project or programme for future ownership, management and operation of the kiln(s), based on a survey of available clay raw materials, fuel sources, further training requirements and an analysis of the local or regional market for the burnt bricks.

Hannah Schreckenbach
Dipl-lng, Architect, BASIN/GTZ


Information on the VSBK in India was extracted from the Development Alternatives Newsletter, September 1996 For further information contact Mr. K.R. Lakshmikantan, Project Manager, DA, B 32 Tara Crescent; Qutab Institutional Area, New Delhi 110016, India, Fax: +91-11-6866031,

The information about the VSBK in Sudan was extracted from the CLAYNET homepage VICNET: http:/


· Technical Briefs: "The VSBK"; "Brick Clamps"; "Hoffmann Kilns"; "The Bull's Trench Kiln";

· "The Basics of Brick Kiln Technology" by T Jones;

· The VSBK Newsletter, September 1966;

· Case Study: "The VSBK: A Problematic Technology Transfer to Pakistan"; all published by and available from BASIN at GATE/GTZ;

Sharing experiences in building materials production: lessons from Zimbabwe

Access to sources of energy is becoming more limited and costly everywhere. This, together with the mounting concern over depleting natural resources globally, has called for closer examination of the energy efficiencies of production processes, both big and small. The constraints that fuel shortages place on production capacities and associated increases in production costs have impacted severely on the commercial viability of many investments, particularly small-scale initiatives.

In the small-scale building materials production sector, certain artisanal practices can be particularly wasteful of energy resources: traditional brick clamps are known to have fuel efficiencies as low as 10 per cent. This greatly undermines the role played by small-scale entrepreneurs in, say, production of affordable building materials to satisfy the increasing demand for housing.

In Zimbabwe, the Intermediate Technology Zimbabwe (ITZ) has since 1990 worked with small-scale producers to develop and promote appropriate building materials. Although the country's building and construction sector is dominated by large-scale urban and pert-urban producers, hundreds of medium and small-scale units have since emerged to supply the growing market with durable building materials, particularly fired bricks whose demand surpasses production capacities.

By promoting energy-efficient technologies, ITZ aims to improve the overall balance between the immediate commercial viability of small-scale producers and the long-term, environmental impact of their activities. Drawing on experiences gained in working with brick firing technologies elsewhere and exchanging ideas with others, ITZ has been instrumental in influencing demand for improved bricks across the southern Africa region. ITZ also develops and promotes other materials such as stabilised soil blocks (SSBs), concrete blocks and micro-concrete roofing (MCR) tiles. Further, development and promotion of affordable hardware (moulding tables, soil crushing and sieving equipment, block presses, vibrating tables, moulds, etc.) for producing these materials has resulted in their widespread use among decentraised small-scale producers

Whilst a lot more needs to be done guarantee full acceptance of the materials and technologies, it is worthwhile to take stock of the successes and failures, and how they were accomplished. A key lesson is the important role that different actors have played in exchanging experiences and fostering alternative, appropriate technologies.


Since 1990, ITZ has accumulated immense experience and expertise through collaboration with a broad spectrum of partners to transfer building and construction technologies within the region. While most of the work has concentrated in Zimbabwe, ITZ has also carried out project and consultancy work in Malawi, Mozembique and Zambia. Among the key partners are government departments, financial institutions, donor agencies, NGOs and research institutions. (See Table)

ITZ has also worked closely with other appropriate technology institutions in the region to enhance information exchange on hardware for producing affordable building materials. Close linkages, involving exchange of information and research findings, have been maintained with the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research

(CSIR) of South Africa and the Botswana Rural Technology Centre. ITZ also serves as a referral facility for hundreds of technical inquiries on appropriate building technologies from NGOs and organizations working in Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Botswana and even as far as Cameroon.

As a country office of the UK-based Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG), ITZ collaborates with other similar programmed in Kenya and Peru. Much exchange of information on bricks and MCR tiles has been on going between ITZ and IT-Kenya since 1992. An MCR tile expert from IT-Kenya has also been to Zimbabwe to train groups working with ITZ on tile production. IT-Kenya in turn benefited from a visit by an ITZ expert to share experiences in stone quarrying.

Increased exchange of information on building standards prevailing in the two countries has been going on since 1996. This has fed into an on-going international project that seeks to compare experiences between Kenya and Zimbabwe in the development and revision of housing standards. A workshop has so far been held in each country to discuss research findings and the mechanisms required to test the revised standards in a pilot project. The outputs from this initiative are being shared through a wider dissemination exercise.

Heightening interest on the production and use of lime as an alternative binder in construction has also facilitated increased collaboration in the region. In 1994, a regional workshop held in Tororo, Uganda, brought together producers and users of lime from eastern and southern Africa to discuss problems and constraints and challenges in the building and construction sector. The workshop also discussed strategies on how to promote small-scale production and use of lime in the region.

ITZ and IT-Peru have been sharing experiences on energy efficiency in small-scale brick production in the two countries under an international project aimed at seeking solutions to common problems in firing bricks. For example, small-scale brick producers in Zimbabwe have managed to reduce their costs by substituting fuel-wood with coal and boiler waste in clamp kilns. IT-Peru is drawing on this experience to assist producers in the South American country.

Institution Category

Key Institutions

Nature of Collaboration

Government departments

Ministry of Public

Development of low Income housing standards

Construction & National Housing

Development and dissemination of appropriate building technologies

Ministry of Health & Child Welfare

Promoting use of appropriate building materials (SSBs) in provision of low cost rural sanitation

Geological Survey Department

Provision of limestone deposits data.

Ministry of Local Government, Rural & Urban Planning

Development of low income housing standards. Provision of infrastructure and land for housing development by low income households.

Ministry of Environment & Natural Resources

Sharing information on environmental impact of small scale clay brick production.

Financial Institutions


Provision of credit to small scale building material producers.



Development of low cost housing standards.


Housing People of Zimbabwe

Sharing information on appropriate building materials.

Sharing information and experiences on the cooperative approach to delivery of low income housing.


Training on production and use of SSBs and MCR tiles.

Habitat for Humanity

Provision of information on production and use of MCR titles.


Training on production and use of SSBs and MCR tiles.

Plan International

Assisting communities to produce and use low cost building materials (SSBs and MCR tiles) to build affordable houses.



Research on use of agricultural and industrial waste in the production of building materials.

Institute of Water & Sanitation, University of Zimbabwe

Sharing information on cost effective water and sanitation provision approaches and technologies

Harare Institute of Technology

Development and testing of prototype low cost equipment for production of building materials.

Institute of Environmental Studies, UZ

Sharing information on environmental impact of small scale building materials production.

Departments of Mechanical & Civil Engineering, UZ

Development and testing of prototype low cost equipment for production of building materials.

Collaboration between ITZ and selected institutions in Zimbabwe.

Having established some baseline information with producers in Zimbabwe, IT-Peru have linked with contacts in Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil and Nicaragua. An international workshop held in northern Peru in February 1997 brought together researchers, development agents and brick makers to exchange ideas and plan future activities. Presentations were made both Zimbabwean and Peruvian brick makers discussed possible energy-efficient solutions, such as substituting fuelwood with sugarcane bagasse.

On-going work in Zimbabwe is investigating how the coal clamp technology became so widespread and aims to increase the understanding of who played an influential role in that technology development process. This case study is expected to provide answers to questions the project will continue to confront in Latin America. What is involved in the successful transfer and adoption of technologies? What role do producers play in transferring technologies to others in the same sector? How should other actors intervene to ensure appropriate technologies evolve?

In Malawi, ITZ started the Chenkumbi Lime Project in response to a request by the government to develop the country's artisanal lime industry. The Malawi government was concerned about the wasteful quarrying practices and inefficient utilisation of hardwood fuel for burning limestone which, in turn, affected the quality of lime produced. The low income generated from lime quarrying by small-scale producers and the effect on the environment of wasteful energy utilization was also worrying.

The Chenkumbi Lime Project was started in 1991 to develop and disseminate improved lime quarrying and burning technologies in Malawi, and introduce and promote alternative fuels for burning limestone in the Chenkumbi Hills and eradicate (or at least reduce) the use of hardwood fuel. The project also sought to assist members of the local Lime Makers Association (LMA) own shares in a modern lime plant and also access its use to improve both quantity and quality of lime produced One expected output was the increase in both jobs and generated income in the Chenkumbi Hills area.

Key activities carried out under the project were construction of a vertical shaft kiln (VSK) in the Chenkumbi Hills, installation of a mill for grinding lime, buying and grinding lime produced by the members of the LMA, development of markets for building lime and training artisanal lime producers in improved quarrying and burning methods.

ITZ worked with a number of partners which provided support in business planning and management, testing the quality of the lime produced and project monitoring. These included the Geological Survey Department of the Government of Malawi, the LMA, USAID/SHARED Project, Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) and Project Planning and Implementation (PPI) Consultants.

