Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dealing With Disaster

This past Saturday afternoon, I drove out with our day guard to take a look at his place. He, his wife of several years, and their two year old daughter live as squatters in an outlying area of Ouaga that has not yet been subdivided into lots. People do this in hopes that when the area is finally surveyed and subdivided, they will have first dibs on the piece of property on which they have been living. For ordinary folks, this is the cheapest and probably only way they will ever have a chance of owning their own piece of land. Buying a piece of property that has already been subdivided is far beyond their reach.

The drawback is that it isn’t worth it in the long run to build anything permanent in the interim. When the surveying is finally done, it’s almost inevitable that they will have to break down whatever they have built in order to accommodate the new property lines. However, in the meantime, they do need a place to live and a way to have some privacy. Thus, houses and courtyard walls tend to be built of mud brick rather than cement block, minimizing the initial cost, and the subsequent loss when subdivision finally occurs (mud bricks cost 25 francs and cement blocks cost 200 francs).

When the torrential rains fell one day this past September, our guard’s place was inundated. Water flooded the courtyard and reached a height of several feet even in their house. Within hours, the water had soaked into the courtyard wall, softening the mud bricks that it was made of, with the result that it simply crumbled and fell. They were afraid that the same thing was going to happen to their house. The only thing that saved it was that our guard had had the foresight and resources to place it on a cement foundation.

Now he wants to do a similar thing with a new wall, building the bottom three courses out of cement blocks, and the upper part with the regular mud bricks. This will mean spending limited, hard-earned money on something that is temporary.  But as I said previously, they do need a wall that will provide some privacy for at least several years yet, and be able to withstand the coming rainy season next year. We’ll do what we can to help.


Virpi said...

It seems I know the place you were talking about. I just found your blog via facebook. The world is so small...

Mike Steinborn said...

Yes, you know this place alright, Virpi :) Benjamin says that the new wall is well on its way up and should be finished soon.