Tag Archives: Senegal

Succeeding in the Sahel

One of the greatest rewards of working on housing issues in rapidly urbanising countries is the opportunity to see how resourceful people are when it comes to obtaining land and housing, even when they have extremely limited resources. The World Habitat Awards, organised and funded by BSHF, provide a wealth of examples of such innovation and I was grateful to be invited by the Director, David Ireland, to visit the 2016-17 World Habitat Awards winning project in Senegal.

A Roof, A Skill, A Market’ was the inspiration of a French mason visiting Burkina Faso in 1998. He saw the vast potential of earth architecture in the arid rural areas of the Sahel and proposed that the Nubian form of mudbrick vaulting be revived as a form of building that would be more comfortable, affordable and environmentally sustainable than conventional reinforced concrete structures. Its unique structural advantage is that by building the arches so that they lean against the end wall, later bricks can lean against earlier arches, making it unnecessary to use wooden formwork until the arch is complete. This means that the system can create vaults of any length and does not need to use increasingly scarce and expensive timber during the construction process.

The program started in Burkina Faso in 2000 with support from the French government and a small team of committed professionals. The Nubian Vault Association has now completed more than 2,000 houses in Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal varying in size and area from modest single storey structures to luxury two storey villas.

With a maximum span of 3.25 metres, buildings provide congenial and calming spaces and can either link to adjoining vaults to create different layouts, or include reinforced concrete beams so that large open spaces can be created. In this way, the structural system can be adapted to meet different uses and the program has already inspired local groups to build school buildings, community centres, mosques and maternity centres.

What makes ‘A Roof, A Skill, A Market’ so special is not, however, just the buildings, great though they are. The greatest achievement is that the team promoting it see the approach as increasing employment opportunities for people of different skill levels in a context where population growth has exceeded economic growth, leading to mass migration out of the region. It is also based closely on market costs in order to demonstrate its economic viability compared to expensive and less environmentally efficient imported materials. Being 100 percent carbon free, it has also been accepted by the governments of Burkina Faso and Senegal as part of their national policies in meeting the global Sustainable Development Goals Sustainable Development Goals.

During a short, but extremely productive and enjoyable visit, the project team of Cecilia Rinaudo and Emmanuelle showed us impressive projects in the rural areas near Dakar, the World Heritage town of St Louis and Podor, on the border with Mauritania. A community managing an environmental reserve told us, “we can manage the reserve better now we have a place to manage it from”, while a school that had previously been reporting low examination results became the top performer the year after the new vaulted building was completed because the improved thermal comfort helped students to concentrate. A local entrepreneur told us his neighbors had expected his house to be washed away when the first rains came and were amazed when it not only withstood the rains but coped just as well when he added a second floor! Finally, a medical doctor said he was happy to spend extra hours at work because the clinic where he worked was more comfortable than his own home!

The program has been expanding at 30 percent a year and has ambitious plans to maintain momentum so that the system is accepted as appropriate for different building types as well as housing and can operate without external financial support.

While most buildings using the system are in rural areas where the majority of the population lives, there is considerable potential for urban and particularly peri-urban areas where population pressure is increasing the demand for affordable housing and where labour intensive methods are ideal. The Nubian Vault Association team hope to apply the approach throughout the whole Sahel region from the Atlantic to the Red Sea and from Algeria in the north to Nigeria in the south. They even plan to reintroduce it in the Nubian desert of Sudan where the tradition first started centuries ago, a great example of learning from the past to meet the challenges of the present and future.

The program and the dynamic team managing it are a deserving winner of this year’s World Habitat Awards!


This article is published in BSHF webpage


2017 World Habitat Awards Announced

'A Roof, A Skill, A Market' Local mosque design and build by the the 2017 World Habitat Awards winner

‘A Roof, A Skill, A Market’
Local mosque design and build by the 2017 World Habitat Awards winner

Following Geoff’s visit to Senegal in December 2016 to assess the ‘A Roof, A Skill, A Market’ project that was shortlisted for the 2017 World Habitat Awards, the Building and Social Housing has announced that the project has been successful in winning one of the two awards! Geoff congratulates all involved in this ambitious programme that has not only shown that the technique can be applied to a wide range of building types, from schools to community centres, housing and maternity clinics, but also provides employment opportunities for semi-skilled workers in a country where many young men have left  to seek a future in other countries.

For full details see BSHF website.

Geoffrey Visiting Senegal for the 2017 World Habitat Awards


Picture by BSHF.

Geoff was invited by David Ireland, Director of the Building and Social Housing Foundation, to visit Senegal to review a shortlisted project for the 2017 World Habitat Awards which the foundation sponsors and organises.

