Bold changes to the status quo

Poverty can be a major barrier to innovation. When families are relying on their harvests for survival and there's no plan B, it's just too risky to try out new farming techniques.

Similarly in construction projects, it is risky to try out new ideas, even if they look better than the standard models. 

Everyone has a stake. For the community and the government, which recognise only one official design for school hostels, new designs feel like they could risk girls' safety.  For implementing organisations and donors, there is a potential reputational risk in trying something unproven.

But with Lyra being the leading provider of hostel accommodation in the area, we saw an opportunity and a responsibility to work on limitations to the existing hostel design.

First of all, the use of burnt bricks (standard throughout Tanzania). Firing bricks consumes valuable firewood and native forests, and produces harmful carbon emissions.

Secondly the design itself, which sees three double bunk beds packed into a small room blocking the only window.

In partnership with Hollmen Reuter Sandman and extensive community consultation, we are building a blueprint for hostels that are more "greener" and more sustainable, and also better designed for the girls. 

For many years, a new technology has been successfully used but not widely adopted. Interlocking Soil Stabilised Blocks (ISSBs) can be pressed and cured from murram - a mix of sand, silt and clay that comes from about 50 cm below the surface.

Using ISSBs reduces wall construction costs and cement consumption by 50%, and the hostel's overall carbon footprint by 40%. 

ISSB technology is very new to our school. All of our school infrastructure was built by traditional burnt bricks.

I have seen some of the building built by ISSB in Iringa, but many people continue using the traditional burnt bricks. I think it takes time for people to change their mindsets.
— Lambert Mdeke, Headmaster, Nyang'oro Secondary School


The community was so keen to get started on their girls' hostel they had already fired 60,000 bricks before the project launch - a massive contribution. So these have been used for the internal walls.

As a result, we have a fascinating juxtaposition of the 'old' and 'new' technologies, and the difference in quality is stark. We hope to promote ISSBs as a better alternative, so they're used more widely in schools and government construction projects. 




Alongside ISSBs, the improved package includes solar power, rainwater harvesting, and energy efficient cooking stoves - all vital in the school context. We're also excited about the new African worm toilets which compost waste from the hostel so it can be used to fertilise the school farm. 

There's no reason at all why these technologies can't be used in rural Tanzania, with great impact. We just needed the courage and visionary investors to get started. 


WhatsApp Image 2018-02-21 at 15.36.12.jpeg