A selection of fantastic photos showcasing AVN's work in Burkina Faso during the recent season of construction. Click to view ...
The Voute Nubienne 'adventure' was born in Burkina Faso in 1998, when Thomas Granier, a French stone-mason, was invited by a sculptor/blacksmith, Bomavé Konaté, founder of the PIAMET* Association, to organise a technical 'happening'. Thomas had always wanted to try his hand at building a vault without timber framework or support, and he and a local farmer, Séri Youlou, responded to this invitation and built their very first Nubian vault in Boromo. Over the next few years, several more vaulted houses were built in and around Boromo... and the rest is history.
* PIAMET : Parc International des Arts Modernes et Traditionnels
The Association la Voûte Nubienne (AVN) was created in France in 2000 to promote the NV concept in Africa. From 2005 onwards, the AVN team of volunteers and salaried staff has grown progessively, both in France and in Burkina Faso. In May 2009, AVN signed a convention with the Government to establish AVN-BF, with its HQ in Boromo, and a local team under the directorship of Seri Youlou and Leonard Durka.
The AVN-BF team manages the regional deployment of the Program, trains new partners, sets up franchises, and promotes the emergence of an enduring market in NV construction through its pump-priming strategy and network of extension agents.
They also support the NV team in Mali, and the launching of the program in new countries : Sénégal, Zambia, Madagascar, Bénin, Mauritania...
Since the start of the program in Burkina Faso:
In 2013, 66% of NV clients were rural (mainly subsistence farmers), and 21% of the market in NV housing was autonomous (direct contact client <> NV mason/entrepreneur).
The families in this sector represent AVN's key target group, reached in two ways:
(1) Independent and semi-independent markets
Representing about 40 % of the market for NV construction in Burkina Faso, and extending beyond AVN's 'pump-primed' action zones; AVN's role is to put potential clients in touch with NV masons and entrepreneurs, and to keep a record of apprentices trained and NV buildings constructed.
(2) Current regional 'pump-primed' action zones
NV house in Bambrigoani, Nebba, Gnagna Province
Because of various technical and administrative issues, and the profile of potential clients (relatively wealthy urban families), AVN is not currently involved in promoting construction in this sector - it would require a new program for which we do not have the resources. However, some NV builders are offering their services to urban clients in Ouagadougou and Bobodioulasso. And AVN is currently considering, with institutional and private partners, a pilot project for a NV urban housing estate
The NV concept can be combined with other techniques (e.g. reinforced concrete beams and pillars) for larger and more complex buildings. This market sector is reserved for experienced NV builders. AVN's role here is limited to putting interested field partners in touch with suitable NV entrepreneurs, and, eventually, monitoring the execution of projects.
For example, a local construction firm in Pô, with help from the Belgian NGO Écoles du Monde and the Fondation d'entreprise Besix, has built several school classrooms, and will be able in the future to respond to further construction requests.
Construction of classrooms in Pô : Bésix & Ecoles du Monde
AVN receives many requests to start programs in new countries. Such requests are considered with care in view of the climatic, geological, and socio-cultural contexts, and the logistical and financial implications. AVN is happy to undertake exploratory studies to evaluate these contexts and the potential for the use of the NV concept.
In the long-term, assuming the context is appropriate, new programs outside West Africa require the setting up of viable partnerships with local or national agencies. AVN-BF is able to train local project managers, and to organise teams of experienced NV masons to launch new programs. In 2011/12, the AVN-BF tream in Boromo is providing support to the new AVN team recently established in Malii, to our partners in Senegal and Benin, and for our pilot projects in Madagascar, Rwanda, and Mauritania.
The NV concept has been developed and standardised successfully by AVN in such a way as to simplify training, and to minimise the risk of technical problems arising during and after construction.
To reduce the maintenance load after the rainy seasons, and to improve the waterproofing and anti-erosion properties of NV roofs and walls, AVN masons and technical partners are currently testing various systems and products - for example, the use of tar and cement as additives in external renders. Other areas of R&D include the testing of alternatives to rocks for foundations, and ways of adapting the NV concept for urban housing, and for cold storage of agricultural products.