Unfortunately, for a range of reasons including poor business management, under capitalization and inadequate infrastructure, the project failed to prove its viability. The VSK technology was not adopted by artisanal lime producers in Chenkumbi Hills because the cost of the kiln (about US$ 4,000) is too expensive for this group.

In Mozambique, ITZ undertook some consultancy work at the request of development agencies operating in the country. The first request for assistance to train communities in Manica Province in the production, firing and use of clay bricks came from PDIM in July 1994. More than 50 artisans were trained on the use of appropriate and affordable brick-making equipment (such as moulding tables); testing soil to assess its suitability for brick production; soil preparation to improve product quality and construction of clamps to improve energy utilisation and firing efficiency. This was carried out in August 1994 at Chimoio, the provincial capital.

Two other training sessions on the production and use of SSBs and MCR tiles were held at the request of Misereor, a German development and funding agency. The skills imparted were highly valued by beneficiaries and Misereor have since called for similar courses in other provinces of Mozambique.

There are indications that demand for further training on production of appropriate building materials in Mozambique will continue to increase.


ITZ recognises that collaboration brings immense benefits for all partners involved.

This co-operation has had a marked effect on the learning curve of organizations in the implementation of new projects. By exchanging information on approaches that work and those that do not work, obvious mistakes and pitfalls encountered in the implementation of development projects have been avoided.

In today's global village where access to information is among an organization’s greatest resources, development practitioners are unlikely to give the best possible support to end users unless they know what is happening in other parts of the world. There is great danger of repeating approaches and methods that may have long been discredited in similar projects elsewhere unless they work closely together and share information and experiences.

Further, greater impact has been made in influencing government and donor policies by implementing similar projects in various countries and demonstrating that such projects make significant contribution to giving the poor more secure livelihoods. Many otherwise successful development projects are limited by their abilities to collaborate and share information. As a result, the impact of these projects is localized and there is little or no replication.

The most obvious constraints to increased collaboration between organizations in the south are budgetary constraints and scepticism about the benefits to be derived from such co-operation. Many development agencies in the south are dependent on technical and financial support from the north This has led to strengthened linkages and collaboration with the north because of the tangible gains involved. As such less consideration is given to the less tangible, but no less important, benefits to be accrued from closer interaction and exchange among southern institutions.

General ignorance and doubts about the possible benefits from south-south collaboration is also a real constraint. This is partly influenced by dependencies and old-fashioned thinking that the north is the source of solutions to local problems. Indeed, the south is yet to learn more from itself than it should.

By Alex Mugova, ITZ and Lucky Lowe, ITDG

Cooperation through collective action: the role of housing cooperatives in eastern, central and Southern Africa


There are many forms of collective action in the eastern, central and southern Africa region. Some, such as construction of traditional shelters, have been communally practiced since time immemorial Other more contemporary forms of collective action include saving and credit unions; informal rotational savings and credit clubs; various forms of self help activities/groups; loose associations for artisans (such as building brigades in Botswana, Tanzania and Zimbabwe); urban dwellers' associations in Ethiopia; special social/cultural groups; and cooperatives.

Modern cooperatives, as we know them today, were introduced into the region by colonial regimes. In countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, legal recognition of the cooperative movement was ensured by the same colonial administrators by mid this century. However, the thrust then was on agricultural production and marketing cooperatives.

The history of formal urban-based housing cooperatives in the region is more recent. Although the earliest indigenous housing cooperative in the region, Mwenge Housing Cooperative Society, was formed in Tanzania in 1971, it was until the late 1980s that other countries formally recognized these societies. Zambia registered its first housing cooperative in 1989, Zimbabwe (1987), Mozambique (1979), Lesotho (1975) and Ethiopia (1975). Many of the first housing cooperatives grew out from mutual savings groups.

Types and tenure of housing cooperatives

Cooperatives involved in human settlements in the region take many forms and tenure arrangements. The major types of cooperatives found include the following:

· Housing Cooperatives which principally build houses for the occupation by their members

· Building and Construction cooperatives which mainly function as contractors. These are relatively less developed compared to housing cooperatives.

· Building Production Materials Cooperatives These would include the African Housing Fund-supported women projects in many African countries including Kenya; Masese Self-help Women Group in Uganda; and the Carpentry Cooperative in Mozambique.

The type of tenure of Housing Cooperatives can be categorised into four groups: limited objectives cooperatives; mutual ownership cooperatives/singe mortgage cooperatives; multiple mortgage cooperatives; and, tenant cooperatives.

Limited objective cooperatives are goal-specific cooperatives with fairly well determined but limited tasks. Many of Kenya's housing cooperatives fall under this category. Cooperatives under this limited tenure usually engage in land acquisition, servicing of the land and construction of houses. These include Gikomba Housing Cooperative (Kenya), Cotton Printers Cooperative Housing Society (Zimbabwe) and Polana Canico Housing Cooperative (Mozambique). Others in this category only purchase land. For example most land buying companies in Nairobi's Mathare Valley began as cooperative societies, i.e. Kariobangi Housing and Settlement Cooperative Society A few others only arrange for land sub-division plans, plots demarcation and in some cases servicing of the land, e.g. Thika Municipal Workers' Cooperative Society. Such cooperatives usually wind up after achieving their stated goals, with the individual members eventually own the land or houses.

Mutual ownership/single mortgage cooperatives retain title to properties and carry out normal estate management activities on behalf of their members. The Ismailia Housing Cooperatives in Kenya fall under this class. They do, however, share some attributes with multiple mortgage cooperatives.

Multiple mortgage cooperatives constitute a form of 'condominium' or 'horizontal' property, in which the members hold legal titles to individual apartments or dwelling units. The cooperatives on the other hand, own and maintain all common property and facilities.

Although this type of cooperative is not yet common in eastern and southern Africa, it is gradually emerging in Kenya where condominium housing is being popularized by the national Housing Cooperative Union (NACHO). Kenya also enacted a law on Sectional Properties with view to guiding the development and sale of flats to individual purchasers with separate titles.

Tenant/continuing housing cooperatives are non-profit, motivated cooperatives which construct and lease residential units to their members. Members do not own the units they live in but rather simply own equal shares in all the assets of the society. The Ethiopian cooperatives fit into this category.

Common bonds and advantages

The existence of a strong common bond is extremely important to the success of cooperative action. Many of the well known cooperatives in the region are work-place based, making them easy to organize. Others are bonded on factors such as residential proximity, religion (Ismailia Housing Cooperatives), ethnic origin, etc.

Formation of housing cooperatives should follow a bottom-up approach if success is to be guaranteed. The formation of a housing cooperative should only be encouraged and done when and if there is a realistic demand for it from potential members. Housing cooperatives are, however, not always necessary nor desirable in all cases. For example, a formal housing cooperative for slum dwellers may be too complicated and rigid and therefore inappropriate.

Housing cooperatives are important in creating integrated urban communities not only through providing housing but also for the overall development of the society members in totality. They are useful in the provision of various services and facilities to marginal communities, promotion of employment opportunities, eduction and rising of standard of living in general. For example, Kariobangi Housing and Settlement Cooperative in Kenya runs a nursery school and a building materials production yard.

Such cooperatives also create an internal control mechanism which minimizes speculation and premature transfer of houses. Gikomba Housing Cooperative and Huruma Building Groups in Kenya show that relatively more cooperative members have managed to retain their plots/houses than non-members.

They further offer alternative collective systems of financing and repayment by means of mutual responsibility which considerably reduces the risk of defaults. 'Group' or 'Solidarity' loans/mortgages can thus be advanced without recourse to the normal conventional collateral requirement. The bold step by NACHU in this direction is noteworthy. Several examples of this form of financing exist in Latin American Countries.

The economy is another major beneficiary since housing cooperatives provide means for active citizen participation and mobilization of untapped small savings and self-help resources.

Not least, these groupings allow for the gradual takeover of responsibilities for the administration and management of the cooperative by members. This subsequently results in considerable cost reduction and collective maintenance and upkeep of houses and neighbourhood, easing the burden of local authorities.


Major obstacles facing housing cooperatives include the high cost of building, infrastructure and services This is partly due to shortages and high cost of building materials and, more significantly, unrealistic building and planning standards and specification. For example, Ethiopia's standards require use of expensive and over-specified foundations in all areas even though they are best suited for black cotton soils and earthquake-prone areas.

Other constraints include insufficient affordable, serviced land in suitable locations in relation to workplaces; lack of well developed and sensitive financial systems to address the special needs of the cooperative movement; lack of well-grounded personnel in housing and construction cooperative matters; and, difficulties in developing managerial capacity at the grassroots level due to ignorance among the majority of the members.

