On the 18th January 2016, I flew to Malawi to meet a Government owned agency that owns and manages over 6000 built housing assets, to present the concept of the Tiguri Green Village.
The meetings were spread across a few days and included time with the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, the Lilongwe Water Board, a well-known bank and the Malawi Trade Centre.
My first and remaining impression of Malawi was that it is a beautiful country with amazing, friendly people. Nothing is too much trouble and besides me never asking for a thing I was offered help in any way I wanted whether I realised I needed it or not. I was never asked for anything in return. This was a refreshing experience in comparison to South Africa and Malawi is a much poorer and less developed country.
The first meeting with the housing agency took us to Area 43 in Lilongwe. To my surprise this developing area was and is considered a higher end development, not the rural poor application I had tried to promote. Nevertheless, as we drove through the red coloured, pressed (though use) clay roads, I saw many large, double storey houses being built. On closer inspection of the materials used, red bricks, I was surprised to see the stockpiled bricks were eroding… from rain. We stopped the car and I walked over to a pile of bricks and picked one up. I could crumble it with my fingers which were left sandy and stained. I didn’t comment and asked if I could keep one.
The majority of bricks used in Malawi and in these “posh” developments are these very bricks and it begs the questions… “How long will these houses last?”
It costs them a couple of hundred thousand dollars to supply and build these high end 4 or 5 bedroom houses, however, because there is a serious lack of manufacturing capability Malawians make do with the tools they have at their disposal. They make bricks by hand from the clay soil that makes up much of the composition of the land throughout the country. Kiln-baked bricks are much more durable than sun-baked ones.