Sustainable technologies
Burkina Faso

Fighting rural poverty through access to ecologically and economically viable housing

La voûte nubienne


Several million inhabitants of semi-arid regions no longer have access to decent housing. The use of wood (timber resources are scarce or already lost) and of sheet metal or concrete (unsuitable) for roofing construction locks them into a vicious circle of poverty. Through this project, AVN aims to enable as many people as possible, as soon as possible, to have permanent access to sustainable housing: the Nubian Vault.

Project objectives

  • Improvement of the target population’s living conditions (permanent access to housing that is sustainable, healthy, durable, comfortable and culturally appropriate).
  • Economic development (cost-effective solution and job creation).
  • Combating desertification (alternative to wood cutting).
  • Combating global warming (alternative to the production and transport of exogenous pollutants).

Project monitoring process

  • Four narrative and financial reports, including one final report.
  • Visits by Jacqueline Délia-Brémond in February 2011, Gilles Burkhardt in April 2011 and Sophie Thomasset in April 2012.
  • Mid-term evaluation in February 2011.
  • Final evaluation in November 2011.

Results and indicators

While not all the objectives have been achieved 100%, the results are satisfactory overall.

Indicators (percentage achieved/target)

  • 23 pilot zone deployment programs, starting from a pilot village (PVDP) (135%)
  • 233 Nubian Vaults built (92%) for 1 828 linear meters (97%)
  • 83 site foremen (C4 or C5 category) trained (115%)
  • 88 masons (C3 category) trained (81%)
  • 471 metric tons of carbon savings (91%)
  • 68 262 euros of income generated (91%)
  • 2 293 beneficiaries (91%)
  • 12 000 people reached through awareness-raising initiatives (150%)

Not only are Nubian Vaults being built in most regions of Burkina Faso but they are also in great demand in other countries, such as Senegal, Benin, Mauritania, Zambia, Madagascar and Rwanda.

Replication potential

The Nubian Vault has steadily and actively proved its worth in Burkina Faso, and the potential for project replication is enormous; the enthusiasm generated in all quarters – towns, villages and regions – is beyond doubt. Potential partners are coming forward and, at the institutional level, contacts are being developed with the decentralized technical departments in charge of the water and forest sector, who had not previously displayed much interest in the Nubian Vault program.


The AVN initiatives have contributed to an independent Nubian Vault market being created. With proper maintenance, this type of house can last indefinitely.

AVN is expanding rapidly, with the Nubian Vaults constantly gaining in popularity. While the development of an independent market is the rationale behind the Association, this has not been without giving rise to some concerns. The main recommendations made following the Foundation’s monitoring visit in 2012 are the following:

  • Increase the involvement of women, for example by encouraging them to become local ‘champions’ of the vaults;
  • Coordinate with NGOs specialized in the Water and Sanitation sector;
  • Strengthen links with microfinance institutions and develop microcredit;
  • Define AVN’s role in the program’s extension to urban areas
  • Manage the project’s geographical growth, in particularly internationally, by aligning human resources with needs and by using prioritization criteria to control the growth rate.

Conclusion of the final evaluation, February 2012

At the time of project evaluation, the situation was characterized by a number of favorable factors: (i) the existence of market growth areas; (ii) the emergence of a rapidly growing ‘semi-independent market’, which attests to the effective way in which the Nubian Vault technique has been promoted; (iii) a well-established procedure for handling semi-independent market demand via a series of functional steps; (iv) competent, experienced staff who are strongly committed to the project goal and objectives; (v) the Boromo office’s well-defined operating methods; (vi) a favorable sociopolitical environment, characterized by important links with the decentralized regional and local authorities, who are gaining increasing control over the economic development of their territories.

The semi-independent market has demonstrated the validity of the PVDP methodology, i.e. developing the program from a pilot village, with greater results that require fewer resources and less AVN involvement.

The project is acknowledged to have brought about change in the beneficiaries’ lives. There was general agreement among those interviewed that access to Nubian Vault housing has greatly improved living conditions for rural communities as well as stimulating substantial demand at all levels: among the project’s priority target group (small farmers and growers); traders and more affluent civil servants; NGOs, associations and decentralized authorities (Communes and Regions). The masons and local ‘champions’ acknowledge that the project has not only raised their standing in the community but also broadened their outlook on the outside world.

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