Generally, the cooperative movement is characterised by insufficient and disorganized institutional support. Thus, the cooperative movement in the region is still fragmentary with little or no formal, organized collaboration among the various sectors - housing, building material production, construction, savings and credit cooperatives, etc.

Furthermore, there is certainly lack of clear cut lines of responsibility and division of power between the supporting institutions where they exist. In the majority of cases, there are no national umbrella organizations like NACHO (Kenya) in the region. The few in place are still in their embryonic stage of development.

Most regrettably, the formation and operations of cooperatives are hindered by cumbersome institutional and bureaucratic procedures and regulations within respective countries in the region.


Housing cooperative ventures have been officially encouraged in Tanzania since 1971 when the first pilot housing cooperative was launched with financial support from the World Bank. The Mwenge cooperative housing project was expected to be the largest in Africa, and cater for some 10,000 people in the first phase alone.

In 1969 the government undertook to survey and develop the land, put up infrastructure and a sewerage system, and construct core house dwelling units on 500 plots. By 1971, however, only 440 plots were available for the pilot project. Of these, only 393 plots were for residential purposes and the rest for communal utility. Due to high costs of building materials the government was able to lay floor slabs on only 59 instead of 500 core houses. It was not until 1981 that some 325 houses for a society of 395 members was completed This project remains the largest housing cooperative in Tanzania.

A number of lessons can be learnt from this pilot project;

· Speedy issuance of land titles is crucial

· Strong leadership qualities in cooperative matters are important especially in providing advice on self-help construction techniques, cooperative education, management and acquisition of title certificates.

· Proper record keeping must be ensured for planning

· House construction can be a slow and expensive exercise

New housing cooperative by-laws were introduced in 1986. The following year saw the establishment of the Cooperative Union of Tanzania as the apex organ of the cooperative movement in the country. The Union's tasks included giving advice on the formation and organization of collective groups, providing leadership for the housing cooperative movement and linking up the cooperatives with the various support institutions in government, NGOs and private sectors.

Today, there are more than 100 officially registered housing cooperatives in Tanzania although many others are in various stages of registration. It has been observed that, in spite of official support for housing cooperatives, only few have been successful. This is largely attributed to difficulties in both applying for and repaying loans.


Zambia's formal housing cooperative movement is perhaps the least developed in the region. A thriving building cooperative movement in existence during the colonial era literally collapsed after independence. This was attributed to over-extension and lack of technical and organizational skills.

Zambia has, however, witnessed a number of active self-help groups, particularly in settlement upgrading programmed, i.e St. George Complex and Kalingaliga. Building materials production groups have recently emerged in some of the high density areas in Lusaka.

Even so, the country's national development plan views the concept of housing cooperative as a realistic approach forwards enabling the people to provide housing for themselves. The plan envisages two types of cooperatives; building cooperatives and non-profit continuing housing cooperatives. It further proposes to undertake pilot cooperative housing schemes in the major cities and towns to act as training laboratories for the cooperative movement.


Regionally, the growth and impact of housing cooperatives in Ethiopia is fairly significant. The cooperatives have received greater public support than in any other country in the region. This support has enabled a large number of cooperatives to have access to land, finance, building materials and technical expertise in construction.

The cooperative movement can be analysed in two phases. The first phase consists of the period 1975-1986, before the introduction of a new Urban Housing Policy. During the period the cooperatives flourished without a clearly defined support institutional framework. The organizational responsibility was given to the Ministry of Agriculture The Ministry of Urban Development and Housing (MUDH) at the same time oversaw the activities of very low-income groups in self help housing cooperatives.

By 1978, the full responsibility for organizing and registering all types of housing cooperatives was given to MUDH. The organizational capacity of MUDH was extremely limited and could not cope with this added responsibility. The bureaucratic delays in obtaining the land title, the loan, building materials and the building permits were common problems.

The other problems experienced during this period included absence of a clear cut policy on co-operative organizations, shortage of financial resources and high interest rates, and rising cost of building materials.

Despite all these drawbacks, remarkable achievement was observed. In whole, some 789 cooperatives with a total membership of 32, 749 were organized. Of these, 347 out of a total of 798 cooperatives had built 10,216 houses.

The second phase, from 1986 to the present day, has witnessed the streamlining and strengthening of the institution support framework for housing cooperatives. Some of the specific remedial measures introduced include upgrading the MUDH cooperative division; reduction of interest rates for both individuals and cooperatives; provision of standard house plans free of charge to cooperatives; reduction of maximum plot sizes meant for residential purposes; establishment of a government enterprise of provide building materials to cooperatives at controlled prices; minimization of bureacratic delays at MUDH; introduction of comprehensive training and orientation system for housing cooperatives; and, deliberate efforts to address the needs of the most disadvantaged groups, i.e the very poor and handicapped

The experience of the housing cooperative movement in Ethiopia can be summarized as follows;

· The government has been forthright in supporting the movement

· There is no federation or union of cooperatives, hence cooperatives have no formal forum for exchange of experiences.

· Low income Groups are not well served. 90°/O of technical and financial resources end up with middle income earners. This is due to high numbers of low-income members who can hardly qualify for loans and inappropriate specifications for floors and foundations that make housing too expensive for majority of the people.

· Efforts have been made to reach the poor through design of low-cost core houses and allowing the use of mud construction

· Promotion for ‘pure' serf-help cooperatives was not undertaken

· NGOs have been supportive particularly to the very low income cooperatives

· Delays experienced in dealing with public bureaucracies should be cut to bear minimum and more control on supply of building materials and house types should be given to cooperative members.


The cooperative movement in Kenya is so geographically and functionally diversified, and the impact so great that 1 in every 2 families in Kenya are directly or indirectly dependent on it. The movement contributes or manages more than 40% of the country's Gross Domestic Product. The 200 or so registered housing cooperatives only account for 4% of the total number. The growth in numbers of housing cooperatives is however significant bearing in mind that there were only 29 co-operatives in 1977, which increased a thousand-fold to more than 3500 a decade later.

The co-operative movement has witnessed the formation of numerous housing co-operatives in recent years and more importantly the emergence of an umbrella organization in the form of NACHU. The phenomenal growth in housing cooperatives has mainly been due to promotional efforts and the anticipated support and assistance from NACHU. Most members view the co-operatives as a source of power to acquire land, purchase materials, negotiate favourably with relevant authorities, and mobilize financial and human resources, al) for the betterment of their well-being.

The co-operatives, particularly savings and credit societies, have played a major role in the implementation of a national housing strategy. Previous studies on sources of funds for housing development in the urban areas indicated that co-operatives accounted for a significant proportion, as did funding to private individuals and for development of site and services schemes. Analysis of lending patterns among savings and service societies also shows that they lent from 40 to 50% of all loans to housing related purposes.

Thus, although the housing co-operatives are relatively few, they nevertheless constitute a firm basis for resource mobilization and economic and social organization if human settlements in Kenya and indeed in the region.


Housing co-operatives in Kenya have varied membership and objectives. The members range from low income squatters (these have formed three co-operatives, two in Nairobi and one in Mombasa) through council workers to medical doctors. They are also religiously based Ismailia community co-operatives.

The objectives of most housing co-operatives in Kenya include:

· To acquire land on which to develop houses for their members.

· To provide living accommodation for their members in specified geographical regions

· To mobilize financial resources with a view to purchasing residential properties for their members

· To mobilize financial resources from members and other sources with the aim of constructing rental units

· To mobilize resources so as to purchase already-built residential units for rental purposes.

· To qualify for favourable plot allocation from the land authorities

· To qualify for short and medium loans from the co-operative bank

· To uplift the living standards of their members by housing them in permanent buildings

· To settle their members on land they previously squared on

· To provide housing for the lowest paid workers

· To provide housing to members on a tenant purchase basis at affordable rates

· To gain access to credit facilities from government to develop permanent houses

Gikomba Housing Co-operative Society (Kenya): A case study of internal and external resource mobilization through co-operatives

Gikomba Housing Co-operative Society (GHCS), next to Nairobi's sprawling Kariobangi slums, has the distinction of being the first low-income housing co-operative in Africa. The Kariobangi site and service scheme managed by the society further represents the first serious endeavour of government to resettle squatters in well planned neighbourhoods Overall, GHCS managed to do what none of the latter low income housing co-operatives in Kenya could do - albeit with a host of technical, financial and administrative hardships and over a long period.

GHCS drew its membership from former squatters who had resided near the city centre and who had been allocated plots in Kariobangi site and service scheme. The members of GHCS therefore displayed common characteristics of marginalized people, i.e. low skills; lime or no education; low and irregular incomes; close ties with rural areas; high dependency on informal sectors for their livelihood; and, initiative, imagination and a high sense of solidarity.


