Building a library in Ghana


26th of Novembre 2017


: : The library is finished !  : :

After a year and a half of work, four month of construction, 32 volunteers, 86 new friendships, 19 nationalities, 17 workers, 79 donors, 84 cubic meters of earth, 16 cubic meters of concrete, 252 linear meters of re-bars, 158 metal sheets, 287 wood boards, 1354 nails (and only one quarter of them bent), 8 pairs of metal formworks, four rammers, three broken wheelbarrows, 130 pick-axe’s strokes (per person and per day), 25000 hits of hammer (and only 14 on one’s fingers), 130000 rammers hits (and only 5 on one’s toes), nineteen beams, six bookshelves, one table, two doors, eight windows, one patio, one woodflooring, one staircase, one roof, two candle-lit evenings, 3200 pictures taken, many liters of beer, (way) too much casava, one stolen passport, 46 Akapo spot parties, a few month forced off work, one angry chief, one lost luggage, three songs and 42 words in Twi, five walks in the Jungle, 28 mosquito bites (per day), 23 way and back Abetenim-Effiduase, many hours of negotiation, many hours of drawing, many hours under the sun, many hours of sleep, many hours of tro-tro, a lot of laughters, a few tears and many many children’s smiles… Abetenim’s new library has proudly rose off the ground.

Take a look at the pictures of the finished library !


17th of Novembre 2017


: : Back in Abetenim : :

Saturday, 14th of Octobre, we are back in Abetenim. We have four weeks to complete the library’s roofing that we abandoned a few months before. We are glad to discover the finished walls, the stairs still in good condition, all the windows’ lintels in place, and despite an invasion of plants in the building, we are ready to get back to work.

     

Along with Annor, Mark and Ebenezer, we started on Monday the 16th, to build the formworks for the concrete beam setting on top of the exterior walls. As we were focus on bending the steel to reinforce the concrete, Annor and Mark made the entire wood formwork with brio and in only two days.

Just before leaving France, we prepared the metal pieces on which the wood structure will be fixed. After traveling in our luggage, we set them in the concrete on Wednesday.

Helped by Opoku, Ebenezer, Annor, Mark, David and Ernest, we started the concrete beam at dawn and finished it lit by flashlights, after one long day of work. It is under a blazing sun that the whole team hand-mixed the concrete, passed buckets and checked the level on top of over three meters walls.

While the concrete was drying, we started the next day to cut the beams for the wood structure. Since we had not received the whole wood ordered, we were working step by step, allowing everyone to find its place in the team we are making with Annor, official carpenter of the project, and Mark, our official apprentice. We set up the first beam above the entrance with a lot of emotion. We have thought this wood structure many times, and at last it was starting to be real !

The first assembly went smoothly but some of the next ones gave us a hard time. When the wood is not straight, when the holes are not in front of each other, when the nuts and bolts do not match, and the manual drill brakes, setting up a beam can take quite a long time ! But everything was in place in less than three days, ready to receive the rest of the structure.

The rest of the wood did not go to the saw mill, so we had to carefully pick the straightest pieces depending on their place in the roofing. Whether we were working on the ground or up high, all the interrogations we had when designing the structure found a solution quite easily. Our two working companions were dancing from beam to beam while we were crossing our fingers for their safety and the resistance of the structure. Perched at four meter high on an overhanging beam, Annor hammered four inches nails in three hits ! We did the same in sixteen !

   Hour after hour the volumes of the project appeared and the zebra of the beams’ shadows on the walls and the grounds were giving us a new inside feeling.

 

While Rachel was finishing the wood structure with Annor and Mark, Maude went on an expedition to by the metal sheets in a Chinese factory where protocols and paperwork took more time than choosing the materials. She was back after a few hours and we were ready to start the last step of the roofing : setting up the metal sheets.

What a long and tiresome work ! Annor and Rachel were on the roof, setting up, cutting and nailing meticulously the sheets while on the ground Mark and Maude were supplying them by three or four. It was not always easy to have everything lined up along each façade and we sometimes had to cut the exceeding parts. Little by little the roof starts appearing on our building, and a sudden rain confirmed us there was no leek inside !

As Annor and Rachel were working under the blazing sun, Mark and Maude took advantage of the first shadows of the roof to build the bookshelves, the table above the patio and the vertical bars for the windows.

