GANDO MANGO TREE PROJECT
Kéré's dream is not just to build schools and to provide education, but to create an oasis in which the needs of the villagers of Gando are fulfilled. In order to do this, he has embarked on a project of planting mango trees. The project aims to address several major problems in the region. Starvation is rare, but malnutrition is common in Gando and the surrounding area. The main staple is “foufou”, which consists of pounded and boiled millet. It contains few vitamins, and most people eat it just once a day. Mangoes provide an important source of nourishment, and the vitamins help to strengthen the immune system.
Furthermore, mango trees provide a vital source of shade. Daytime temperatures often reach 40 °C. In the midst of this intolerable heat, the cool space under a mango tree becomes an important meeting place for the village community, where children play, study, and rest. A further objective is to teach pupils responsibility. Each pupil is given a tree to look after. In this way, they learn how to plant and care for trees, and this is the knowledge that they will pass on to their parents and the next generation. Due to the rapidly expanding population, and the predominance of firewood as the main source of fuel, Burkina Faso has lost 60% of its trees in the last 15 years.
This has led to detrimental consequences for the environment. Trees provide shade, protect the soil from erosion, stop desertification and regulate the groundwater regime. In addition to this, trees contribute to soil fertility, and to biodiversity in that they provide a habitat for many species. With Burkina Faso's hot and dry climate and the severe shortage of rain between October and June, many plants and saplings can simply not survive. In addition to this many are destroyed by termites. Pesticides and fertilizers are both prohibitively expensive and damaging to the environment.
Therefore, Kéré developed an innovative concept: In preparation for planting the tree a hole is dug and filled with old bones and meat and left for a few days. After a while, the bones and meat attract ants, which colonize the hole and eat the termites. This enables the trees to grow without needing any insecticide. Animals such as chickens are kept in the shade of the trees, and their dung provides natural fertilizer for the trees so that artificial fertilizers are not necessary. Instead of watering the trees twice a day,
Kéré came up with the following idea: placing traditional hand-made clay pots next to the trees, with drippers targeted directly to the roots. The clay pots prevent evaporation from taking place and only need to be filled once a week, giving the trees a small but constant supply of water. In this way, a simple yet effective method can make a positive impact on the lives of people in Gando.
GANDO SCHOOL GARDEN AND WELL
Most people in Burkina Faso are subsistence farmers, and in rural villages such as Gando, it is an overwhelming majority. This is a potential problem for education, as families expect their children to help out. It is therefore imperative to give pupils a working knowledge of agriculture and to make education relevant to them. To this end, an allotment has been established on the school grounds, and a well has been dug to provide water both for the school and for the village.
Alongside their classes, the pupils learn how to take care of the plants without using any pesticides or fertilizers, encouraging them to use sustainable methods in the future. In a region where food is scarce and most people have a very repetitive diet, the school garden provides an important contribution to food security.
GANDO SECONDARY SCHOOL
Secondary school in Gando An increase in government funding for secondary education in 2010 enabled the 50 pupils to begin classes. While waiting for new classrooms, their lessons have been held in the primary school. Construction of a secondary school began in May 2011 and opened in 2013. This is Kéré's biggest project yet. The new building complex will include 12 classrooms, a school hall, a library, an administrative building, and several sports fields. It will accommodate approximately 1000 students.
The layout is inspired by the traditional rural households in Burkina Faso: the classrooms are set out in a circular fashion forming a protected courtyard, shielding it from the dust and sand brought by the Harmattan winds. The structure is open on its West side, allowing a cool breeze to enter the area. The very hot temperatures, large class sizes, and lack of air-conditioning in Burkina Faso make it very difficult for pupils to concentrate. Therefore, we developed an innovative air-cooling system only using natural ventilation. The school is surrounded by a bank of earth, on which trees are planted. The trees provide shade, and rainwater is gathered to provide them with water. Perforated pipes are laid underneath the earth banks, and gather moisture.
The wind cools down as it blows through the pipes, and emerges in the classrooms through holes in the floor, providing a zero emissions under-floor cooling system. This design won the 2012 Global Holcim Award Gold. The secondary school uses the same roof design as the primary school, with a wide corrugated iron roof raised above a clay ceiling. Air circulates between ceiling and roof, heats up, and rises, creating a suction current below. This causes the cool air from the under-floor pipes to rise, reducing room temperature by an estimated 6 – 8 °C. With simple yet effective methods such as these, the school requires little electricity both in construction and maintenance. Burkina Faso's expanding population and the predominant use of firewood as fuel have resulted in major deforestation problems.
An estimated 60% of the country's trees have been chopped down in the last 15 years. Worse, reforestation programmes often plant eucalyptus trees which grow easily and quickly but soak up vast amounts of groundwater at the expense of local agriculture. In order to combat this problem, the secondary school uses wood from eucalyptus trees for construction, and mango trees are planted in their place. The mango trees need less water, produce fruit, and provide more shade than eucalyptus trees, which the pupils make use of during breaks. As with his other projects, the secondary school uses local manpower for construction.
Specialists trained by Francis Kéré supervise members of the local community, training them in the necessary building techniques. Rather than building the walls brick by brick, Kéré has devised a way of pouring mud and a small quantity of cement into a mould, which is much quicker. This skills transfer enables the villagers to replicate the building design and encourages them to adopt sustainable methods rather than the usual concrete option.
Developed in 2014 and still in construction, the Atelier is a building with the function of the community center and an on-site base for building projects. A group of students from the Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio helped Francis Kéré plan and build the first steps of the construction.