Cost in Kenya Shillings

Sources of funds


Construction of first two houses took 8 months

17,000 - 19,000

Members contribution

People were highly motivated by the prospects of getting loans contribution Local leadership was fully involved. True self help was practiced. There were appropriate tasks for everybody. Fines of predetermined amount were levied against those who did not come to work. Some building materials were collected and carried using rudimentary tools and equipment, supervision by NCC.

Application for 20 houses was October over by 1969


Loan from NHC

The loan took almost 2 year (1966-1968) to be loan to construct processed since lending to the co-operative was viewed as a high risk venture. It was not until NCC agreed to guarantee the loan that the loan was over by advanced. The repayment period was 10 years at 7% interest 1969 with a grace period of 1 year. Separate agreements were made between NCC and individual members of the co-operative. The Cooperative was was also a signatory to these agreements and guaranteed the repayment of the loan among other things.

Construction of 10 more houses These were completed late in 1973


Rental income

2 of 6 rooms were retained by the co operatives to service the loan and to generate extra income to construct houses for other members

Application of loan to construct 13 houses in 1974


NHC with NCC as guarantor

As in the first loan, separate agreements were made between NCC and the 13 individual members with the co-operative remaining signatory to these agreements and a guarantor that loans will be rapid in stipulated manner as per agreement By this time, 1976, financial mismanagement/dishonesty had crippled the co-operative. The co-operative officials were accused of not remitting all the monies collected from rented rooms to NCC. New officials were elected into office. Since then, the co-operative has never worked as one functional unit with result that the repayment is seriously in arrears.

Tasks and Source of Funds

The members recognized their financial limitations and therefore the urgent need to have access to credit facilities. They regularized their informal self help group by registering it as a housing co-operative in 1965. Local politicians were instrumental in ensuring that the co-operative received loans from the National Housing Corporation with the then Nairobi City Council as guarantor.

From the GHCS study, a number of conclusions and observations can be made:

· That even the most disadvantaged groups can, through appropriate institution, gain access to the much needed financial resources.

· That with clearly defined goal (s), low income earners can significantly contribute human and material resources in the true spirit of self help. This was fully utilized in the construction of the first two houses that were used to serve two main purposes: as collateral and as demonstration of what a truly motivated and determined group of poor people can do.

· That availability of fairly sufficient funds tends to destroy self-help motivation. This was also found to be true in the neighbouring Mathare North Site and Service Scheme.

· That problems of servicing of loans are mainly due to flaws in repayment collection procedures rather than inability to repay per se.

· That there is need to have more regular monitoring and evaluation of the activities of housing co-operatives. Appropriate remedial action should be taken firmly and timely against offenders if the confidence of members is to be restored.

· That there were relatively fewer institutions evolved in the co-operative movement than today. There were also no apex technical services organizations such as NACHU, nor were there any international aid/development agencies such as USAID, World Bank, etc.

· That housing co-operatives when correctly utilized, can be a viable vehicle of mobilizing various resources of and for the urban poor

· That a group of generally poor co-operators have acquired possession of valuable assets - permanent houses in an environment that has more superior infrastructural services and amenities than that hitherto enjoyed by the former squatters.

· That depending on the priorities of the individual members, the improved housing has been utilized differently:

- some members are living in part of the house while renting out the rest of the rooms

- some have sold their houses to richer landlords and put the money to perceived high priority projects. They are likely to have moved to lower or no rent housing areas, preferably in unplanned housing environments, cheaper City Council rental units or back to rural areas.

- some have remained on their plots but stay in the temporary structures while renting out all rooms in the permanent houses. In this case they have access to improved infrastructural services and a steady rental income of Ksh. 2,400 per month.


Although the cooperative movement in the region was first conceived during the colonial period, actual growth and prosperity occurred in the post-independence period, largely as a result of governments encouragement, to the extent that the movement now contributes two fifths of the national income in Kenya.

The number cooperatives directly involved in housing is relatively small. However, with increasing public enthusiasm and government support, it is likely that co-operatives will play a greater role in shelter production in future.

That even the most disadvantaged groups can through an appropriate institution, gain access to the much needed financial resources. With clearly designed goals, the low income or almost no income earners can significantly contribute human and material resources in the true spirit of self-help as seen in Gikomba in Kenya.

That comprehensive and well coordinated support infrastructure is central to the future of housing cooperatives in the region.

That housing cooperatives can prosper under different social-economic-political systems as long as proper support systems in place.

That small cooperatives are likely to succeed better than larger sized ones.

That mixed income housing cooperatives appear not to perform well in the region.

By Elijah Agevi, Shelter Forum


1. Agevi, E and Yayha, S (1987), Case study on Low Income Shelter and Infrastructure Construction in Kenya (unpublished consultancy report for UNCHS (Habitat Nairobi), Kenya

2. Hougaard, S. 1989, Construction and Housing Co-operatives in Maputo, Mozambique SINA Workshop, Nairobi, Kenya

3. Lewi, A.C, 1989 Housing Cooperatives in Developing Countries, John Wiley and Sons

4. Mc. Auslan, P 1983, Self-Help Cooperative Housing in Urban and Rural Tanzania, M.A. theses presented at PGCHSK.U. Leuven, Belgium.

5. UNCHS (Habitat), 1989, Co-operative Housing: Experience of Mutual Self-Help, UNCHS, Nairobi, Kenya

Collaboration in building and construction sector in the west and Central African region

As the sun sets on the second millennium, many countries in the West and Central African region have awakened to the immense challenges that will continue to face the developing world in the next century Slogans with ambitious ideals, such as "Housing for all by the year 2000", stiIl reflect typical aspirations of these countries but are definitely unrealistic. This has called for thorough re-examination of strategies to achieve future goals.

Newly-conceived 'solutions' such as structural adjustment programmes are being implemented in most of these countries with the aim of salvaging failing economies. This is being done through boosting exports, reducing imports, increasing agricultural production, improving infrastructure, liberalizing the industrial sector, etc. From a social dimension, there is now a greater focus on human rights, education, health and shelter, among others.

Any significant impact on the shelter and construction sector will be measured through increased stock of affordable housing and improved existing shelter structures. This obviously calls for diverse construction technology processes and use of a wide range of building materials. The key players must no longer be the central and local governments only, but also other stakeholders among funding agencies, the formal and informal private sector, research and training institutions, non-governmental organizations, development agencies, grassroots-based groupings and civil society in general.

Governments in West and Central Africa have been aware of the strategic importance of the building and construction sector to national economic growth. Many of these suffered bitter experiences from inappropriate north-south technology transfers which have required use of scarce foreign exchange and costly adaptations. Some countries have already began adopting realistic approaches in the search for solutions to reduce building costs These approaches include promoting of use of local construction materials and appropriate, labour-intensive technologies

A lot of emphasis is also being p aced on supporting small-scale producers and harnessing indigenous know edge to produce building materials. The resulting experience exchange and information sharing process provide the basis for technology collaboration both within individual countries and the region.

Collaboration initiatives

Some of the initiatives undertaken by the key players in the building and construction sector to enhance collaboration within the region include:

· Creation of specific sub-ministries and research institutes such as; The Centre de la Construction et do Logement in Togo; the Raw Materials Research and Development Council, Nigeria; Authority for the Promotion of Local Raw Materials, Cameroon; the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) which is linked to the Industrial Research Institute (IRI) in Ghana and the Building and Road Research Institute in Nigeria; just to name a few.

· Establishment of building societies and land development agencies. These include SIC, Cameroon; SID, Djibouti; SNI, Gabon; SICAP Senegal; SOCOGIB, Burkina Faso; SOCOGI, Cote d'lvoire; SONUCI, Niger: SOPROGI, Congo; MAETUR, Cameroon; etc. all of which are linked to an international network that brings housing-support organizations from some 16 countries in western, central and eastern Africa.

· Multilateral and bilateral agreements on construction and materials' promotion programmes with international financial bodies like UN Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank, Shelter Afrique, African Development Bank, Islamic Bank, Fond Africain pour l'Habitat, and individual donor countries.

· Setting up of municipal council housing schemes.

· Organising national and international workshops, seminars, exhibitions, forums and training courses. Generally these activities are financed by financial institutions and donor countries in collaboration with the various governments. These fore provide opportunities for both local and international experts (some from out of the region) to exchange ideas and experiences.

Recently, a workshop on the Production of Local Building and Construction Materials was held in Yaounde, Cameroon. The workshop, which drew participants from Cameroon, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Kenya, sought to define national policies for the production of building materials, dentify housing needs and how to satify them. The participants a so discussed means of guaranteeing the feasibility of building materials in order to trigger investment; how to provide useful information for production units; how to obtain effective development of production units using indigenous materials; and how to protect the markets of locally produced materials.

The seminar urged the standardization of local materials; improvement of materials performance by creating national applied research centres; support to equipment manufacturers and promotion of the use of local materials in public projects. The participants further called for creation of a sub-regional centre for experimental research; reinforcement of regional exchanges and creation of a sub-regional data bank.