After four intensive days, we celebrated the official end of the roof at the local spot. Mission accomplished !

We had four days left to fulfill all the « little » tasks that we did not think we would have time to make one day. The sounds of hammers, saws and pickaxes echoed on the site. A new wood flooring appeared at the bottom of the stairs, bookshelves were set up in every walls, a earth-concrete plaster was made on the top of the patio wall, two beautiful doors closed the building and the floor was flatten and weeded on the entire project.

Saturday night we lit candles to celebrate with emotion and pride Abetenim’s new library, surrounded by our team of workers, the children and all the other obrunis.

  


We were delighted to meet our new neighoubors on our arrival on site. While we were away, three new projects appeared next to our library. A German team lead by Maria started building a classroom two weeks after we left in July. An American team joined the construction at the end of the summer and a Spanish team arrived a few weeks after.

Mid-October, Maria’s project was almost done. Only a few metal sheets to add and a couple windows and she was already leaving for new adventures. Her classroom built on a floating slab, is made of two adobe walls and two openwork wood façades. Mate Masie

 

Katrina, Carmen and Steven joined David in the American team to build his classroom project, using rammed earth and poured earth techniques. As we left, they were about to start the roofing. Architeach

Alberto is leading the Spanish team, who finished their project at the same time as we did. His classroom is made of low rammed earth walls completed by colorful wood patterns.

The four projects altogether suggest the new school of Abetenim. We decided to meet on its opening to complete the design of the landscape of the school.


9th of Octobre 2017


 : : The project continues ! : :

Dear all,

We are writing to you today to share some happy news !

Thanks to Tim and our ghanaian team, the walls of the library were completed at the end of the Summer. We are grateful for his precious investment that helped us to achieve the “ramming step” of the construction !

The formworks and the rammers are now used by a Spanish team who is building since September a classroom next to our library.

There is now only the roof missing on the library ! And we have decided to go back to Abetenim to build the wood structure and set up the roofing on the building.

We are leaving on Friday for a month, delighted to be able to put the final touch on our project !

We cannot promise we will write often during our short stay in Ghana, but we will not fail to send you pictures of the library as soon as we are back !


3rd of  August 2017


 : : The construction is starting again : :

Dear all,

We are delighted to tell you that the situation in Abetenim has positively changed a few days ago ! The construction of the senior high school is once again allowed and so is our library ! Tim, a member of our team is still in Abetenim. He offered to follow the construction and we are helping from the France.

The formworks are back on the walls and Tim and our Ghanaian team are ramming again ! We will keep you updated on the next phases of the construction, with hopefully a few pictures of the building !


4th of July 2017


: : The construction is stopped : :

Dear all,

Writing the newsletters has always been a pleasure for us, and we have heard from some of you that you have enjoyed reading them.

However, this time it is a difficult news that we have to give you : we will not be able to finish the library for Abetenim’s school.

Friday, the 9th of June, Juaben Chief’s delegation, to which is attached Abetenim’s village, came on the construction site asking us to stop our work immediately and without any explanation. Since three weeks, it has only been disillusionment, waiting and meetings to try to change the situation without any success.

Our volunteers left at the end of May and we had planned to stay three weeks after that to complete the library. We were stopped two weeks before the end of the construction by the chief of Juaben.

We had at first decided to stay long enough for the situation to evolve. However, it seems that it has grown more and more complicated for the past three weeks and it is now difficult to imagine a positive outcome in the next weeks. Nka Foundation has decided to move the workshops which have just arrived to an other village nearby, outside of Juaben’s juridiction. The workshops planned for July are oriented to Sang, a village in the North of Ghana, also partnership of Nka Foundation.

The issu is now out of our league. We are only able to give you the information we have understood. For political, jealousy and power reasons, the chief of Juaben has stopped all project coming from Nka Foundation. Our library is affected, but also all the next projects for Abetenim’s school.

Negotiations between Nka Foundations and the villages’ chiefs will still last long, without any guaranty of a positive conclusion. As for ourselves, we cannot stay endlessly waiting. We had to take the hard decision to leave Abetenim’s village and our construction site.

The decision was hard to take, after all the long hours of work, all the energy provided by our volunteers and our Ghanaian team, the hospitality of the village and all the support you are giving us since the beginning.

