Project Status: 

In sub-Saharan Africa, the struggle to obtain decent housing plunges millions of families into a vicious circle of poverty. Association la Voûte Nubienne (AVN) offers a solution to this problem, based on three principles: A Roof + A Skill + A Market. AVN organizes the training and support of local teams to promote this solution on a large-scale so that families can acquire affordable, sustainable, and decent housing, at the same time improving their economic conditions and quality of life.


The project addresses the need in sub-Saharan Africa for affordable, environmentally appropriate, sustainable, comfortable housing. Key beneficiaries are the rural families who acquire NV (Nubian Vault) homes, local builders and apprentices working for the program, who become independent NV entrepreneurs, and the associated workers such as earth brick makers, transporters, laborers. Scarce funds previously used for buying imported building materials stay in, and stimulate, the local economy.


We organize the recruitment and on-the-job training of Nubian Vault (NV) builders in the Sahel, help them become independent NV entrepreneurs, and provide a developing pool of clients for them through our promotional, communication, and networking activities. By 2011, over 200 masons have been trained in the Nubian Vault technique, in Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal, and Zambia, and over 1,000 vaults (houses, schools, dispensaries, barns, churches, mosques...) have been built.


To harness the necessary financial, human, and strategic resources to maintain exponential growth of the Program, and obtain key macro-economic effects, with 5 – 10% of the relevant population of the Sahel affected (c. 20 million people) by 2030.

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To test an innovative strategy for scaling up and accelerating the recruitment and on-the-job training of Nubian Vault (NV) apprentices and the growth of a self-sustaining market in NV houses. Since its foundation in 2000, AVN has trained about 200 masons in the NV technique, who in turn have built more than 900 vaults in Burkina Faso and neighboring countries, successfully validating the technique.

Climate change, deforestation, and increasing population growth in the Sahel region of West Africa make it unfeasible to adopt traditional building methods using bush timber: around two-thirds of the estimated 150 million population in this region live in houses or shacks with roofs of imported corrugated iron and sawn timber. Buildings with such roofs have no thermal or sound-insulation properties, and are unhealthy and uncomfortable. The need for cash to purchase the imported materials forces many families into a vicious circle of poverty. AVN provides an affordable, ecologically sustainable alternative through its program “Earth roofs in the Sahel,“ training farmers and masons to build vaulted earth-brick roofs, using locally available materials, and creating a growing construction market for homes with a low carbon footprint.
Innovation / Expected Results: 

Through proactive collaboration with local village communities, over a 24-month period in a selected pilot zone in the region of Boromo, Burkina Faso, the Pilot Zone Development Program will develop, test, and evaluate a phased-implementation program of apprentice training and construction.