Baobab Home, Bagamoyo
Earthrising Foundation project, Tanzania 2008/09

Report prepared by Elke Cole, Bagamoyo, Febuary 2009



Baobab home is a non-profit orphanage and outreach project in Bagamoyo, Tanzania.

The organization was gifted a parcel of rural land early 2008 and is planning to develop this land into the centre for their activities including homes for up to 24 children and caregivers.
At the time of our arrival the land was not actively used, a caretaker lived on site.
Baobab activities are operated out of three town locations: the baby home, Terri and Caito’s residence and a volunteer house.
Adam and Elke came to work on first steps into the development of the new site.

Our work

We identified the following steps:

1. Create observation map showing land features, existing buildings, dominant trees and weather patterns (attached)
2. Materials identification and testing for use in buildings
3. Upgrading of existing farm house with lime/clay plaster
4. Building relationships with local builders and suppliers
5. Develop overall plan for the site based on permaculture principles (attached)
6. Prepare digital presentation to be used by both organizations
7. Locate buildings
8. Build first demonstration building, the baobab centre
9. Host open houses to build relationship in the community and raise awareness about earthen building possibilities
10. Discuss next steps and further possibilities in the relationship between both organization

These steps have been largely accomplished. Further development of the permaculture plan will require local expertise.
Elke Cole will continue work on building plans for the next buildings in Canada.

Challenges and accomplishments

Working in a foreign culture presents unique challenges- unpredictable events occur and solutions have to be developed at the time.
The fact that Elke had worked with Baobab on a previous project helped jumpstart this one: some of the builders already knew her and the expectations on the job, trust was already established both with builders and Baobab leaders Terri and Caito.
Having a male and female representative worked well. Adam was invited into the male circles and was able to make valuable connections as a result. He coordinated material purchases and deliveries, negotiated wages and worked on further relationships with the local Rotary club.

Elke took the lead in planning and on site, supervising activities. We found that translation was important and sometimes lacking, leading to a few misunderstandings or delays.
We were happy to locate clay and sand on site, and used a simple rubble/earthbag technique for a foundation.
Windows presented the biggest challenge around detailing and production and we have ideas on how to improve this for future projects.

The building

The Baobab centre is a one-room approx.  300sqft building. It is centrally located and will function as a hub in the overall development.
The design is site specific, allowing cooling breezes to enter freely and providing views of the land and future areas of development as well as long views to the road.
We chose the following techniques and materials based on locally availability:

• Foundation of Earthbags (used cement bags from block production) filled with rubble from old construction
• Cob walls with arched openings
• Windows security bars and insect screens
• Built in shelving and benches
• Roof structure of round wood
• Thatch roofing
• Electrical provisions
• Wall finish with lime/clay/sand plaster inside and out
• Relief sculpture at entrance


One of the objectives for Earthrising projects is the training of local partners.
In this case we had five local builders involved full time. They were hired at a reduced rate that was negotiated because of the learning factor.
Part of the training was to ensure that each person took part in each step: mixing materials, building wall or foundation, trimming, understanding the plan.
We watch for particular aptitude and encourage creative input. It is our intention to have one of the builders in a lead role on the next project.


We invited a small group of volunteers this time as trial for future volunteer programs.  The financial contributions from volunteers help the project directly. Skilled volunteers also contribute hands-on.
Considerations regarding volunteers in the future:

• Check skill level and commitment level for onsite work
• Have local builders in lead positions
• Have local volunteer liaison
• Allow for plenty of free time
• Provide good food- hire cooking staff

Next steps/ Recommendations

• Both Baobab and Earthrising Foundation will review this first cooperative project on the board level.
• Adam, Elke and Terri are developing the budget for Ubuyu 1, the first children’s home for the site, in order to present to prospective funding sources i.e.Rotary Club.
• Grow food
• Develop full permaculture plan
• Prioritize infrastructure: well, driving access
• Continue research into alternative energy sources
• We propose a construction time frame from September to November 2009, including a volunteer camp, for ubuyu 1.
• Continue to work with the same builder team and bring them into more responsibility

Thank you                                                              Asante

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