Building earthquake proof ecodomes in Nepal

The reconstruction of Nepal is not just about rebuilding broken houses. It is also about finding solutions to making them earthquake resistant. The so-called Eco-dome is a building method that is in fact earthquake resistant as well as eco-friendly and cost-saving. There is an entire Eco-dome village near Kathmandu that actually survived the 2015 earthquake with only minimal damage!

In February 2016, we went to Morocco to participate in a Cal-Earth training. The architecture of the dome was developed by the architect Nader Khalili, from the Cal-Earth Institute (California Institute of Earth, Art and Architecture). Those houses are built from tubular bags filled with sand, dirt, gravel, cement and barbed wire. They may take the form of a dome or an arc and can have windows, doors, running water and electricity. More importantly, they are resistant to fire, floods and earthquakes, which is absolutely necessary in Nepal.

Our first project was building a house for Kindra and Biva, who live in a village in the tropical area about 70 km south of Kathmandu. They are an 80 years old couple without children, who had lost their house during the earthquake on April 25th 2015. Since then, they have been living with their goat in a small cabin made out of branches. It was neither rainproof nor wind resistant. The precarious situation for this couple put them on top of our list.

In connection with some Nepalese friends, architects, trainers, as well as a team of volunteers either from the village or volunteers from across the world, we were able to build a house for Kindra and Biva within one month. We managed to hire some villagers with special skills in carpentry or stone masonry, for example, for a few days. Others contributed like Sita, a woman from the village, who cooked for us three times a day.

Training programme for women

The earthquake on the 25th of April 2015 changed many things for the lives of families. Before the earthquake, they were living in small houses that had been passed on from one generation to the next. They worked in the fields or in their own gardens and could provide for themselves, and sometimes even get some money out of it. After the earthquake, houses had to be rebuilt and therefore, people suddenly needed new skills other than managing their fields and milking their cows.

If people are willing to rebuild, they will need money which can only be provided through work. To find a job, they will need some new skills. This is what inspired us to create the training program for women, so that they could someday work and earn their own salary.

All participants of the program have been directly affected by the earthquake, either from losing a family member or by losing their houses and goods, finding themselves in a very difficult situation. Every woman in the program received a monthly stipend of 55 Euros, which is about half of the Nepalese salary, in order to support their rebuilding efforts and help them take care of their families during the training.

Thanks to the training program, 14 women were given the opportunity to acquire new skills in various domains, such as sewing, knitting, weaving and learning how to make necklaces, bracelets and dreamcatchers. At the end of our program, 4 women have decided not to go further with the program, but 10 were directly hired by our Nepalese partner organization. They have been working there since March 2016 and have taken control of their lives for they now earn money in order to rebuild what they had lost. It is with great joy that we learned that those women were all able to send their children to school. Some of them who had lost their houses, were able to find a room to rent.