We have covered and protected the walls of the library which is now waiting for someone to pick up the torch. We were sad to leave the village who was ours for four months, but we will always remember the happiness of all, the rich exchanges with everyone, the building lessons from all over the world, the redness of the Ghannaian soil, the violent thunderstorms, the rammers’ sound hitting the earth, the colorful fabrics, the children’s laugh,…


8th of June 2017


: : Week 11 : :

Many weeks have past since we last gave news from our adoptive village of Abetenim. These last weeks have been very intense in the construction site and we worked very hard to finish the library for the new senior high school. Since five weeks now, our daily work can be resumed in three word : we are ramming !

The end of May announced the official end of Eskaapi‘s workshop, and every one made a lot of efforts to end on a high note. We are now four «  Obrunis » and seven Abetenim villagers remaining on site, working hard to complete the building in the next weeks. We have the outside walls to finish ramming and the wood framework to build. No rest for us, the construction site will still be pretty busy !

Walls are growing with our arms’ strengh and the rammers’ impact on the earth ! A long and hard work with some satifying moments when one of our bookshelves or windows’ formeworks takes place inside the wall. The building is changing faster and faster, growing from the level of the ground to actual full height walls. We now have the feeling of an inside and an outside !

Before everyone left, we have accomplished three important steps : a planted patio, the wood stairs between the top and bottom room and we have finished the four walls surrounding the patio.

Creating a patio is quite confusing for our Ghanaian team. Since the beginnig, we have tried to explain there will not be any roof in the center of the building but apparently the idea was not well understood : they were all very surprised when the plants arrived in the patio. It is very confusing to have an outside space inside the building. We are looking forward to see their reaction when the roof will be built with a hole in the centre !

In the mean time, a team built the stairs for the reading area. They were beautifully done and significantly changed the aspect of the interior, giving it a sensation of something completed. It also announced the end of the time when we could walk all around the building with our dirty shoes. We have to be careful now to not damage this precise work. We are looking forward to enjoying it when the roof will be there.

Simultaneously, the walls of course are being rammed, block after block. Our team has improved a lot in earth mixing, setting up formworks, and ramming. We are more and more efficient and the amount of earth rammed is growing every day.

Despite the hard work done by the whole team, we did not manage to catch up with the different delays accumulated since the beginning of the construction. We have decided to stay longer than planned to be able to complete the library.

Before the departure of all the volunteers, the library was illuminated with candles and decorated with palm leaves to celebrate the three months us volunteers and locals spent all together. The weekend that followed, every volunteer flew back home to all different parts of the world ! Valentin and Tim, however, are staying with us for the rest of Eskaapi‘s adventures.

In the last two weeks, our Ghanaian team has grown bigger. We are now working with Edward, Sammy, Ebenezer, Opoku, Marc, Collins and Collins, everyone with their own specialty. We can count three determined rammers, three talented mixers, one pick-ax master and four obrunis professional in setting up and taking down formworks. Every day, a second team provides us two to four trucks of earth dug out next to Abetenim’s football field and rammed the very same day.

The working rythme has changed but the atmosphere is just as happy ! Our playlist became Ghanaian, we are working continuous days with lunch taken on site, the oranges picked by the children were replaced by palm wine brought by Opoku and we are now communicating exclusively in Twi. But don’t worry, the walls are still straight !


Focused on the construction, we have failed to fulfill all our duties of these past weeks. We would like to particularly thank everybody that we did not mention within these lines. Elisa, sieving master ; Jessica, motivated from dusk to dawn, Mathieu, a brief but reinvigorating addition ; Samanta, the most Bibini of all of us ; Camille, first up, first at work ; Chobo, always ready to go ! ; Uu, precision at its best ; Sofia, everything in the details ; Lucas, tenacious at his task ; Louis, our budding landscaper ; Paulette, specialist mix master ; Tim, a solution to everything ; Hamza, our boost of energy ; Sarah, macgyver for any obstacle ; Mila, and our break corner was created ; Phylippe, yoga but most of all optimisation ; Alex, at home in the « Wood Factory » ; Akim, non-stop enthusiasm !

A big thanks to all of you who have enlightened and enriched the construction and our everyday life in the Arts Village ! We will proudly remember all the kilometers you have traveled to give us a hand and allow us to realize with enthusiasm, knowledge and courage this amazing workshop ! Thank you ! We miss you !