A scheme was also proposed to aid promoters and medium size industries, and define measures to favour the financing of production units.

Another sub-regional workshop on New Materials for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was held in 1993 at Abuja, Nigeria. The workshop, jointly sponsored by UNIDO and some Nigerian Ministries, drew participants from Gambia, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Nigeria and representatives and consultants of UNIDO.

A seminar aimed at increasing awareness on the possibilities and constraints for development of refractories based on local raw materials was held the following year It sought to promote and foster cooperation in R&D of refractories production for furnace and kiln lining through sharing of experience, information, training, expertise and joint research and production ventures

The seminar was sponsored by UNIDO, in collaboration with the Government of Ghana, and attended by participants from Benin, Cameroon, Cote d'lvoire, Ghana, Ma i, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Togo

In 1995, a forum for exchange between equipment manufacturers and contractors was held in Libreville, Gabon, to promote the use of building materials. The European Union - Central African Industrial Forum (MAT-CONSTRUCT'95 on Building and Construction Materials) enabled fruitful exchange of experiences with timber, fired and stabilised bricks, roofing tiles and concrete production. Part cipants came from Gabon, Cameroon, Congo, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Contra Africa and South Africa.

Last year, another regional seminar was held on the standardization of compressed earth blocks in Yaounde, Cameroon The seminar reviewed dray standards prepared by CRATerre - EAG Participants were from Burundi, Cameroon, Central Africa, Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Sac Tome & Principe, Chad, Burkina Faso, Cote d’lvoire, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo. European Union representatives from the UK, France and Germany were also present. Details of this seminar were published in BASINNews, No. 12, of August 1996.

In the same year, the government of Ghana and the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) organised a seminar to prepare and approve projects for network research into the processing, utilization and marketing of small diameter timber from plantations in Africa. Participants were from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d'lvoire, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Uganda and consultants from Britain and USA

Various training courses have also been held on raw material processing and manufacture of building materials and building systems in the region. Significant contributions both financial and technical have come through UNIDO, the French and Canadian Embassies.

Notable among these trainings is an international intensive course organised by CECTech in Jos, Nigeria, in September 1996. It was coordinated by the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, the French Embassy in Lagos (Sponsor) and CRATerre, France. Participants were from Cameroon and Nigeria. The purpose of the course was to train professionals involved in low-cost housing and compressed earth bricks technology.

In summary, collaboration through interactive sessions within experts from around the region has facilitated a healthy cross-exchange of skills and ideas and, even further, great y benefitted the technology transfer process.


The initiatives have, however, been faced with a number of constraints;

· There is lime follow-up on many recommendations made in these fore. Committees or task forces set up to ensure follow ups are generally inactive.

· Limited dissemination of reports and findings.

· Inadequate information network and the poor communication facilities within the region.

· Non-existent or poorly equipped Research and Development structures.

· Limited collaboration between producers and research Contras.

· Very limited access of small and medium size industries to credit facilities.


In order to overcome some of these constraints, a journal has been launched in Cameroon to provide a forum for sharing of ideas, experiences and above all a source of information on activities in the building and construction industry in the region. The Journal of Cameroon on Building Materials was launched last April to cover the West and Central African region. It seeks to help to disseminate seminar, workshop and conference reports. A positive response is so far being received from researchers, innovators, engineers, architects, product and equipment manufacturers, financiers, policy makers and consumers in this industry.

The author, D Uphie Chinje MELO, is a lecturer/researcher at the University of Yaounde, Cameroon, and editor of the Journal of Cameroon on Building Materials.

Commission on human settlements in Kenya


The sixteenth session of the Commission on Human Settlements was held from 28th April to 7th May 1997 at the United Nations Center for Human Settlements (Habitat) headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya The Commission discussed, among other things, its role in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda - the Global P an of Act on adopted at the second UN Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II), he in Istanbul, Turkey, in June last year.

As a policy-making organ of the UN and as Habitat's governing body, the main task of the Commission is to set and promote policies, priorities and guidelines regarding existing and planned work in the field of human settlements. The Commission also plays a central role in promoting, reviewing, monitoring and assessing the implementation of the Habitat Agenda at the local, nations and global levels.

As a result of the Habitat II Conference, which included in its deliberations representatives of civil society, the UN Genera Assembly requested the Commission to review its working methods to involve in its work other relevant partners, particularly local authorities, the private sector and NGOs

Because of the Commission's rules of procedure, as they stand today, it has not been possible to fully involve representatives of civil society in its work. Expansion of the Commission to include civil society was therefore expected to make the Commission a more inclusive and representative policy-making body of the United Nations.

Expansion of the Commission

Although the decision to expand the membership of the Commission (currently comprising 58 Member States) was deferred, the Commission however considered how private and non-governmental sectors can contribute to shelter delivery to low-income groups and the management of natural resources in the context of sustainable human settlements.

A number of important decisions pertaining to the implementation of the Habitat Agenda were taken As Habitat has been designated by the General Assembly to be focal point for the implementation of the Habitat Agenda, the Commission reviewed Habitat's work programme for the next two years by considering how the Center can strengthen its catalytic role in promoting adequate shelter for all and sustainable human settlements development.


The Commission also assessed the functions of the Center with a view to its revitalization. To make the Center more responsive to its mandate post-lstanbul, a plan was outlined to strengthen the centre's human and financial resources and restructure it in line with the general reform process within the UN system as a whole.

To execute key functions in the Nab tat Agenda and to meet the expectations of partners and national Governments alike, the existing organizational structure and working methods of Habitat are being refocused to converge on its new strategic tasks and responsibilities. Critera of efficiency, effectiveness and consistency are guiding this reorganization, as reflected in the Center's medium-term plan for 1998-2001 The medium-term plan, approved by the 515 session of the General Assembly, has the implementat on of the Habitat Agenda as its primary god It is organized around four substantive core areas: shelter and social services; urban management; environment and infrastructure; and assessment, information and monitoring.

Habitat, in collaboration with its partners, is also currently preparing a set of general guidelines for tracking progress in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda and the Habitat II National Plans of Action using housing and urban indicators and through the establishment of a Global Urban Observatory. To strengthen partner cooperation in the post-lstanbul era, Partner Working Groups have been set up within the Center. A new funding strategy to address these challenges is also being proposed.

Recognizing the central role that Habitat had played in involving civil society in the Habitat II process, NGOs supported the Center's mandate of implementing the Habitat Agenda. They called for the Center to be strengthened so that it may take full advantage of the energy and ideas generated by Habitat 11 in the implementation of its mandate and to more effectively respond to people's processes

NGO concerns

However, the NGOs expressed concern that the assessment reports presented at the Commission were flawed n that they based their analyses on opinions and responses which were not diverse enough. "What is missing from these assessments is a detailed examination of the actual programmes of work of the Center and their impact, and the incorporation and views of the various partners and beneficiaries themselves; these elements and perspectives must also be reviewed," they said in a statement

BASIN was represented at the Commission by Shelter Forum, which chaired a local host committee set up to consolidate NGO/CBO inputs into the Commission The committee disseminated advocacy messages through publications and local workshops, and also organised a mini-forum for the international NGO community to prepare a working strategy w thin the Commission

At the Plenary session of the Commission, national delegations presented statements elaborating on what their countries are doing in the area of human settlements development n the follow-up to Habitat II.

A series of events were organised parallel to the main proceedings of the Commission. These included exhibitions, panel discussion, video shows, exposure trips. Shelter Forum mounted a display of members' project activities and appropriate building technologies on behalf of BASIN.

A private sector roundtable welcomed partnerships with the UNCHS (Habitat) as useful and appropriate. However, they expressed concern that the bureaucratic structure of the UN made it an unsuitable business partner.

The roundtable noted that the process of privatization is healthy and improves efficiency as it encourages competition between the public and private sector. Although there was tremendous potential for business in low-income countries, the private sector remained largely unaware of these opportunities. They suggested that greater knowledge and information on human settlements could attract potential private sector investment.


It was recommended that the UNCHS (Habitat) disseminate information on local opportunities and facilitate contract between Governments, local authorities and the private sector. Establishment of a private sector service bureau and develop an electronic network of partners which could link Habitat with its partners was also recommended.

At the close of the session, the Governments of the Netherlands and Switzerland announced financial contributions toward the production of a Popular Version of the Habitat Agenda, which will be used worldwide to build public awareness of the commitments and objectives in the Agenda. The Popular Version will be used to promote regional, national and local implementation of the Habitat Agenda. It will be woven in plain language with colourful illustrations so that it can easily be used by the community activists, educators, NGO's etc.

Another a boost was received from several Governments who increased their pledges to the Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation. The pledges, which consist of voluntary contributions in cash and/or kind by Member States of the United Nations, will assist Habitat to carry out its work in the years 1997-98.

