Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Infrastructure Development Volunteer Project for GVI Shimoni, Kenya

I volunteered for 4 weeks during May/June of 2014 with a UK based NGO called GVI building latrines nearby Shimoni, a small village on the southern coast of Kenya.  Four latrines total were built, one in each corner of the neighboring village to aid with hygiene and sanitation initiatives since the village currently had no latrines nearby.  In addition to construction, GVI also has volunteers who work on health initiatives and community development with the community (as well as forest and marine wildlife conservation projects.)

The village partnered with GVI by first digging the holes of each latrine to a depth of about 20 feet, much of which was dug through the solid coral rag rock characteristic of the area.  Construction for the entire project was completed over the course of about 5 weeks, usually with 3 volunteers and a local “fundi” – the Swahili term for someone who is an expert in their trade.  

Hamisi (our fundi) squaring off the foundation.

A foundation was laid around each hole using pieces of coral rag and cement, followed by the floor which was a mix of coral gravel (hand-cut) and cement to create the concrete.  With the base in place the walls were laid using coral bricks and cement.  (Often the coral bricks were irregularly shaped and could be trimmed into blocks using a dull machete.)  The roof and doors were constructed using several wood beams and tin sheets.

The materials and methods used for construction of the latrine were typical for almost any structure in Kenya.  Many of the homes built with low cost materials would consist of a wood grid frame and mud bricks, sometimes using pieces of rock and a thatch roof.  However more permanent and higher quality structures in various villages and the major cities are built using concrete and coral bricks.  The bricks were sourced from one of several quarries along the coast, and the concrete also quarried in these areas and manufactured at one of the several major cement plants in Mombasa.

Here is a short time-lapse video of the process of constructing one of these units:

For more information about GVI, visit: