The Nubian Vault Association (AVN) opens its Program in Ghana

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News from AVN

  • Why did avn decide to target ghana?
  • What have we done so far?
  • What do we want to obtan?
  • A challenge to take up together
  • Contacts

A few words from AVN

The season 2014/2015 is for AVN both tough and exciting. On the one hand, the Nubian Vault market is rapidly growing in AVN countries. More and more clients are willing to build using NV, as well as apprentices willing to be trained: the challenge of matching the demand and the supply, allowing the emergence of a self-sustaining market for the NV, is not an easy one. On the other hand, our wish to bring the benefit of NV architecture in new areas led us to target two new countries neighbouring Burkina Faso, namely Benin and Ghana.  In this brief letter we will tell you about the opening of AVN’s program in Ghana: why we went there, where we are now, where we are going.

Discover the development program led by AVN: appropriate housing for as many beneficiaries as possible, as soon as possible.

Why did AVN decide to target Ghana?

While bringing AVN’s program to a new area is always a challenge, this is particularly true for Ghana, the first English-speaking country targeted by AVN. Our team and masons will need to deal with a new language, different currency, units of measure, habits, political and administrative structure… not to mention the disparity in the development level between Ghana and the countries targeted so far (Ghana is a middle-income country, with cement and iron roof architecture very widespread, even in the villages). Why then has AVN decided to take up the challenge of targeting Ghana?

  • Ghana is a peaceful, democratic and politically stable country, that has experienced rapid growth but is also facing serious developmental challenges: among others, an economy heavily reliant on imports and a huge development gap between North and South, causing a major phenomenon of internal migration;
  • Ghana faces an acute housing deficit (estimated at 1.6 million housing units) and the most employed building materials (cement, concrete, zinc and iron) are not appropriate and increasingly expensive due to the loss of purchasing power of the local currency, the Ghana Cedi;
  • Ghana is one of the most politically influential countries in the West African sub-region. Moreover, its status of a former British colony has put it in the sphere of influence of American and British foundations, NGOs and institutions, often calling for market-led development and investment in social entrepreneurship rather than through charity, in line with AVN’s vision.


The NV technique is not appropriate for all the regions of Ghana; however a large area in the North falls within Sahelian zone.  So the first region to be targeted by AVN’s team is Upper-East:

  • It is one of the poorest areas of Ghana, facing high unemployment rates and registering a level of the Human Development Index not only lower than the rest of Ghana but also stagnating;
  • Upper-East faces a particularly severe housing deficit, with iron sheet roofs massively employed;
  • It is close to Burkina Faso, facilitating the transfer of AVN-BF and AVN-Ghana teams and masons;
  • The Frafra, traditional language of the Upper East, has the same root of the Moore, spoken by most NV masons, and several people in Upper East speak Moore too, which makes easier to exchange practices and competences;
  • The climatic characteristics (temperatures, soil features, rainfalls) are identical to those of southern Burkina Faso, where AVN is already active.

What have we done so far?

As a result of several exploratory missions carried out during the last seasons, the prerequisites for a successful program have been validated. The new AVN-Ghana team has thus been established this November in Bolgatanga, the regional capital of Upper-East Region. The team is composed of Giulio Cocchini, an Italian development economist already assistant coordinator of AVN-BF, and by the recently recruited Cabral Adagewine, from Bolgatanga, an expert in the local context, culture and languages, and with previous experience with international NGOs. Cabral has received a theoretical and practical training at the headquarters of AVN-BF in Boromo before starting work with AVN in Ghana.

Giulio and Cabral have already started awareness raising activities in a few villages surrounding Bolgatanga, finding the first potential clients, as well as several apprentices who have shown interest in learning the technique. A NV mason from Boromo has made a mission in Bolgatanga in order to explore the field conditions and to confirm the suitability of the NV concept in the region.

Sensitization in Gambibgo

Giulio Cocchini and Teme Biseni


We have officially registered AVN-Ghana, which allows us to make a working contract for Cabral, a post box and a banking account. A negotiation is on-going for a plot for an AVN office in concession from the Department for Community Development of Upper-East. The office will also be among the first examples of NV architecture in Ghana, and will offer the possibility to start training the local apprentices. While waiting for the office to be built, the team has settled into a temporary one, where we have started to meet potential clients and partners, to identify the pilot villages and to work on the tools for monitoring the market.

The first team of NV masons, composed of the artisan Samporé Tegawendé and the mason Foro Roland have just arrived and have started the very first Nubian Vault building in Ghana, a computer room in an eco-village in Kalmenga, 30 km away from Bolgatanga. A new team will be sent from Burkina to Ghana soon to construct other buildings in the villages of Yorogo and Kazigo.
The tasks for the AVN team in the next months are to identify and validate the promotional zones to target, to find for each one a local ambassador (key-person) and to start a structured program of promotional meetings in the villages.