By Toni Sittoni, Shelter Forum

NGO positions on revitalisation of UNCHS

From the perspective of the NGOs and the social organizations, the Habitat II Conference incorporated many very positive dimensions, which include the orientation of the Conference around local, national, regional and global processes with the participation, to varying degrees, of the entire set of stakeholders involved n the human settlements field. The creation of spaces for the partners within this process was more meaningful than in any previous U.N. Conference, and we recognize the central role of the UN Centre on Human Settlements in championing these spaces.

The strong role assumed by the Centre within the Habitat II Conference is one element which provides the basis for the confirmation of the importance of the UN Centre on Human Settlements, as the organization within the United Nations which focuses exclusively on housing and human settlements

We support that the Centre continue to have the mandate and be assured the strengthened capacity to adequately monitor and effectively respond to and intervene in the risks and opportunities presented by the global urbanization processes. It is vital that the Centre be strengthened so that it may take full advantage of the energy and ideas generated by Habitat II in the implementation of its mandate and to more effectively respond to peoples' processes.

The process of assessment and restructuring of the Centre to respond to these demands has already begun. Two assessment reports are available. Both of these assessments have focused on the internal functioning of the Centre, and based their analysis essentially on opinions and responses gathered from within the Centre itself. What is missing from these assessments is a detailed examination of the actual programs of work of the Centre and their impacts, and the incorporation of the views of the various partners and the beneficiaries themselves; these elements and perspectives must also be reviewed.

The continued assessment of the Centre and its work and the implementation of the restructuring process must incorporate the close collaboration of the partners, based on the principles of the Habitat Agenda, namely decentralization, partnership, enabling, capacity-building and access to information. Mechanisms must be developed to incorporate these principles within the restructuring process towards the evolution of a Centre which is truly participatory and responsive to people's processes. If the restructuring of the Centre is based exclusively on the contributions of experts from the northern countries, real change will not take place. By incorporating the perspective and guidance of those who are working in the field in all countries and especially the developing countries, where the enormous effort of the people to produce their housing is known, we can help assure that the structures and programs which are adequate to support these efforts are built.

In this perspective we urge the delegates to consider the full integration of all the distinct partners within the restructuring process. We as NGOs are prepared to participate in this effort. At another occasion, we hope to address the integration of partners into the Commission on Human Settlements which we see as complementary to integration into the operational life of the Centre.

The best practices and local leadership programme: trailblazer for sustainable development

The Best Practices and Local Leadership Programme (BLP) is a partnership programme dedicated to the sharing and exchange of experience and expertise in support of sustainable human settlements development. The BLP together with UNCHS' Indicators Programme, make up the Global Urban Observatory (GUO): a global network helping to learn from each other's success stories, tools, and methods.

Based at the headquarters of the UNCHS (Habitat), in Nairobi, Kenya, the BLP was launched as part of the preparatory process for the Second Global Conference on Human Settlements - The City Summit. The Conference, held in Istanbul, Turkey, last June was an unprecedented success for the United Nations and its partners in development.

At the Conference, local authorities and their associations, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and the media were empowered to present their respective platforms during special hearings held throughout the event. This marked a radical departure on past procedure and paves the way for the forging of public-private partnership at the highest level of policy-making. The inputs of all stakeholders was instrumental in adopting the Habitat Agenda, the main political outcome of the Conference.

The Agenda consists of goals and principles as well as commitments by all Governments to the Global Plan of Action for making the world's cities and communities safer, healthier and more sustainable and equitable. It will guide the work of key actors in sustainable development at the local, national and regional levels for decades to come.

What are Best Practices?

Best Practices are initiatives which have improved the living environment of people in a tangible and sustainable way. Best Practices are defined by three criteria:

· Partnership between two or more public agencies, local authorities, non-governmental and community-based organizations, the private, professional and academic sectors, etc.;

· Impact n the form of tangible improvements to people's living environments;

· Sustainability as evidenced by changes to legislation, institutional capacity, management systems, decision and resource allocation processes.

More than 600 best practice case studies from over 80 countries had been received by June 1996. The case studies were submitted using an internationally agreed upon nomination and reporting format. Best Practices may be submitted in any category. including improved shelter and urban infrastructure, economic development and job creation, improved consumption and production cycles, mainstreaming gender and combating social exclusion and use of innovative technologies.

These 600 case studies were screened by a Technical Advisory Committee and by an international jury of eminent persons and best 12 given Awards of Excellence during the Istanbul Conference. The Award winning case studies, along with over 350 other examples of best practice, are available on the Internet, on CD-Rom, in computer diskette format and in printed form.

Best Practice Data-Base

The Best Practice Data-Base allows users to search over 350 initiatives by region, ecosystem, partners involved and thematic categories, such as urban governance, infrastructure and environmental protection The BLP is committed to encouraging the use and application of the database for:

· transfers of knowledge, experience and expertise;

· analyzing the transfer process to develop new tools for capacity-building and decentralized cooperation and peer-to-peer learning;

· informing policy and decision-making processes through lessons learned;

· incorporating improvements into national and local plans of action for implementing the Habitat Agenda.

The Best Practices Data-Base is available on CD-ROM, computer diskettes and on the Internet at << >>

Regional and Thematic Centres

One of the strengths of the BLP has been the willingness of our partners to continue the identification, documentation and dissemination of best practices. Several thematic and regional resource centres for continuing the work of the BLP at the regional, national and local levels have already been established in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America. These centres are electronically inked with the BLP and together constitute a virtual Institute dedicated to identifying, documenting, analyzing, and disseminating the lessons learned and experiences gained between submitters of best practices and the rest of the world.

Peer-to-Peer Learning

Another area of focus of the BLP is on the exchange of lessons learned and experiences gained between organizations and individuals to promote local leadership. Study tours and exchanges are being organized to bring together groups working on issues of common interest to share ideas, to understand different modes of working and to exchange lessons learned and experiences gained, successful or not. To maximize the exchange of experience and expertise from best practice case studies, the BLP is developing a roster of expertise which is comprised of the individuals involved in the development and implementation of best practices. The roster is designed to facilitate the matching of supply with demand for best practice expertise through careful identification of organizations that can best benefit from the exchange. These study tours and exchanges are then documented as case studies in transferability and replicability. The results of the exchanges will be monitored and evaluated by UNCHS before dissemination via the Best Practice Data-Base.

Best Practices as a Development Tool

UNCHS has recently developed a joint pilot project with the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), entitled "Information and Communication Technology: Using Best Practices as a Development Tool: A Pilot Project for Kenya." The project will link up volunteer organizations, for profit and not-for profit organizations, youth groups, local authorities, and others in a network to allow for the exchange of knowledge, expertise and experience on what works in bringing about lasting improvements to the quality of the living and working environment. Research institutions will be analyzing these solutions in view of extracting lessons learned for further application in training and local leadership development.

The joint UNCHS/IDRC project is designed to empower selected representatives of civil society in order to provide them with the tools to contribute effectively to solving pressing social, economic and environmental problems through the sharing of local knowledge, expertise and experience.

How Can You Participate?

More information on any aspect of the BLP can be obtained by contacting the Best Practice and Local Leadership Programme, PO. Box 30030, Nairobi, Kenya.

Tel: (254-2) 624 328 and
fax: (254-2) 623 080
E-mail: best

Construction wood markets in Tanzania and Kenya


A project to study competing demands for renewable natural resources in the context of rapid urbanization started early this year under a 'north-south' collaborative effort funded by the European Union.

The three-year project, focusing on construction wood markets, seeks to investigate the extraction, trade and use of poles, bam-boos, sawn timber (treated and untreated), leaves, grasses and other forest products within the built environment (buildings, fencing, scaffolding, infrastructure, furniture, etc ) in four African towns.

Experts from four research institutions in both the 'south' and 'north' are involved in this multi-disciplinary project These are the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; the Department of Land Development at the University of Nairobi, Kenya; the Department of Forest Industry Market Studies (SIMS) of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences at Uppsala; and the School of Construction at the South Bank University, London (the project coordinators).

Project Outline

The need for sustainable management of natural resources sets the context for the project's aims: to identify policies that would facilitate sustainable supply of construction wood at affordable prices to fast-growing African cities. The focus on construction wood is in light of other available construction materials and the competing demands for wood generally - particularly for fuelwood, for export markets and for industrial production.

Ideas for the research spawned from experiences of the project coordinator, Ms Jill Wells, while studying the use of bamboo as a construction material in Bangladesh.* The study observed that the demand for bamboo for construction and other purposes, and the need among rural people for (subsistence) income, is inducing extraction practices which produce adverse environmental impacts.

