Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Towards a more sustainable life

I have been living in and around Hwange National Park Zimbabwe for almost 5 years with my husband and our 3 year old son. At the beginning of this year we decided to take the plunge and do something we had talked about for a long time. We visited our chief who is the traditional leader of this area and asked if we could live in the communal area on the edge of Hwange national park. The majority of the population of Zimbabwe live in rural communal lands, the chief allocates land to each family. We decided that we wanted to do this for several reasons. We want to live a more sustainable lifestyle where we can grow our own food and live  more in tune with nature. We want to put our money where our mouth is and not just talk about living more responsibly but actually do it. We want to be part of the community with which we have lived along side but still on the outside, a community that faces constant difficulties one of which is living with wildlife. Hwange National park is not fenced so wildlife moves freely into the communal areas where people are living. Predators such as lions, hyaenas, leopards and Jackals kill livestock such as cows and goats. Elephants, bushpigs and baboons raid people's crops. These animals destroy people’s livelihoods and in retaliation snares (wire traps) or poison are sometimes used to kill the animals. We don’t feel we have the answers to end this conflict but we feel that living the same difficulties for ourselves we may be in a better position to help find and implement solutions, which can help both people and wildlife.

Now for the cob bit…

As part of our desire to live a more sustainable life, I have been researching natural building techniques for the past year. There are many fascinating techniques some of which have worked for centuries others are new ideas, cob, straw-bale, rammed earth, sand bag houses to name a few. It is impossible to build a house with zero environmental impact but moving away from processed materials that require a huge amount of heat from fossil fuels to process and transport, is the beginning. Trying to use as many materials directly from the land and local skills and labour is the target! From all the techniques I researched and after spending a week in South Africa on a practical natural building course, my mind was made up, it had to be cob! Cob is a method, which has been used in many countries for centuries; cob is basically a mix of sand, clay, straw and water and is applied wet to the foundation or stem wall. This method appealed to me more than any other natural building technique because of how versatile and sculptural it is. The course had given me the confidence to believe I could start to build my own home from mud!

1 comment:

  1. Hello :)

    I am a Zimbabwean girl, 25, living in New Zealand. I came across your blog while looking for information on how to build my own cob home home here in NZ.

    I think what you are doing is so wonderful. Living in a home that you have built with your own hands out of earth from beneath your feet must be such a wholesome experience. I can't wait. I'll watch your blog with interest - so please, keep posting... Pictures, lots or pictures! Your fan from NZ will be watching :D

    All the best with everything!

    Shaye Boddington