A new venture based on Compressed and Stabilized Earth Bricks (CSEB) has piqued the interest of the Mangalsen Municipality of Achham District’s Dalit women’s group in new employment opportunities. They are looking forward to this opportunity because they are mostly homemakers and farmers, and they hope it will help them with employment and livelihood support. For the first time, the startup is betting on developing innovative green technology in the area.
The interlock brick factory, as it is known, is set to be operated by Sahakarmi Mahila Udhyami. The working mode has already been planned. The processes for registering the industry at the local level, as well as obtaining a PAN, have already begun. This was all made possible by PARIWARTAN, which stands for Participation, Inclusion, and Wider CSOs’ Actions for Responsive, Transparent, and Accountable Local Governance in Nepal. PARIWARTAN is a DCA project funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by Malika Development Organization Nepal, a local partner NGO (MDO-Nepal).
“We have been collaborating and collaborating with DCA’s local partner MDO-Nepal. This is why the Municipality Board allocated Rs.150,000 as well, but later, in consultation with the group and experts, we allocated an additional Rs. 350,000 to build a trust-building structure, so that the women can produce and store more bricks. We are also implementing a climate adaptation and mitigation program at the local level, and the project is on par with ours,” said Padma Bahadur Bohara, Mayor of Mangalsen Municipality.
Because interlocking bricks drastically reduce carbon emissions, the brick produced by the women of Mangalsen will also contribute to Nepal’s national commitment to the global climate change agenda. Thus, the new initiative at Mangalsen is highly significant in the national context, as it supports climate change and reaches the far western region of Nepal, parts of which are still inaccessible and away from cutting-edge technology.
PARIWARTAN has demonstrated a path for forging partnerships and collaboration among local levels, development partners, local NGO and community-based organizations, and supporting Nepal’s effort to establish green industries with the participation of women by supporting the initiative to establish the brick factory.
DCA, Practical Action, and Build Up Nepal successfully popularized CSEB technology in Nepal through their joint project, New and Affordable Building Materials, which was launched in 2015 with funding from the Nordic Climate Facility (NCF) (NABIN).
With EU funding, DCA and Community Impact Nepal (CIN) are now assisting in the establishment of CSEB as part of the ongoing PARIWARTAN and Enhanced Action of Inclusive CSOs for Participation in Climate Resilient Economic Growth (UTHAN) projects in the Sudurpaschim and Karnali Provinces via districts with local partners – NNSWA, SOSEC, and MDO.
New Venture for locals
Ghanashyam Joshi, a Dhangadhi Sub-Metropolitan resident and returnee from South Korea, has been able to capture a good market share in Kailali in a short period of time, so much so that he even led the formation of the CSEB interlocking brick association in Province 7.
“Given the technical support from CIN, financial support from DCA, and other local government support, I am confident that we will be able to replace traditional bricks in a few years.” Because CSEB is based on a simple technology, it is simple to manufacture. “This new technology has piqued the interest of many people,” Joshi said.
Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in foreign countries, Pradip Kumar Tharu wanted to start a small business to support his family back home without having to return to work abroad. Tharu began his CSEB technology enterprise a year ago with the help of DCA and Community Impact Nepal (CIN). “As the demand for low-cost bricks grows, my entire family, including my brothers, is now running this business. Instead of traveling abroad, I am staying at home with my family, and we are making enough money to run our business and meet our family’s needs. Things would have been difficult if I had been away from family in such a pandemic situation,” Tharu explained.
The livelihood prospects of people like Tharu and Joshi of Surdurpaschim and Karnali Provinces have been visibly transformed by CSEB-technology thanks to European Union-supported UTHAN and PARIWARTAN. The technology is eco-friendly and safe for building houses at a low cost while also creating jobs in the local community.
Partnership with Local Governments
As a result of COVID-19, which has forced many migrant workers to return home, the demand for local jobs is increasing, and this may be the best option. Provincial and municipal governments in two provinces have also endorsed the promotion of climate-friendly brick technology.
Belauri Municipality has decided to support people who want to establish CSEB in order to provide employment opportunities for returnee migrants. Sushila Lekhak, the Belauri Municipality’s spokesperson, stated that the Municipality board has been working closely with local NGOs in this regard.
Similarly, Laljhadi Rural Municipality has decided to promote interlocking bricks in its area and has announced necessary assistance for individuals interested in producing them.
“We are collaborating with local NGOs to introduce an upgraded version of the technology to produce interlocking bricks, as we hope to achieve mitigation goals, address air pollution, and reduce local impacts while significantly contributing to reduce global warming,” said Madsen Badayak, Mayor of the Rural Municipality.