A review of existing literature revealed that although a great deal has been written on the effects of the extraction of wood for fuel, inadequate research had been carried out on the environmental impact of extraction of wood and grasses for construction purposes. Not much attention has also been paid to the markets for construction wood, and the incentives that a rapidly growing market might provide for tree planting.

With rapidly increasing urban populations and a high dependence upon wood for shelter in many poorer parts of the world, it is important to understand where the wood is coming from, the production/extraction and trading systems that support construction wood, their environmental impact and how government policies affect their operation.

Kenya and Tanzania were identified as appropriate locations for research because of the rapid rate of urbanization, the variety of ecological environments and heavy dependence on wood for construction. It was felt that the choice of neighboring countries with rather different political frameworks, economic structures, income levels, population densities and remaining tree cover, would enable interesting comparisons to be made.

The on going research is centred on four towns. The first pair of towns to be studied are Mombasa (Kenya) and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), both situated on the coast. In both towns, mangrove poles are an important source of wood for the construction of the traditional 'Swahili' houses, as well as being used by the building industry as 'props' and for roof structures in more modern houses. For many centuries mangrove poles have also been exported to the Middle East, where they are much in demand for roof construction. However, there is evidence that in recent years the mangrove forests have been heavily over-cut (despite a ban on exports in both countries) and in many places the survival of the mangrove ecosystem is believed to be in danger.

The research will investigate the current uses of mangrove (and other) wood in urban construction. It will then attempt to trace back the supply routes to the source, sketching out the structure of the supply networks and the agents involved in the supply chain. The exercise will subsequently be repeated in another pair of towns in a different ecological zone and with a different supply system. It is possible that one (or both) of the second pair of towns might be chosen because it receives significant quantities of construction wood from forest plantations (as opposed to indigenous for fists) - or even from private farms. Machakos/Dodoma, Kisumu/Mwanza or Nakuru/Arusha are currently being considered as possibilities.

Objectives of the Research

Specific objectives of the project are to:

· examine the patterns of demand for construction wood in the study cities;

· establish the structure and dynamics of construction wood markets, the wood supply networks and the agents involved;

· assess the sustainability of current exploitation of wood for urban markets;

· examine the way in which government policies (economic, environmental etc.) affect the agents in construction wood networks;

· assess the ecological, economic and policy circumstances under which tree growing for construction wood becomes profitable and can be promoted;

· identify circumstances and policies which both promote the sustainable management of natural resources (wood) and facilitate the provision of affordable building materials to rapidly developing urban markets.

It is expected that the work carried out under the project will enable projections to be made about the demands for construction wood. More important, however, is the understanding it should provide of how construction wood markets operate. This information should provide a basis for making recommendations to the policy community (governments, international agencies, NGOs etc.) on how to intervene more effectively to achieve critical development objectives. The research findings should also enable a more rational use of forest resources, protection of endangered environments, stimulation of tree planting and improved access to affordable building materials.

When dealing with policy recommendations it is recognised that objectives may well conflict. It is also recognised that there will inevitably be 'winners' and 'losers'f rom any intervention. This means that issues such as power relations, gender relations, urban and rural elites, urban bias and political and ethical considerations will need to be addressed, in order to assess the likely distribution of policy impacts among different groups.

Project Methodology

With lime previous work having been done in the area of the study the initial stages of the fieldwork involve identifying broad patterns in the extraction, trading and use of construction wood. These will be formulated into a rough 'model' of the system which will be built upon, adjusted and modified as further research into specific issues is carried out. The approach used throughout are the 'rapid' appraisal methods involving (amongst other techniques) participant observation, rough mapping, identifying key informants, semi-structured interviews, life histories, focus group discussions, an interactive approach to investigation, triangulation, etc. Work done by others on fuelwood, social forestry, agroforestry and livelihoods in fragile environments provides examples of the use of similar methods on which this research can build.

Links between Institutions

The research is multi-disciplinary and involves researchers from a variety of academic backgrounds and with specialist knowledge in: building materials, construction, development studies, ecosystems, economics, energy use, forestry, geography, institutions, land valuing, marketing of timber, social forestry, sociology, and urban issues. This diversity of specialisms brings immense knowledge and experience to the project and the structure of the research allows all partners to participate in the design of the methodology and the interpretation of findings from the fieldwork.

A broad framework for the fieldwork was established jointly by all partners at the first workshop of the project, held in Nairobi in February 1997 An extensive review of relevant literature (in which all partners participated) is substantially complete. Participant observation and discussion with users and traders of construction wood in the first two study locations, Mombasa and Dar es Salaam, is now underway with a view to roughly mapping the flows of wood These initial stages of the fieldwork are in the hands of the local partners, although it is anticipated that all partners will participate to some extent in all aspects of field work and all will participate in analysis of the data. As information is generated, and work starts on modeling the flows, the variety of expertise amongst the partners will be bought into play to focus on analysis and interpretation. The multi-disciplinary nature of the research team could produce conflicting or reinforcing explanations of the data generated by the field research. This will provide the basis for cross-checking and careful analysis of underlying assumptions.


Considering the ambitious goals the project seeks to achieve, it would clearly be difficult to meet all of the set objectives to the intended standards. However, six months into the project, much has been achieved. Four teams of people, from very diverse backgrounds, are working together in an attempt to push back the frontiers of knowledge in an important and much neglected field.

By Dr. Jill Wells and Dr. Sunil Kumar,
Southbank University UK

* SKAT Building Materials in Bangladesh, Report for the Swiss Development Cooperation, St.Gallen, 1991

Alternative roofing technology: a case study of technology development and dissemination in Kenya

Research by E. Agevi, J. Mjaria and A. Ng'ang'a

Considerable effort has been expended to develop and disseminate appropriate housing technologies in Kenya over the past 15 years. One of the most significant input is marked by a ten-year project to introduce low-cost appropriate technologies for construction and basic services.

The ten-year project between GATE/GTZ and the Housing and Building Research Institute (RABBI) was instrumental in the development and testing of alternative options which make use of abundantly available resources (materials, equipment, energy, labour), and are simple enough to implement by self or mutual help.

Dissemination strategies have since sought to create awareness and understanding about the proven technologies to different players in the building industry, i.e. the users, builders, professionals, policy and decision makers, and the local authorities

Today, almost two decades later, there is still a conservative nature in the building industry that is prejudiced against using non-conventional building materials and techniques. The reasons for this scenario are diverse and call for an insight into the issues arising from the uptake of these materials and technologies.

Early this year, the Intermediate Technology Development Group - Kenya completed a study to examine the challenges faced by technology developers and promoters of alternative roofing materials and production equipment. The output, Alternative Roofing Technology: A Case Study of Development and Dissemination in Kenya, is an analysis of the viability and commercial sustainability of low cost options in roofing Emphasis is laid on experiences with the fibre/micro concrete (MCR/FCR) tile to illustrate their impact on production and consumption patterns.

Clearly, it has not been an easy road for this relatively new technology in a competitive roofing market. For example, the initial imported equipment were inappropriate for small-scale equipment manufacturers who have settled for more appropriate alternatives produced locally Local promoters and developers have not only looked into improved production modes but also taken the initiative to develop skills among artisans in various production scales. Dissemination by promoters and developers such as ITW, HRDU, AAK, Approtec and ITDG has targeted even the smallest producer. Dissemination of the MCR/FCR, therefore, has had to take into consideration even the rural areas without electricity.

The study discusses various issues such as limits of dissemination strategies, quality control and achievements made by skill developers and promoters of the MCR/FCR. The implications of inadequate finances for the MCR/FCR projects and strong tendency by users to stick to conventional roofing materials, such as the GCI (Galvanized Corrugated Iron), come out clearly.

Equally significant is the extent to which limited local capacities have impacted on the production, use and spread of the MCR/ FOR tile A case study of Komarock Housing Project in Nairobi illustrates this point.

The study highlights the key issues that affect marketing of the MCR/FCR and discusses possible solutions. For example, how do the FCR/MCR prices compare with the lighter gauges of GCI sheets? Can smalls-cale and arge-scale producers net sufficient profits to sustain themselves and their business, even in times of market fluctuations? How do macro-economic changes affect MCR/FCR enterprises? What are the individual successes among the small-scale proprietors and what steps are owed to their success? Why the apathy among the less successful producers? Are there any possibilities for future diversification.

Among the interesting findings are the gender implications on the production of the FCR/MCR tiles by the various entrepreneurs.

A tabular account illustrates the spread and adoption of the FCR/MCR by various categories of producers and users. The figures also project the market growth over the years, suggesting the long term possibility of the FCR/MCR becoming a major contributor to the national economy.

The study strongly urges further dissemination to increase public knowledge on available low cost options for roofing, and the need to support small-scale producers to improve not only their technical skills but also business management strategies.

By Jedidah Kaburu, Kenya

The BASIN-AEA awareness seminar: An impact assessment

BASINNews No 13 reported on an awareness seminar on sustainable building technologies conducted jointly by BASIN and the Egyptian Atomic Energy Authority (AEA) in Egypt in September 1996.