11th of May 2017


: : Week 7 : :

Ramming : : The project is growing day after day. We rammed the second upper bloc in the patio on one entire wall. It is the first time we go higher than the first level. We have to improve a little our technique but the wall looks really good. In the patio, we continued to ram the first layers with the wood formworks, also called by the team : The Monster !! We are now looking for a solution for the seat in the patio who has to be included in the wall. « The Monster » is waiting for us.

Meanwhile the Monster is waiting, we do not rest at all. For the exteriors walls, we are going faster and faster (« Fasta !! » as the Ghanian would say). The exterior wall that we began is entire done in the first level with steel formworks. The wood stick technic in the formwork to hide the junctions and make an effect on the facade is working really well so we will keep it for all the first layer (40 cm in the base of the wall). For the rest of the facade, we will keep this technic for the junctions between two formworks blocks but we will put less stick between them.

We thought really carefully, altogether, about the angle junction of two perpendicular walls and we decided to continue the formworks until the end of the first wall and to start the perpendicular wall next to the first one. This technique involves to do the opposite for the upper level of the wall but create a good stability of the angle. Everything is now ready to begin ramming the new wall !!

During this week, we also improved the technique of mixing earth, thanks to Edward and Samy, our Ghanaian workers on the field. We can now prepare more efficiently the mixes of 5% of ciment and 95% of local earth. The technique consists on piling eighteen buckets of earth and one bucket of ciment on a small hill on the ground. We mix it once with shovels. The water is then added little by llitlle, like a small rain, as we make a second hill next to the first one. This way, we can mix a lot of earth in one time and control the quantity of water inside the mix.

Wood factory : : Concerning the wood factory, a lot of interesting things happened this week ! Thanks to Alexandre, the new comer, and Paul and Marli, who spent a lot of time in the wood factory, we did a lot.

First, we increase the production of planks for the windows. We finished all the sits, and we are now making the lintels.Except this pieces, all the wood parts for the walls are ready!! After that, to find a way to be more efficient, Paul and Alexandre tried to repair the two electric saws which we found in the Arts Village. After one exhausting afternoon of fight, they failed and the saws unfortunatly won.

Alex kept his motivation and tried to build, with his own hands, new wood rams for the construction. Maybe it is the energy of the new comers or the air of Abetenim, or again the volonty to show his skills… Whatever, he built three really beautiful rams with, of course, a name for each. The story does not tell if they are all working but we just know that ghanian workers do not really like to work with wood rams…

This week we also had the chance to DIG again : : First, for a few reasons, we needed to dig the exterior of the building, next to the concrete fondation. We wanted to begin the exterior landscape and to prepare the place for the steel fondation who will come soon. Moreover, the earth that we digged will be also used for the futures rammed earth walls.

The second digging place was into the build. We decided to build a retaining wall between the lower and the higher level of the library. So before, build the wall, let’s start digging the fondation !!! We really missed this activity. We missed it at the point that we let Tim the german destructor, how did not dig before, do it.


The end of the week was also marked by the departure of Paul and Marli (another « Good Bye »). We really want to thank these two south african people for there help on the projet, of course, but also on the life of the group.

Marli was really helpful for all of us. She was always happy on the field, always optimistic, and she helped a lot our « Chobo » (Valentin) to recover. We have to show the beautiful drawings she made about the project and the rammed earth construction. We will keep her smile in our head for a long time.

Paul was the advice man, who helped us save a lot of time with his smart ideas. When we were stuck in a case :like  setting up a formwork, bending a steel bar or even starting a fire to cook Rachel’s Birthday cake, we called Paul.

So for all of these reasons… THANK YOU PAUL AND MARLI !!!

After all of these departures, the group was a bit sad and we felt the camp more and more empty after each « good bye !!!»… A lot of us had some small, but annoying physical problems. Because of the climate and the heat, the small scratches can become big wounds really fast and difficult to heal. But as a group we share everything, even our problems. The week-end in Kimtampo, all together, was really helpful for the motivation of the troupes !.

The group is living a lot of adventures and becoming closer after each !


Sunday night, for starting the new week, we were invited to the inauguration of the Uruguayan Project, next to the school. The people from the village came and played drums with the Ghanaian style. The Uruguayan team built an multi functional teachers’ room where kids can also sit to watch football games and support Abetenim’s team. Congratulations guys!!

