We are delighted to share this report from Kenya.
The four day brick-making workshop was very successful and the mothers, as always, enjoyed learning something new.
The instructor, Duncan Menza, who is from within the community and familiar with most of the mothers, was very understanding and patient. He said having all the mothers train at one go would not be the best way for them to learn so we divided them into two groups.
Preparations for the workshop began a week before. We put together all the required materials and also called in a carpenter who fixed a base for the brick press.
We then prepared the cooking area by putting polythene paper around to prevent the strong winds from blowing dust into our food as it was being cooked. We also covered the top to create a shade.
Duncan began by explaining parts of the brick maker and their purposes, then he proceeded on to discussing types of soil and what to look out for when digging soil for brick-making purposes.
What followed was preparation of the area where the mixing would be done and the bricks laid to cure.
That being done, he told us the ratio which is 1:3:3.1 bag of cement, 3 wheelbarrows of soil and 3 wheelbarrows of sand. This ratio was to give us not less than 80 bricks per bag if they are the normal size. The size we chose was the biggest so we got 70 bricks instead.
With the 20 bags of cement purchased, we are looking forward to having approximately 1400 bricks once we are done with all the cement. We also ordered 1 lorry of sand which, according to our instructor, can produce 3000 normal size bricks so hopefully, when we are done with this cement we can buy more to finish the sand.
The first day for both groups was a little challenging because many of the bricks broke as we tried to perfect the process. Each mother had the opportunity to take out and lay a brick which is the hardest part. You can do the mixing and pressing as a group but only one person can take out the brick.
It wasn’t possible for the mothers to finish a whole bag of cement in a day so when they left, Duncan stayed behind to finish the mixture so that the binder (cement) didn’t lose its strength.
On the first days of both groups, the instructor left as late as 10 pm but the second days were a little better. Thanks to his dedication, by the end of the 4 day workshop we had 278 bricks.
The mothers agreed to continue coming to make the bricks and they have been doing so as per their groups since Monday. The mixture that they are unable to finish is then finished by Erick. As of today, Wednesday 15th March, we have used 5.5 bags of cement and we have 414 bricks. The mothers are picking up pace and I’m sure by the time we get to 10 bags of cement, they will be able to press at least 70 bricks a day.
Duncan has been coming to monitor the mothers’ progress and today he said, “You people are doing so well. Tomorrow is the last day I’ll come check on you.” He also said that with the way they are picking up pace, there is no need to come in a group of 10. They can come in fours but even two can get the job done. The mothers liked that idea because there is a lot of idling with a group of 10, and agreed to present their partner list on Friday.
After a brick is pressed, it is laid under direct sunlight. The next day, however, the brick is moved to a shaded area where water is slowly poured onto it allowing the brick to suck up. This process is key to having strong durable bricks and needs to take place for 7 consecutive days.
Each day, the mothers moved the previously made bricks to a shaded area for the curing process. One mother would then water all the bricks accordingly. Tomorrow, the bricks that were made on the first day will be moved to the final space to await construction and it will continue that way until all bricks from the 20 bags are cured.
I have been keeping records of the water for curing and as of yesterday when we had the first batch have its final round of water, we used 6 jerricans. That is one trip via pikipiki.
A full bag of cement uses 10 jerricans so in a day, we use 3 trips of water (including water for the curing bricks and for drinking and cooking). This will continue for the next four weeks until all brick-making and curing is done.
As customary during training, we enjoyed two meals, breakfast and lunch, a fully balanced diet. As of Monday this week, I have done the best I can to make sure the mothers have something to eat when they arrive to make the bricks.
The workshop went very well and apart from learning a new skill, the mothers had fun. I think we should continue accumulating the bricks as we are just getting started with developing the Permaculture Training Centre.
On behalf of the mothers, Duncan the instructor and the Kenya Word Forest team, I want to thank you for the knowledge and skills that we keep learning. You have no idea how much you positively impact the Garashi community.
My dream is to have a resilient, healthy, economically stable and eco-friendly community. The bigger picture is that I would love all these things for the whole world and this is how we start.
Eva Jefa and the Kenyan Team