The seminar sought to introduce a range of building technologies that have potential for application in Egypt and other countries in the region. Emphasis was laid on the use of low-cost, localIy available, and environmentally suitable materials, which can be processed with average skills and relatively low capital input on a small and medium scale. .

The aim of the seminar - indeed, of all such training courses and workshops - is to achieve an impact and sustainable results It is obviously in the interest of all those involved in the activity to assess whether the effort was worthwhile. Sponsors, organisers and resource persons need to know the impact achieved or, if not, why. This article reviews what has been achieved as a direct result of the impact. Impact n this context is the positive change(s) resulting from the activity.

One most significant and sustainable output from the seminar is the Egyptian Earth Construction Association (EECA). Formation of the association was first proposed during interactive group discussions at the seminar.

EECA now has some 70 members, comprising arch sects, engineers, and decision makers in Government and the private sector. The association also has a constitution and is in the process of being officially registered.

EECA aims to have topics on sustainable building technologies included in architectural school curricula. The members are further keen to promote use of earth as an alternative to the extensive use of cement in Egypt and harp on old Egyptian building traditions to promote earthen structures.

Other plans include compiling an atlas containing information on building traditions in the country; suitable soils and other raw and waste material resources for building material production; a skills profile and climatic conditions, among others.

Long-term plans include the setting up of a building advisory contra for sustainable building technologies in Egypt. The centre will be the focus for seminars and advice for the planning and implementation of demonstration projects for wider dissemination.

Already, EECA - with assistance from BASIN/GTZ - intends to organise a follow-up workshop in November 1997 to refine their plans and activities. Look out for more news in BASINNews 15.

Hannah Schreckenbach is BASIN's
Vice President and was among the moderators and one of the resource persons at the BASIN-AEA Seminar

BASIN Seminars/Workshops

Proven Sustainable Building Technologies for Housing Institutions

The need for adequate and affordable shelter is rapidly emerging as a global challenge.

Consequently, access to high quality, qualified information and advice on building materials and construction technologies is becoming of paramount importance to key players in the shelter sector.

To meet this demand, BASIN offers to run seminars/workshops designed to enable decision makers and project leaders to keep pace with the rapid evolution of proven sustainable building technologies.

BASIN's approach:

· encourages participants to assume greater responsibilities in the learning and development processes

· incorporates positive experience acquired by practicing experts

· integrates current projects and problems to ensure seminars/workshops are immediately relevant and valuable.

For further details on programmed, content, organization and costs, please contact:

BASIN Training
Attn. Hugo Houben
60 avenue de Constantine
BP 2636
F-38036 Grenoble Cedex 2
Fax: +33-476-22 7256

Veteran BASIN architect to retire

BASIN vice president and veteran architect Hannah Schreckenbach is set to retire from GATE/GTZ this year after devoting more than three decades of her professional life working in or for developing countries.

Ms Schreckenbach, 65, started her career by learning the bricklaying trade before specialising in engineering and architecture. She spent 22 years working in Ghana - fifteen of which she served as a development architect in the Ministry of Works and Housing and seven years as a senior lecturer on building construction at the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi.

In Ghana, Ms Schreckenbach accumulated valuable practical experiences in designing and putting up buildings under difficult circumstances. That she chose to stay in the country while it underwent a critical political transformation phase is a measure of her strong character and resolve to work for the developing world. It was during this period that she increasingly began to advocate use of locally available resources (raw materials, waste materials and people) in
the production of building materials; development and adaption of cost effective building techniques; and, strengthening capabilities of local know-how resources.

Ms Schreckenbach later joined the GATE division of the GTZ in Germany, where, save for a brief stint in the Building Section, she has remained until her retirement.

Using the practical professional experience gained in Ghana, Ms Schreckenbach has been instrumental in facilitating linkages between partners throughout the world. Her strong belief that the potential in the South must be harnessed to build a better world saw her involvement in founding BASIN, a network which is now expanding to include network partners from developing countries.

Ms Schreckenbach is credited with forging strong links with numerous "southern" partners on behalf of BASIN. Notable among these is the Shelter Forum in Kenya, one of the first southern institutions to seek affiliation with BASIN. Having been involved in several shelter-related projects in Kenya, Hannah was quick to spot the potential of Shelter Forum to become a leading networking institution in the region. Her intervention has since strengthened Shelter Forum to become an effective BASIN southern partner.

Although Ms Schreckenbach will quit the GTZ office in Germany at the end of September, BASIN is assured that she will continue to serve the network for some more years. She is also prepared to continue corresponding with readers on matters concerning their work and BASIN. Her keen interest to record her professional experience is a reassuring indication that we are yet to hear the last of her.

Her new address is:
Ms Hannah Schreckenbach (Dipl. Ing.)
Martin-Andersen-Nexoe-Str. 11a
D-39108 Magdeburg, Germany
Tel/Fax: +49 (0)391 73 37 665

Local Manufacture of Equipment

BASINNews No. 16 will cover the broader issues and aspects related to the local manufacture of tools, production and construction equipment. It will focus on the technical constraints, marketing problems, economic benefits, policy aspects and technology transfer opportunities, etc.

If you think that you can contribute to the subject and/or share your own thoughts and experiences with our readers or suggest others that could be consulted for a contribution, please, write to:

attn. Hugo Houben
B-P- 53
F-33092 Villefontaine-CEDEX
Fax: +33-474-95 64 21

As the BASIN partner CRATerre is acting as a theme editor for the above mentioned edition, kindly send your message/suggestions to them as soon as possible.

Figure BASIN

Building materials and construction technologies that are appropriate for developing countries, particularly in the low-income sector, are being developed, applied and documented in many parts of the world. This is an important prerequisite for providing safe, decent and affordable buildings for an ever-growing population.

But such new developments can do little to improve the building situation, as long as the information does not reach potential builders. The types and sources of information on standard and innovative building technologies are numerous and very diverse, making access to them difficult.

Thus, in order to remedy this drawback, Shelter Forum, GATE, ITDG, SKAT, CRATerre are cooperating in the Building Advisory Service and Information Network, which covers five principal subject areas and coordinates the documentation, evaluation and dissemination of information

All five groups have a coordinated database from which is available on Documents, Technologies, Equipment, Institutions, Consultants as well as on Projects and Programs. In addition, printed material or individual advice on certain special subjects is provided on request. Research projects, training programs and other field work can be implemented in cooperation with local organizations, if a distinct need can be identified and the circumstances permit.

BASIN is a service available to all institutions and individuals concerned with housing, building and planning in developing countries, but can only function efficiently if there is a regular feedback. Therefore, any publications, information, personal experiences, etc. that can be made available to BASIN are always welcome and will help BASIN to help others.

Advisory Service provided by
Shelter Forum
P.O. Box 39493
22 Chiromo Access Road
Off Riverside Drive
Nairobi, Kenya
Phone: + 254 - 2 - 442108
Fax: + 254 - 2 - 445166

Shelter Forum (SF) is a coalition of non-governmental organizations, which deal with issues on affordable shelter in Kenya. The main goal of SF is to enhance access to affordable shelter for all, particularly the poorest, among whom the most vulnerable are women and children, through advocacy, extension and networking

Advisory Service provided by
P. O. Box 5180
D-65 726 Eschborn
Federal Republic of Germany

Phone: + 49 - 6196 - 79 3190
Fax: + 49 - 6196 - 79 73s2
e-mail: hannah.schreckenbach@GTZ.DE

GATE (German Appropriate Technology Exchange) a programme of the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH, acts as a centre for the dissemination and promotion of appropriate technologies for developing countries.

Advisory Service

provided by

Myson House
Railway Terrace Rugby CV21 3HT
United Kingdom
Phone: + 44 - 1788 - 560631
Fax: + 44 - 1788 - 540270

The Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG) is an independent British charity, founded by Dr. E F. Schumacher, author of Small is Beautiful, to help increase the income-generating and employment opportunities of small-scale industrial activities in developing countries.

Advisory Service provided by
Vadianstrasse 42
CH-9000 St Gallen

Phone + 41 - 71 - 228 54 54
Fax: + 41 - 71 - 228 54 55

SKAT (Swiss Centre for Development Cooperation in Technology and Management) is a documentation centre and consultancy group which is engaged in promoting appropriate technologies in the Third World.

Advisory Service provided by
EAS/BASINCRATerre - EAGMaison Levrat, Parc FallavierBP53F - 38092 Villefontaine CedexFrancePhone: + 33 (0) 474 95 43 91Fax: + 33 (0) 474 95 64 21e-mail: frCRATerre, the International Centre for Earth Construction, is a specialized unit of the school of Architecture of Grenoble, dedicated to the promotion of earth as a building material.