In January, construction works of the very first Nubian Vault have started in Ghana: a computer hall in the Green House Village, an eco-lodge in Karimenga, Northern Region. The expert masons from Burkina Faso, Simporé Tegawendé and Foro Roland are training the first Ghanaian apprentices.

What do we want to obtain?


Here are the results concerning the production and the training that AVN-Ghana has targeted for the end of this season and on a 4 year horizon:
2014/2015 2017/2018
4 pilot villages validated in the first pilot region 22 pilot villages in 2 regions
12 NV built on 8 building sites for private and public purposes 96 NV built on 53 building sites for private and public purposes
10 local apprentices started their training process 10 masons fully trained, 13 apprentices in training
19 trees saved, 28 tons of CO2 economised, 15,000 € injected into local economies 125 trees saved, 184 tons of CO2 economised, 90,000 € injected into local economies

A challenge to take up together

The program in Ghana is today financially supported by the Eiffage Foundation and the Hermes Foundation, and a negotiation is ongoing for a financing from the partnership Eiffage Energie - GRIDCo. Since these sources cover only part of the expected costs of the program, the AVN-Ghana team is actively seeking, with the support of the team in France, other sources of finance to cover the annual budget and thus to be able to achieve the expected results. 

Several contacts have been established with other development actors: NGOs, institutions, local and international organizations. With some of them there are good chances for establishing a partnership, with others a collaboration is not feasible, but it is nonetheless crucial to meet them for starting to create a local network of development actors, raising their awareness of the housing issue and of AVN’s solution. 

Among others, the team has met the Department for Rural Housing, the Bolgatanga Municipal Assembly, the Ministry of the Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, the Ministry for Water Resources, Works and Housing, the Environment Protection Agency, the Forestry Commission, the World Bank, the Peacecorps, the NGOs Housing the Masses, Youth Harvest Foundation, SINGh, Greenhouse Foundation, the international NGOs Habitat for Humanity, World Vision, Afrikids, Actionaid, Care Int.

Do you work for an NGO, a foundation or a public agency interested in AVN's work? Do not hesitate to contact us to become an AVN Social Investor, to inform us of your construction needs (not only houses, but also health centres, schools, religious and institutional buildings…), or to explore possible partnerships for the diffusion of the NV concept. Only with your support and collaboration will we realize our dream of bringing to Ghana, for the long term, the benefits of an appropriate, sustainable and affordable architecture.

Contact AVN in Ghana

Are you an individual, a manager of an NGO or of a public agency? Do not hesitate to contact us to inform us of your construction needs, and to explore possible partnerships that may enlarge AVN’s program in Northern Ghana, contributing to a durable and affordable solution to the housing challenge in Ghana.

AVN – Ghana – Building C29, Estate, Bolga-Tamale Road, Bolgatanga, Upper-East 

Giulio Cocchini, National coordinator -
+233 (0)50 288 4430

Cabral Adagewine - Coordination Assistant - 
+ 233 (0)50 2199991 -

Giulio et Cabral in their office

What is the Nubian Vault ?

Untold millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to decent and affordable housing. Deforestation has led to scarcity of timber and straw for traditional roof construction. Families spend meagre cash resources on imported and expensive sawn timber and sheet metal to put a roof over their heads, further worsening the vicious circle of poverty in which they are trapped.

Association la Voute Nubienne (AVN), disseminates the Nubian Vault (NV) technical concept through its 'Earth Roofs in the Sahel' Program, and offers a valid, affordable, and appropriate technical solution to this problem, based on three integrated concepts:
  A Roof + A Skill + A Market

The Nubian Vault (NV)  construction technique uses local skills and labor and renewable materials (earth, rocks, water...) for sustainable low cost homes and other buildings. They are environmentally friendly and  cheaper, more comfortable and longer lasting than the widespread, but expensive and sub-standard cement block, metal roofed buildings.

AVN organises the training and support of local teams to promote this solution for as many people as possible, as soon as possible, by generating a large-scale market in Nubian Vault construction. As a result, families can acquire comfortable, sustainable, and decent housing, at the same time improving their economic conditions, their quality of life, and their environment.

AVN is recognized both locally and internationally as one of the most competent, innovative and experienced organizations dealing with housing, entrepreneurship and environmental challenges, through both its technical capabilities and its economic model:
- UNFCCC / COP 20 Momentum for Change Prize, Urban Poor (2014),
- UN-Habitat/Dubai International Award for Best Practice to improve the Living Environment (2013),
- Schwab Foundation/Social Entrepreneur of the Year for Africa WEF - 2012),
- World Bank/Development Marketplace competition, Climate Change Adaptation (2009),
- Tech Awards for Economic Development (2007),
- Ashoka Changemakers/Affordable Housing (2006), ...



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