In this regard, collaboration and partnership have already begun between DCA, CIN, provincial governments, local governments, and the local community in Sudurpaschim and Karnali Province to promote interlocking brick technology.
“As part of the Province’s policy, we are promoting and encouraging CSEB technology in the region for green development and job creation,” said Bharat Prasad Shrestha, Spokesperson for Sudurpaschim Province’s Ministry of Industry, Tourism, Forest, and Environment. “We want to work with development organizations and business owners to promote this technology.”
Scaling up and Innovations
Following the success of the learning experiences, DCA and CIN are now transferring this technology by scaling it up in the provinces of Karnali and Sudurpaschim. The factory proposed for Mangalsen, Dailekh, Doti, Achham, Kailali, Kanchanpur, and Bardiya will differ from previous ones in terms of materials used and brick size.
According to DCA, it will introduce innovations and value-additions to promote CSEB technology, making it more cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and adaptable.
The new scale-up technology will be available to residents of the provinces’ lowlands and mid-hills, contributing to carbon reduction while increasing competitiveness with existing climate-unfriendly products.
“In addition to using environmentally friendly local materials, our innovation projects will improve technology to increase adaptation, improve quality, and reduce CO2 emissions,” said Rigendra Khadka, DCA’s Program Manager – Resilient Livelihood. “We are working to improve brick quality through a new process that includes a soil test, a mobile app, and a brick test in remote locations,” he explained. “We use new technology – a mobile app with instructional videos – so that masons and brick makers can always go and check to make sure they remember what was taught in training.”
Through the innovation projects, DCA and CIN are also working to reduce cement content by adding another stabilizer. Due to high transport costs, cement is the most expensive component in the brick-mix, especially in remote areas. Cement also requires a sandy mix, which can be difficult to obtain in remote areas if sand is not readily available.
DCA, CIN, and their local partners are also planning the launch of a mobile app aimed at local entrepreneurs. One of the app’s features is the cost calculation of houses built with CSEB and fired bricks. This allows them to see the price differences and choose what is within their budget.
CSEB Support to Climate Change Policy
The promotion of CSEB technology also supports Nepal’s climate change policy, which focuses on mitigation efforts aimed at reducing emissions and assisting vulnerable communities in adapting to the effects of climate change over the next decade. The Second Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) document, submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat in December 2020, expresses Nepal’s commitment to completely transition from traditional brick kiln manufacturing to an interlocking brick factory over the next 20 years.
In line with this, the Ministry of Forest and Environment has implemented a policy to promote the production of clean and sustainable bricks by enhancing learning and implementing cleaner technologies. The provincial and local governments are also encouraging the use of sustainable and green bricks in the construction industry.
“NDC has categorically stated the importance of interlocking bricks, stating that their use will immediately contribute to the reduction of air pollution and support the long-term impact of climate change,” explains Manjeet Dhakal, a climate change expert who has been working in this field for a long time, providing advice to the Nepalese government. “The NDC has explicitly stated the importance of this technology in assisting with climate change.”
“The Ministry of Forest and Environment has already circulated circulars to provincial and local levels regarding Nepal’s current position and NDC proposal. The Ministry of Forest and Environment believes that replacing traditional brick kilns with interlocking bricks will help reduce air pollution, which contributes to climate change,” stated Dr. Buddhi Sagar Poudel, Spokesperson for the Ministry of Forest and Environment.
CSEB Contribution to Reduce Carbon Emission
When compared to fired bricks and concrete masonry units, compressed earth blocks require anywhere from 1/5 to 1/15 of the energy to produce. When compared to fired bricks, a small 3-5 room house built with CSEB saves 4,58 tons of CO2. According to a recent World Bank study, fired brick is responsible for 37% of CO2 emissions in Nepal, as well as a major source of air pollution and black carbon. The Auroville Earth Institute, a world-renowned research institute on earthen structures, conducted research that found earth brick walls emit four times less CO2 than fired brick walls. (56.79 Kg/m3 versus 230.06 Kg/m3 for kiln-fired brick)
According to a World Bank report published in 2014, Nepal’s current CO2 footprint per capita is only 0.03 tons.
DCA Target to Promote Green Growth
Climate-friendly bricks for green growth have been promoted by DCA, the European Union, and Community Impact Nepal. At least 30 such green enterprises will be established in the provinces of Karnali and Sudurpaschim by 2022.