In the middle of the week, after working on the site, we celebrated Rachel’s Birthday with all the Art Village. We surprised her with a dinner buffet and two birthday cakes cooked by ourselves.

We also lived the departure of all the urugayan team, one after one. During the time they were here, they always had positive energy and motivation. It was nice to see how a project goes to the end, we also hope to succeed as they did in a few weeks!!

After a week of hard work, the entire team decided to take a break for the week-end and to head North to Kintampo to visit a local famous waterfall. First, we took the taxi from Abetenim to Efijuasi, for later changing for a trotro to Kumasi and then to Kimtampo. Almost one entire day of travelling in Ghana. We were there on Sunday and enjoyed a picnic together for lunch.

The waterfalls-Trip help us to feel more connected with our group and to have more energy for the next week.

Coming back from Kintampo in the troto at night, we wake up during the way back with the surprising results from the French elections wa lot of debates.


4th of May 2017


: : Week 6 : :

After a weekend full of reflections concerning the different issues the wood formwork is giving us, we decided, with sadness, to start over from the beginning and to destroy the formwork we built, and the rammed earth we did the previous week, to replace it by a moving module in wood which will be stronger and more stable. Indeed, after we removed the first part of the formwork, we saw the first layer had a lot of crackling and was not strong enough to hold 2m high walls.

Although it was a hard decision to take, more is needed to see our motivation falling, and with the good energy of the nine architecture’s students we are all back to work, each of us finding his own mission to accomplish to catch up with the time we lose. The construction of the moving form is finished by Monday evening and Tuesday we are ramming again the patio’s walls. 

In the same time, a team is working on the formwork of a seat which will be built in one of the patio’s wall, and another to set up steel frameworks for the outside wall. We have indeed decided to stop waiting for our order to be completed to start ramming.

In the first place, we wanted to set up the steel forms all around the outsides foundations to avoid seeing the junctions inside the rammed walls. But, we have been waiting for too long now for our order to be full and we’ve decided to set up only four steel formworks linked two by two facing each other. This way we will have to move the forms step by step around the foundations. For the esthetic aspect, and to hide the junctions between the different earth’s blocs, we installed randmoly thin vertical pieces in differents areas of the bloc and in the extremities. After ramming, we remove the wood away from the bloc, and it hides all junctions.

Thursday, we removed the steel formwork to reveal our first block of wall. We are quite proud of ourselves because the result is strong and beautiful. With emotion and a new motivation, we start the same operations on two different areas of the project : patio’s walls and outside walls for the rest of the week.

In the mean time, the missing part of our wood order has at last arrived from the sawmill and we can keep going with the bookshelves’ and windows’ constructions.


The nine French volunteers who came for two weeks enjoyed their only weekend in Ghana by going to the beautiful Bosomtwe Lake, with a few of the « old » ones.

Paul and Marli, a South Afrikaans couple arrived to help us for two weeks. Marli is an architect and Paul works in software development.

 Moreover, three new volunteers arrived Thursday evening: Paulette, Tim and Alexandre. The first one is coming from Ecuador and has been living in Germany for six years. The second one is german and lives in Stuttgart, like Paulette. He will stay in Abetinim for five months and will work on another project at the end of Eskaapi’s adventure. Paulette is staying with us until the project end. They are both architecture students.

Alexandre is French, architect in Nantes and a friend of Rachel, he will be staying with us until the end of the project.

It is always very pleasant to have new volunteers joining our group. In a few days they have already brought a good mood on the site and a fresh look on the project.

This Saturday morning, we are sad to say goodbye to eight (Evolène, Pierre, Juline, Julie, Tess, Jean-Michel, Flavian, Veronika) of nine of our French students. Remy is staying with us one more week. For two weeks we were eighteen on the construction site and thanks to them, their dynamism and their big motivation and their good vibes, we had a great time working. Thank you ! Merci !! Medasi Pa !


Sunday 16th of April, the clinic and latrines’ inauguration was organized. A ceremony took place with the most important people of the village. Big thanks, prayers, gifts exchanges, djembé, everything was organised to thank the Canadian team. Keith, John an Alex received all the honors they deserved for being involved in the life of the village. Congratulations to them !

