This is a quote from "Hillel the Elder" from the first century. (I thought I was so original!)

Sunday, August 18, 2013


I titled this entry "blocks" but if you look closely at the photo below you will see that this house is made with mud that is shaped by a can or bucket.  After drying they are stacked brick fashion so they hold together.  If the builder is really motivated the indentations will be filled by hand and then decorated.  We saw plenty that were content with this free air-flow design.

The above design is strictly a do-it-yourself model with all on-site materials.

Below is what I would call the next step.  We found four women (I don't know where the men were) digging in this large pit to loosen clay and then mixing it to make clay-mud bricks that dry in the sun.

It takes three days for the bricks to dry before they can be moved.
Below she is showing us the form they use to make two blocks at a time.  They are made on the dirt wherever it looks sort of flat and then scraped off the top for an even finish.

The size stack behind the woman wearing purple sells for 750 kwacha or about $138.00 USD.  That works out to be .23 cents USD each for the 600 blocks in a pile.

Further on we found where this work was done on a larger scale, though still two blocks at a time.  Here they are stacked in a particular oven shape and a wood fire is built under and inside the pile.  I don't know how long it takes or if the outside blocks are as "fired" as the inside ones but the blocks will not "melt" during the rainy season.

Below you can see the wood sticking out and the top covered with dirt and mud to keep the heat in.
I don't know what a "fired" block sells for.

In town on Thabo Mbeki Road there isn't any good clay to dig.

But the process is essentially the same with sand, gravel and concrete.

There are many, many small operators with two or three men who make cement blocks the same way.

The bricks are moved from where they are made and dried after three or four days and stacked for sale.

Anyone can make them.  All you need is a form and a very strong back.

Below you can see the fellow lifting the form off his latest block.  This is tough work as each block must be lifted and shaken to settle the concrete, then when full enough lifted and placed quickly upside-down to remove the form.  Hard on the back.  Remember he is working for someone who buys materials, makes a profit and pays him how much, I don't know.

Here is a crew mixing and filling and pounding to get the air out.  Each block is done one at a time.

Different forms for different shapes but as you can see in the building behind, this is what most of Zambia is made of now.  Cement blocks of questionable quality and conformity and with varied ratios of sand, gravel, cement and water.

These homemade blocks, made with homemade forms sell for 3 or 4 kwacha each or .55 to .75 cents USD each.  Of course you must take in to consideration the overhead of purchasing raw materials, unlike the women in the bush.

It appears that you can go into business wherever there is a bit of vacant land.

This scene below is not on our road but on another road where I saw slightly larger operations with a device that increases production.

These contraptions can be filled with concrete and six blocks are formed and then it is moved on to form another six blocks.  Quality of form is greatly improved and consistency of concrete appears to also be improved.

On the main highway out of town there are even bigger operations that use bigger equipment in a warehouse/shed.  There seems to be a huge increase in production there.  Yet the small entrepreneur seems secure for a while as the demand is very great.