Markets & Clients

A Strategy for creating markets in NV construction

 Promoting the NV concept: Regional Pump-priming

AVN’s mission is to promote the Nubian Vault as soon as possible, for as many beneficiaries as possible. 

To do this, the Association trains and guides extension agents to 'pump-prime' local markets, starting from a base of pilot villages, evolving into pilot zones, and then into entire regions.

Adjara is an extension agent for AVN in Burkina Faso, based with the AVN team in Boromo. She explains her approach here:

"In a pilot village (a main village and its direct satellites), I identify and prepare a local ‘champion’ convinced of the NV technique and influential locally

I accompany my ‘champion’ to meetings to explain the NV technique and attract potential clients and apprentices, thus opening the door to a NV market.

I send a NV builder (C5) to start the local market; paid by his clients, he builds the first NV houses and trains the first local apprentices on-site. I accompany him, along with my ‘champion’ so that the market develops better.

4 Progressively, over 4 to 5 years, the program of awareness raising, construction, and training reaches a self-sustaining level, with the emergence of an autonomous local market; I can then withdraw, leaving the place to locally trained NV masons.

5 In an area of 40 km around this pilot village, other villages will experience the same process, thus promoting the emergence of a larger pilot zone

6 At the same time, other NV extension agents are developing nearby pilot zones, extending the program to a regional footing.

Using this approach, my colleagues and I promote the NV solution on a large scale, moving on to new areas as soon as local independent markets have emerged..."

Scenes from promotional meetings

The table below shows an example of the quantitative impacts that can be generated during the four phases of implementation of the pump-priming strategy at village level.

Phase Vaults built Direct beneficiaries

NV apprentices

NV masons
1 5 < 15 20 < 125 2 < 8 2 < 4
2 15 < 25 50 < 150 6 < 12 4 < 6
3 20 < 35 80 < 200 10 < 15 6 < 9
  • A self-sustaining local NV market appears
  • Evaluation of training & quality control of buildings
  • Evaluation of the extent of the local market & impacts generated
  • Regional awareness-raising and promotion


Our objective over the next 15 years, is to promote national self-sustaining markets in NV housing by multiplying such initiatives through:

  • creating new regional centers and teams in the countries where AVN is active
  • setting up franchise arrangements with other NGO's and development organisations, whose field staff are trained by AVN.


Promoting the NV Concept : Franchises

AVN extension agents are also involved in helping and training staff of partner organisations wishing to include the NV concept in their own development work. Our program thus benefits from the experience and local networks of such 'franchised' partners.

One or more staff members from a franchised partner, after training with AVN, will then set up and manage a program of recruitment and training of local masons, and construction of houses and other buildings in their locality. Such staff members stay in touch with an AVN team, receive ongoing training and support, and their work and that of their masons is subject to quality control from AVN.

A typical training and support program for a franchised staffer includes:

  • A three-week course with an AVN team in Boromo (Burkina Faso ) or Segou (Mali), covering the basics of project management and AVN procedures.
  • Then, during the first season of construction, return to the pilot village with an AVN 'tool kit', accompanied by a NV master-mason who will be in charge of recruitment and training of local apprentices, and quality control of the construction work; ongoing support will be provided by AVN during this first season.
  • At the end of the season, attendance at a regional congress of masons and extension agents in Boromo or Segou, and a chance to share experiences and problems, and access updates of training materials and information; at this stage, depending on the evaluation of the first season, a decision is taken to either continue with, or cancel, the project.
  • Assuming continuation of the project, at the start of the next season (October in the Sahel), a second congress is an opportunity for further up-dating and training, before returning to the pilot village / zone for the second year... and so on for the following four to six years, by which time a self-sustaining and autonomous market in NV construction should have developed in the zone, covering a cluster of pilot villages.


A young franchised staffer waiting to start his training program !

clients of the NV concept

AVN has four main categories of clients:
  • Type T1: our main target group, rural and semi-rural families living in a mainly informal economy, providing a significant contribution in unskilled labor to construction of their houses and community buildings.
    In the 2010/2011 season, this group accounted for 62% of all NV constructions.
  • Type T2: for example, a civil servant, or trader, also forming part of our main target group. From the formal economic sector, will generally pay in cash for his or her building.
  • Type T3: private clients whose finance comes from abroad (for example, nationals with family members working overseas, or European clients). AVN does not consider this as a priority target group, but they enter naturally into the NV masons' market choices. AVN asks such clients for a small voluntary contribtion to the overall running costs of the Program, and for putting them in touch with suitable NV buiders.
  • Type T4: institutional clients (NGO's, Associations, local authorities...) benefitting from public or organisational funding, often from abroad. For our main target groups (T1 & T2) the buildings financed from such sources are not exemplary, because external to the local market economy, and the buildings - being public - are often poorly maintained. AVN tries to overcome these problems by encouraging such clients to become partners in the overall Program.
  • Client Type 1: Bambriogani, Burkina Faso, 2011

  • Photo 3-1

    Client Type 2: Séguére / Samandéni, Burkina Faso, 2009

  • Photo 4-1

    Client Type 3: Guéguéré / Dano, Burkina Faso, 2009

  • Photo 5-1

    Client Type 4: Pèlengana Cultural Centre, Ségou, Mali, 2008

  • Photo 6-1

    Client Types 1 & 2: Coucou Mosque, Ségou / Koutiala, Mali, 2010

Some institutional buildings, for example the mosques built by village communities, fit in the main target group (T1) category, as they are embedded in local economic circuits, and also play a major role in popularizing the NV concept. 

The majority of AVN's resources (~ 80%) target our main priority groups of 'bottom of the pyramid' families surviving in an informal economy in rural and semi-rural sectors (T1, T2). But as the NV concept becomes better known, other client groups, such as urban families, local authorities, NGO's (T3, T4) are appearing and expanding the market for trained NV builders and entrepreneurs.


sectors of intervention


The situation on the ground, the different needs of our target groups, and AVN's limited resources mean that we have to 'sectorize' and prioritize our activities:

  • Sector 1 - rural & semi-rural: our priority target group (mainly T1 clients). Because of desertification and lack of resources, these groups are most in need of decent housing, and the NV concept is one that is appropriate and affordable, and with the greatest potential impact for good. Over 80% of AVN';s resources are committed to this high priority sector.


  • Sector 2 - Urban: the NV concept is also appropriate for housing in the outlying districts of urban conurbations - it is affordable,  comfortable, suitable for roof-terraces and upper floors. But because of various technical and administrative issues, and the profile of potential clients (relatively wealthy urban families), AVN is not currently (2012) 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, independently, are offering their services to urban clients in Ouagadougou, Bobodiolasso, Bamako, Ségou, and Thiés.


  • Sector 3 -  Complex Buildings: the VN 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 is limited to putting interested field partners in touch with suitable NV entrepreneurs, and, eventually, monitoring the execution of projects.


  • Sector 4 - Pilot Projects in new countries: AVN receives many requests to start programs in new countries. Such requests are considered with care in view of the logistical and financial implications. In the long-term, new programs outside West Africa will require the setting up of viable partnerships with local or national agencies. Currently (2012), AVN is involved in pilot programs outside the Sahel in Zambia, Madagascar, and Rwanda.


  • Sector 1: interior of a NV village house

  • Photo 3-1
    Sector 2: a modern kitchen in an urban NV house

  • Photo 4-1
    Sector 3: a NV classroom with reinforced concrete pillars & beams

  • Photo 5-1
    Sector 4: the first NV in Madagascar (Majunga)


About 20% of AVN's resources are currently deployed in Sectors 2,3, & 4. Although these are low priority sectors, they nevertheless provide a significant market opportunity for some VN buiders and entrepreneurs, provide good training opportunities for apprentices, and increase the local visibility and levels of awareness of AVN.

Towards an autonomous market in nv construction

As well as deploying extension agents such as Adjara to pump-prime a local market in pre-defined zones, AVN through its network of contacts, also puts NV builders and entrepreneurs in touch with potential clients, providing support where needed in defining construction projects, and in monitoring the selection and training of apprentices. We call this a semi-autonomous market. By 2012, 40% of clients were identified through local 'champions' and other intermediaries, and 23% via AVN itself.

As the number and reputation of NV builders increases, an autonomous market is appearing, with builders finding clients and apprentices on their own account, without support from AVN. However, most of these builders stay in touch with AVN, and many attend our masons' congresses, held at the start and finish of each building season, to exchange ideas and contacts, and to update AVN on their work. In 2012, 35% of the NV market was completely autonomous, with clients contacting NV builders directly.

There are also trained NV builders who have lost contact with AVN, and have become completely independent, working in a (to us) invisible market. This is the ultimate goal of  the program, of course, and an indicator of its true success.


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