We would also like to thank them for their hearing skills, their advice and for all the good time we shared with them. And with the rest of the team who left earlier : Jennifer, Lil and Clay. Thank you all, we miss you !!

Concerning, the Uruguayens’ projects, their deadline approaching, and because we were a big team during two weeks, each day, three different persons went to help them and learn about their ecological building skills and discover a very different project comparing to ours. We are very lucky to learn so much !

For Easter, Ghanaian have four days of vacations were they party, spend time with their families and go to church. They is indeed a large community of Catholics ans Methodists in the country. We jump on the occasion to join them for the events.

Afterwords, the students can enjoy a three weeks’ break. To celebrate the end of term, a party has been organized in the school. Everybody is wearing beautiful clothes to enjoy the show of Miss Abetenim. It is then the children’s turn to join the dance-floor for a party just for them. Maabro !!


April 16th 2017


: : Week 4 : :

This week we completed the foundations ! After digging, our library is starting to come out of the ground ! Four days of hard work were necessary to pour the concrete. We were helped by a local team who was operating the concrete mixer. As for ourselves, we were in charge of filling it with sand and ciment, carry the wheelbarrows of concrete, and work with Afifa, our mason, to check the level. Our work was animated by the radio Afifa was carrying everywhere on his head.

This days with Abass, Samy, Edward and Bernard on the construction site were rich in exchanges but created also many anecdotes which were often slowing down the work.

Transporting the concrete mixer on the site was an experience by itself. First of all, we had to find Abass, the machine operator, in the village, and find the concrete mixer. Then, we searched for the truck – parked on one side of the village, the owner of the truck – who was in church, praying, and the driver of the truck – who was tacking his breakfast. Once everyone was gathered, we had to find gas to start the truck and finally bring the concrete mixer to the site.

The lack of fuel to run the concrete mixer has been a regular problem to deal with during the week. Abass was never checking if he had enough fuel for the day, so we had to stop regularly to wait for a delivery, or siphon the tank of a taxi coming by.

Despite the heavy rains flooding our trench last week, we were confronted to the lack of water on our site. Making concrete consumes a lot of water and we had to ask two women of the village to bring some to the site to be able to continue working. Their elegant walk, the noise of the water poured in the tanks and their smile despite the heavy buckets carried on their head, brought some softness to our days. We are happy of the choice of our construction method : making rammed earth walls uses very few water. We hope we won’t have to ask for their help to often for the rest of the project. 

At the end of the week we started a little “wood factory” : we settled our tools in the shade of the Arts Village to build the window’s forms and the bookshelves. Since they are build in the walls, we need to build them before starting ramming. The wood we are using is red, hard wood to resist to the eventual hurts of the ram. It is not easy to saw it by hand, and the boards are not always as straight as expected which does not facilitate the assemblage. The first prototypes are very concluant, we are ready for the fabrication of the seven bookshelves and ten windows.

Meanwhile, part of the team has also realised the second rammed earth bench with wood formworks. After last week’s samples we decided to make three different mixes that we will also use for the walls of the library :

• a first layer with 5% of ciment

• a second layer using 3% of ciment

• the rest of the walls with no ciment but 5% of sand

The result of using wood forms was really satisfying but it is time consuming in preparation and it means we need perfectly straight boards to be efficiant. Eventhough we have sent all our boards to the sawmill, they are not exactly straight with right angles.

: : Week 5 : :

A well deserved break for all of us this week end. Each one goes for his own discovery, alone or in team. Sunday night diners bring many discussions and stories on all the exciting adventures we had.

We start again on Monday morning, full of motivation. The team has changed and we are now a lot on the construction site.

We divide the crew in different groups to finish all the activities we have started to prepare the beginning of the rammed earth. Half of us stay at the Arts Village to carry on with the production of bookshelves and windows. The other half works on the construction site, removing the concrete’s forms. Hammer, pics, shovels, every tool we have is used to take out the wooden box holding our foundations. With only one main rule : removing without distroying, we will need the wood for the rest of the project. This activity takes the whole morning, what a joy to finally see our building coming out of the ground !

The activity at the « Wood Factory » goes on. On the site, the team decides to clean the area before starting the formworks for the inside walls of the patio.

