During our most recent trip to Liberia, Africa, the Sahbu team spent most of the trip on a 6 day backpack adventure deep into the jungle. One of the things we became curious about was the methods of building construction. There were many small towns deep in the jungle that we visited along our trek . Most of them were not accessible by vehicles of any kind due the impossibility of crossing the rivers. The only means of crossing the river was by manmade canoes and thus everything must be carried by hand including food, clothing, and of course building materials. The buildings, or “mud huts” as they are called, are built from the only materials readily available. First long straight sticks are collected from the jungle. Bamboo was used typically. The sticks were lashed together in a grid spacing the sticks about 10’’ horizontally and vertically. With the grid complete, the native soil was mixed with water to create a mud that would be packed into both sides of the grid. This type of building was expected to last 10 to 15 years after which a fresh mud pack would be in order. Towns closer to the difficult river crossings often had corrugated metal roofs. Carrying the metal to the towns further from the river was not practical and those roofs were made of palm leaves. We especially enjoyed the palm leaf roofs and their picturesque qualities, but much more upkeep is required if they are to keep out the heavy rains of the African jungle!
Liberia has struggled since its 14-year civil war ended in 2003. Some would say there is no infrastructure, and the infrastructure that’s starting to be put in place isn’t high enough quality and isn’t coming soon enough. At the end of the war, with issues including corruption, abuse and misuse of resources, the United Nations had to step in and take control. Many fear that if the UN pulls out of the country, the war would rise up once again. For those living in the very rural villages in the Liberian bush, not much has changed. Across the St. Paul to an area in Bong County, people still live in mud huts with thatched roofs, and have no means of transportation except by foot. Many of the services including schools and clinics are almost non-existent. Students who want to go to school beyond the 4th grade have to travel very long distances, including hours of walking and having to cross deadly waters. Farmers have a difficult life as they try to grow the necessary resources to stay alive. In order to grow certain products, the jungle must be burned to clear out the land. After seeds are planted and products harvested, they have to do it all over again in a completely different parcel. The knowledge of refertilization hasn’t been introduced to these people yet. During our recent trip to Liberia, our eyes were opened to this economic development issue. Sahbu wants to increase economic development by helping these Liberians understand the resources they have and how to better utilize time and how to produce greater quantities of product. Liberia is rich with many resources and we want to help them achieve their goals of […]