The project in short
In the small village Nsutem in the south of Ghana, we are planning a new community library. The library will serve the three different schools in the village and give those without education in Nsutem also access to learning. Apart from reading and conference spaces, the library will be furnished with several computer workplaces. The library will be built with the help of the local community and (international) volunteers during a three-month workshop in the summer of 2020 (July-September). Although the design for the library is not yet finished (will follow soon), we aim to create a built area of appox. 200 m2. The required funds for the project are provided by generous donors and sponsors. A local NGO, Bookdrop Ghana, will furnish the library with books and support the local community with the managament and organisation of the library. A construction firm from Accra, Hive Earth, will support our local team with their expertise during the entire Workshop. After completion the library will be managed by the council of elders in Nsutem, under the direct guidance of the local chief.
The project partners
ArchiFair: Project management and organization, financing and execution of the construction
Team Hive: Supporting the ArchiFair-team in Nsutem (supervising the construction) and organizer of an Earth Building-workshop for the volunteers
The community of Nsutem: Supporting the ArchiFair-team during their stay in Nsutem
Richard Oppong: Local coordinator and primary contact person for the ArchiFair-team in Nsutem
Bookdrop Ghana: Furnishing the library with books and provide organizational input regarding the management of the library
Technical University Vienna: Technical input and organizational assistance
University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna: Technical input and organizational assistance
Nsutem is a small village about 100km northeast of Accra and roughly 150km southeast of the second biggest city in Ghana, Kumasi, Nsutem is part of the administrative region East. The village has about 2000 inhabitants of which approximately 60% are 25 years old or younger. As in most rural areas in Ghana, the majority of the people are not able to read and write very well. Especially older people often haven’t received any education at all. Most people are subsistence farmers who just about earn enough to make ends meets. And although the number of people that live below the UN-poverty line (less that 2 $ a day) has steadily declined in the past decades in Ghana, in rural areas there are still about 25% of the people living in poverty. When we look at the housing situation in Nsutem, most of the dwellings are very puristic. Most houses are not much more as simple earth structures demonstrating the poor economic conditions in the village. The houses are small and mostly very warm, and they often lack the most basic amenities such as a toilet or a bathroom. It is therefore that most activities take place outside (cooking for example) under the confines of a porch or a big tree.
The construction site
The site were the library will be built is situated near the primary school in the village (see the map below). The land is owned by the local chief who got it as a gift from the Ghanaian government to support the development of the local community. Some years ago an attempt was already made to construct a library at this location but it has never been completed due to a lack of funds. On the picture above you can still see its remaining skeleton of concrete bricks. The plan is to dismantle this structure and used the concrete bricks for various repair jobs around town.
The library design
As already mentioned above, the design for the library is not yet finished. As soon as we have agreed upon a design we will present it here in full.
One of the prerequisites for the design is that it can be built in only 12 weeks. This means that the design has to be highly practical and flexible in order to secure its timely completion. And when we take into consideration certain aspects such as the weather (it might rain several days in a row) and/or the relative inexperience of our volunteers, it becomes even more evident we need to keep our ambitions within a realistic scope. Another important prerequisite for the design is that it has to built foremost with earth. We regard earth as the ideal building material in these surroundings as it is excellently suited for a warm climate and it is cheap and readily available. And although we principally focus on the library for now, we do consider our design from a more broader perspective. Earth is not a very popular material these days in Ghana despite its excellent qualities. Producing a qualitative building ( for little money) can boost the reputation of earth as a building material and as such, hopefully contribute to a more sustainable building discourse in Ghana.