Unfortunately a big storm arrives in the afternoon, and lasts al night. The next day the patio is once more a swimming pool. The new recruits have the pleasure to discover the joy of a bucket chain to remove the water ! Our technique has improved, but there is no way we will do it again ! We change the day’s plan to finish digging the last part of the drain to evacuate the rain water from the patio. Part of it was already in place, build in the concrete foundations but we hadn’t had time so far to continue the way outside the building. Let’s hope the water will now follow the path we have chosen for her.

Meanwhile, three other activities were going on : wood cutting and assembling for windows and bookshelves in the « Wood Factory », construction of the wood forms for the patio and, thanks to Jessica, our level master and her team, the two levels of the library are finally flat.

Wednesday everything is ready to start ramming. Well, almost… Kwame, the village’s welder has not finished eight forms we ordered to complete the existing set and allow us to ram faster.

A set of steel forms is made of four pairs of forms. A pair is composed of two reinforced steel boards, assembled on each side of the wall with metal rodes every 60cm. In the village they currently have rodes for walls 30cm thick. In our project, the walls are 40cm and 60cm so we had to order for new rodes.

Unfortunatly, when we try the rodes, they do not fit in the holes of the forms ! We have to send everything back to the welder and delay part of the ramming.

However, the wood factory team managed to finish the bookshelves and the windows, and the rest of the crew reinforced the wood form for the patio. Slowly but surely, we will start ramming.

We are still waiting for the steel forms, but the ramming of the patio’s walls are on their way. But the wood form we made is not as strong as we thought it would be, we have to reinforce it constantly to avoid it breaking under the pressure of the rams. In the middle of the afternoon we have to stop ramming : the form is starting to break everywhere. The crew gathers to look for an other solution.


Olivier left us at the end of March. Present since the beginning of the adventure, he shared with us many of his building experiences, his knowledge in construction and helped a lot with his muscular strength. We are really grateful for the exchanges and thank him for his involvement on the project !

However, our team is now even bigger : nine students from the Architecture School of Montpellier, France, arrived Saturday evening. We now have eighteen pairs of arms on the construction site ! What a team !


This week we wanted to talk to you about the two other projects going on in Abetenim. Since we arrived, we are sharing our daily life with two other international teams : one canadian and one urugayan.

The first ones are well known in the village, they have been coming regularly every year for a couple of month since three years under the name of « Solterre ». The purpose of their visit is different every time to improve the conditions of life of the village. So far, they have built a library for the primary school, and some latrines. This time, they planed to renovate an abandoned house into a clinic. The clinic will also be used as housing for some school’s professors and a few rooms can be used for community activities.

Behind the clinic, they are building an other dry latrine for the village, with rammed earth walls. Five for the women and five for the men, following a now well developed and improved technique. At the head of a great local team, we have Jennifer, Keith and John, who came with their family. Clay, their elder son, has been a precious help on our construction site, and Lil a great volley-ball partner. Both were also teaching us daily English lessons.

Alex, the last member of the team is here to prepare and supervised the installation of solar pannels on the building constructed.

The second ones arrived in the Arts Village in February, a few weeks before us. Laureate from the previous Earth Competition, they were about to build an other Arts House in the village. But once here, they decided to change their design to adapt it better to the local life style. After a visit around the village and a few days of reflection, they indeed realized that a building for the teachers of the school would be more useful. The project is now in construction close to the 9 – 10 years old classes and has a view on the football field.

Inspired by a famous Uruguayan architect, they wished to construct an adobe bricks roof on a mud wall building. BO, their architecture group, was created by Claudia, Antonella and Santiago, and they are helped by an international team : Lucia (Spain), Ahmed (Tunisia), Felix (Germany), Cecilia (Ghanaian-Nigerian), Jason (Australia), Juan and Augustin (Uruguay), and Fernando, mud bricks specialist in Uruguay. 

Thanks to the canadians and urugayans’ team, our days are full of exchanges and discoveries on different building techniques and lifestyle


20th of March 2017


: : Week 2 : :

The sun rises fast and the days are hot. We are waking up with the sun (and the rooster) and going to sleep early. Working hours always start at 7 am GMT (Ghanaian Man Time, which means, it depends at what time Alkusua, our cook, has finished preparing breakfast). We usually stay on the construction site until 11 or 12am, depending on the heat, and are back to work at 4pm. Darkness interrupts our evening motivation around 6:30pm.

