Bambú Natural

Bambú Natural
Minor International Entrepreneurship & Development 2017

Esperanza, Nicaragua

Gitte Hornung
Nienke Galjaard
Wieger Vellema

Bambú Natural is a follow up project of the bamboo factory project which was successfully completed in 2016. It’s a project that seeks to facilitate the construction of schools and homes with local materials only, particularly bamboo. The project supports the universal right of having safe habitable and affordable homes and educational facilities. The team, with the support of Bambú Social, is committed to the creation of a research and education program in which traditional and new techniques will be combined to create structures of only natural and local materials. This knowledge can be used by the local community of Esperanza (Nicaragua) to make more affordable structures.

Problem Statement
In the previous projects of Bambú Social iron rods were used in the construction process. These have to be bought in the nearest city Waspan. However, to get those rods from that city to the construction site they have to be transported over the river, the Rio Coco. This will increase the costs of these rods dramatically.

Next to those rods another relative expense in the building process is acid used to treat the bamboo. Untreated bamboo will last just a few years. This means that bamboo, as it is cut, is not good suitable as building material. To make bamboo a good building material means that is must be treated. After treatment the bamboo can last for 60 years. The acid used in this treatment process is boric acid. This has a relative high impact on the environment and relative expensive for the local population.

During the project the project team will research how the current situation, mentioned in the previous paragraph, can be improved. The main goal of the research is make the building process 100% natural. In this way the total cost of bamboo can be reduced. Hence, making it more attractive for the local population to start building with bamboo. As a positive consequence, making it completely natural will make it environmentally friendly.

The come with a better alternative the team will perform a research on the use of lianas as a material to ‘tie’ the bamboo beams together. During the research a closer look will be taken on lianas as rope. Investigating the properties and looking at the durability of lianas as rope, will be the be first part were the research will be focused on. When the outcome of this research is positive, the research will be focuses on how to tie the lianas in such a way that they will not get loos.

Secondly a research will be performed on the treatment of bamboo. The group aims to find a cheaper and more durable way of treating the bamboo. Several possibilities are investigated. First the use of chalk will be researched. Also, treatment of bamboo with the use of smoke will be investigated.

After three months of working in Nicaragua, the project team is back in the Netherlands.

The project started with initiating the construction of a workshop in the community of Esperanza. This workshop should become place to build furniture which could be sold later on, hereby giving the opportunity of starting a small business. The same team that built the workshop was to eventually work in it.

During the project the project group faced some setbacks. The biggest one was the theft of the generator. In the third week on the project location the team received the news that the generator had been stolen. This meant that the construction of the workshop would come to a hold.

Plan B and results
In construction the generator was needed to provide energy to the power tools. Most of the power tools could be replaced with hand tools. However, for drilling holes it was essential to use an electric driven drill. Therefore, not having a generator meant that we had to change plans so a plan B was formulated.

In the fourth week the project group went to Waspan. There they performed a market research. This took about one week. This market research was done on all the possible future customers and selling points in Waspan. Also, the first interview with the mayor had been arranged.

After the Christmas break the project group continued the Bambú Natural project in El Rama. In El Rama the focus of the project was researching natural and local treatment methods and connections. This decision was made since the project supervisor, Henky Borgstein, has his workshop in El Rama. This way the project group would have all the tools needed for making a test installation.

After finalising the test installation, the project group headed back to Esperanza, the initial project location. A meeting was arranged with all the local people who were interested in the project. Here the further consequences of the theft were explained and discussed. Also, the project group handed over a catalogue to the leader of the construction group. This catalogue contained a variety of examples of furniture made with bamboo.

There is a high chance that the project will be completed, because after the theft of the generator the community showed great motivation. They offered to communally buy a new generator that could be used by Bambú Social, but it would belong to the community itself. This will hopefully give the people a larger sense of responsibility to prevent another theft. Another measure they offered to take was to appoint a new board to manage the bodega. Last year’s team had already set up a board of six people. However, they haven’t met once in the past year. The theft of the generator was the ultimate confirmation that the board wasn’t functioning the way it should be. This new board would consist of only three people to make contact easier. Also, this time the Padre would not be included as a board member, because he doesn’t have a lot of organisational skills and this way the board is able to function more independently from the church. Marcelo, the head of the local workers, will be a board member, because he is the one who proved to be a responsible and reliable man.

All of this points to an eager mindset from the community, so Henky will go back in June to continue the build of the workshop and the community was highly encouraged to start building on their own when they have access to a generator.

Additionally, the team had negotiations with mayor Rose Cunningham, who is also the founder of the women’s organisation Wangki Tangni, about a next project for Bambú Social. A proposal was established that will be made into a contract. An extensive description can be found in the section “Suggestions for follow up project”. In short, Bambú Social and Wangki Tangni would work together to build a bamboo model house with a group women. This would work as an empowerment for the women and make bamboo a more known material.

Link to the project report: 

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