a West African nation of 10 million people, is on the edge of the
Sahara desert. It is a very poor country; with an average
GNI of $240, labor is cheap and mechanized equipment is very
As the desert creeps southward, encroaching on inhabited land,
Malians find that their traditional ways of life are less and less
sustainable. The most direct effect of desertification is a reduction
in plant and tree cover. Malian houses traditionally use boughs
and trunks from large trees as framing for the roofs of their houses;
as these trees become scarcer, new techniques are required.
Woodless Construction, or Construction Sans Bois (CSB),
applies the principles of Romanesque architecture (arches, aults
and domes) to locally available materials--sun-dried bricks. Romanesque
builders used intricate wooden frameworks; since the whole point
of CSB is to build without wood, tools such as the guide-mobile
and other appropriate techniques have been developed to allow masons
to build an entire house without wood.
Based on Middle Eastern archicture and revived by Hassan
Fathy in Egypt, CSB has been promoted for almost 20 years in
neighboring Niger and has been funded by organizations such as the
and Peace Corps.
My colleague Andy Chapin spent 2 years in Niger, training masons
in CSB techniques; during our time together in Mali Andy organized
a training session for a dozen masons. I helped recruit two masons
from bounguel; after the training, they started working immediately,
building a garden shed for Kenga Kone. Andy and I also designed
a CSB rabbit hutch for our good friend Sidiki.