This week, our main partners where pics, shovels and wheelbarrows. We took advantage of the situation to learn a few words in Twi : matoc (pic), sofi (shovel), bakoo, mienu, miense, matok ! !(one, two, three, pic!). After five days at this rythme, and still helped by the local muscular force (Samy and Edward), we finished digging the foundations of the library and the patio. The whole is impressive, and so is the pile of earth extracted. But we haven’t only dug for the aesthetic of the project, the amount of earth extracted corresponds to the amount we will need for the building the walls.

After extracting the organic earth that we cannot use for the construction, we are discovering the different layers and are having access to the red earth containing a lot of clay. Thus we were able to proceed to many small experiences in order to know the quality of the earth. We touched, separated, smelled, tasted, mixed the earth, created small balls, cut them, analysed them, added water to the earth, mixed it, let it decant, … This first approche doesn’t give any scientific information about the composition of the soil, but offers a general idea of the earth’s quality. We were able to figure out that it contained between 10 and 12 % of clay, which means it is perfectly suitable for rammed earth construction.

 Rammed earth is a construction technique using raw earth, compacted in formworks in successive layers with the help of a drop hammer. The most commun forms are made of wood. But there is in Abetenim metal forms which have been used to build the last two rammed earth buildings of the village. The advantage of metal formworks is time saving : since we do not have to build them, we will save five days of work that we can spend better on an other activity. However, the building’s design is different : on a rammed earth building made with wooden forms we can read horizontal lines of earth, whereas using steel forms leaves the rectangular marks corresponding to the size of the form. We are curious of both techniques and decide to make some tests. We designed two rammed earth benches next to the library, one made of steel forms, the other one made of wood forms. Despite the difficulty to carry the metal forms because of their weight, the first experience is quite concluant. We are waiting for our wood delivery coming soon to realize the second test.


Thanks to our cook Alkosua who wants to make us as strong as Ghanaians, we are able to work everyday on the construction. Regularly she prepares the fufu, a traditional dish made of casava and plantains. In a big wooden bowl and with the help of a heavy trunk, Alkosua smashes her ingredients until she obtains a smooth dough. Any French baker would be jealous. Fufu is then eaten uncooked with a mushroom or peanut sauce and sometimes an antilope. The Ghanaians eat this meal for breakfast and diner.

As for us, we have more diverse meals, often made of pasta or rice, served with beans and avocado or tomato salad.


Thursday was the last night in Abetenim for Fabiola and Carolina who came all the way from Peru. Using the good excuse, we organised a little party at “the spot”, the local “bar”, where all the youth and kids all the village came. After a hard day on the construction site, we only managed to stay up until 10:30pm…

The last words of this second week are for Fabiola and Carolina who we thank gratefully for being part of eskaapi’s adventure.



13th of March 2017


: : First week : :

Ladies & Gentlemen,

When we arrived at the Arts Village, we were greeted by Frank, our local coordinator. We were not allowed to move around freely until we met the chief. We had to wait two days in the Arts Village before being able to go out.

After a little presentation and ceremony, many handshakes, smiles, an explanation of our project, we were at last accepted in the village and under the chief’s protection.

The 6th of March is a bank holiday in Ghana, Independence Day. We decided to enjoy the festivities and start the construction on Tuesday. The school’s children paraded, proud mums cheered, an inevitable football game took place two hours later… It was a happy day in the village!

Mary & the children

This week was punctuated by the constant arrival of volunteers to the site. We are now 12 people, coming from Peru, Argentina, Italy, Portugal and France. We are sharing meals in English, French and Spanish, sometimes even with a couple of words in Twi. Everyone brings their part to the project and the community’s life.


We had quite a surprise arriving on the site. The place is not at all ready to begin the construction! A plot at the entrance of the village was burned two days before for the first part of the school. Ecology and tree protection was apparently not part of the program… We are talking about it at length with Frank to prevent reproducing the same thing for the rest of the school.

We had to dig out all of the trees and burned vegetation of the site. Helped by thirty persons from the village, the work was done in a few hours. We couldn’t believe it!

During the rest of the week we drew the building on the ground, and started digging the foundation and the patio. We have to be very creative to adapt to the condition of the local tools! Luckily we were helped by Edward and Someone (also known by Samy), who are more efficient than all of us combined!