Women in construction. Credit: BuildUp Nepal and Practical Action

Crowded housing causes health issues, disease, social conflicts and vulnerability to disasters, disproportionately affecting women and children.

The situation in Nepal was dramatically worsened by the 2015 earthquakes followed by severe flooding, destroying more than 800,000 homes. Rural communities lack the income, skills and appropriate technology to build safe earthquake resilient homes. The lack of reliable employment in rural Nepal is causing many to migrate abroad for work. 

“If a woman like me can start a construction enterprise and succeed, then any woman can do it”

Parbati Sunar, woman micro-construction entrepreneur

Build up Nepal started as a small team working to help poor families to rebuild their homes. They quickly realised that the only way to build on the scale required in remote villages, was to empower the locals to build earthquake resistant houses themselves, through micro-construction companies. They do this using local materials to manufacture Interlocking Compressed Stabilised Earth Bricks (CSEB).  They are used instead of fired brick, reducing both the transportation challenges to remote locations and CO2 emissions. 

Recruited through word-of-mouth and local marketing, the entrepreneur invests in a manual block-making machine, guidance and materials. To aid success they are provided with comprehensive training and long-term support. When aspiring entrepreneurs are unable to fund all the start-up costs  themselves, micro finance is available through an in-country partner.  

To create both confidence and demand for this ‘new technology’, the first home built in the village is used as a ‘show home’, alongside marketing materials, including an ‘inspiration homes’ catalogue illustrating the types and styles of buildings available. 

Once there are several businesses in one area, the team facilitate meetings with local government engineers to explain the technology and address any concerns.  To create further confidence, they provide a government pre-approved set of building drawings for 12 house designs. This means that planning permission is quickly granted. 

To ensure quality construction in rural Nepal is hard and one of Build up Nepal’s main challenges.  

To ensure quality as the business grows, and more masons are employed, Build up Nepal provide comprehensive training through on-line videos and even smart-phone apps (there is a very high ownership of smart phones in Nepal) that contains all their guidance and materials. And, to make sure every house is built to a high standard, the potential new homeowner is equipped with an easy-to-check quality list at the start of the build. This enables the house owner to assess quality at each stage, of the build. 

What’s the impact on customers/beneficiaries? 

Villagers in Nepal are able to gain, much needed, secure jobs across the country, supporting many women and reducing the need to migrate for work. They are developing new local skills and putting money back into their own communities, building homes to be proud of, reducing poverty and improving the quality of life. On average, each micro-enterprise builds 15 houses a year, creating at least 10 jobs. 

The resilience is not just economic. By building high, quality earthquake resilient homes they are not only improving the living conditions of villagers but also insulating them from the impact of future disasters too.