Geoff was one of several trustees invited to visit projects in different countries and was in Senegal between 8-11 December 2016.

During this short time, he visited projects in Dakar, Podor, and Saint Louis, plus some villages, covering large distances up to the Mauritania border.

The projects involved reviving the traditional Nubian mudbrick vaulting system of roofing that does not require any formwork during construction and has been used in a range of building from housing, maternity clinics, community centres and mosques. To read Geoff’s blog, click here.

Here are some of Geoff’s personal photographs:

The projects. Maternity clinic (pic. 1) and house (pic. 2) using Nubian vault roofing.

Everyday life. Women benefitting from the projects (pic. 3); great hospitality by the local community (pic. 4).













Does land titling work for the poor?

Land tenure has been increasingly identified as a key issue in managing the growth of urban areas and reducing urban poverty. Many international agencies and national governments have promoted and adopted programmes of individual land titling.

It has been claimed that the allocation of land titles could unlock such ‘dead capital’ and enable the poor of developing countries to lift themselves out of poverty. In addition, they are held to: increase tenure security; encourage investment; facilitate access to formal credit; generate increased municipal revenues; and promote dynamic land and housing markets.

These ambitious claims for a single policy instrument have naturally attracted considerable interest and support. However, the empirical foundation upon which the claims were made is extremely modest. To assess the evidence, an international review of the literature, together with detailed case studies in Senegal and South Africa, has recently been completed into the social and economic impacts of land titling programmes in urban and peri-urban areas.

The study was undertaken in two stages between mid 2006 and early 2008 by Geoffrey Payne, Alain Durand-Lasserve and Carole Rakodi and was managed by Geoffrey Payne and Associates (GPA). Stage 1 involved a literature review of more than 160 documents and was funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway. A summary of the review was presented at the 2007 World Bank Urban Research Symposium and published in Brother, E. and Solberg, J-A (2007) ‘Legal empowerment – A way out of poverty’ Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Thanks to additional funding from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sida (Sweden) and the Global Land Tool Network based in UN-Habitat, work on Stage 2 began in mid 2007 and involved detailed case studies of titled and untitled settlements in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng Province, South Africa, and Dakar, Senegal. The South African case studies were undertaken by Colin Marx and Margot Rubin of the Centre for Urban and Built Environment Studies (CUBES) at Witwatersrand University, Johannesburg and the Senegal studies were undertaken by a team led by Selle Ndiaye. Summaries of the findings, conclusions and policy implications of the studies were presented by the project team at seminars in Oslo on 09 April, 2008 and in Bergen at the Commission for the Legal Empowerment of the Poor conference in Bergen on 11 April, 2008.

Excessive mortgage lending to low-income groups in the US and UK is presently accused of triggering a global financial crisis. The findings of the project will therefore be of major interest to policy makers, practitioners, academics and students in the fields of urban development, land management and housing policy in developing countries.

* To access the Preface and Executive Summary of the findings of this research project, click here
* To access the full Synthesis Report, click here
* To access Appendix A, the Senegal case study report, click here
* To download Appendix B, the South Africa case study report, click here

For further information, or to exchange information on land titling programmes, please visit our contact page.

Land titling project completed

The research project assessing the social and economic impacts of land titling programmes in the urban and peri-urban areas of developing countries, is now complete. Presentations on the desk review of literature and the outputs of the two case studies, in Senegal and South Africa, were presented at two conferences in Norway between 09-12 April, 2008.

Both events were organised and financed by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the State Mapping and Cadastre Authority, one of the funders of the project (with SIDA and the Global Land Tool Network at UN-Habitat). Following an introductory presentation by Geoffrey Payne, Professor Carole Rakodi made a presentation on methodological issues and Alain Durand-Lasserve presented key issues on cultural aspects of undertaking comparative research. Colin Marx and Margot Rubin then presented the findings and policy implications of the South African case study and Alain Durand-Lasserve then presented the findings and policy implications of the Senegal case study on behalf of Selle Ndiaye. There was a good discussion of the project findings and implications for the general international debate on land tenure issues and policy options.

Following the Oslo workshop, Geoff Payne, Alain Durand-Lasserve, Margot Rubin and Tania Payne, proceeded to Bergen for the conference organised by the Commission for the Legal Empowerment of the Poor held between 10-11 April. A presentation was made by Geoff Payne on behalf of the project team and Alain Durand-Lasserve also contributed some key points.

Copies of selected PowerPoint presentations from both the Oslo and Bergen meetings are available on request.