The training that kicked off on August 24th, 2009 saw the first batch of 10 of the youths being trained on Hydraform technology. The training came about as collaboration between UN-HABITAT’s Youth Empowerment Programme and the Nyumbani Village Training Centre in Kitui District, some 200 kilometers east of Nairobi.
The enrolled youth all hail from informal settlements, namely: Kibera and Githogoro in Nairobi, and Kiandutu in Thika, a town near the capital city. The training will take about 18 days and benefit a total of 30 youth, although initially starting with 10 youth (8 males and 2 females). The youth are set to graduate on the 12th of September, after having gained both practical, hands-on experience with the building materials, and also theoretic instruction from both Nyumbani instructors and UN-HABITAT staff.
Hydraform technology is a low cost, green alternative construction method that employs as its base concept, the assembly of construction blocks using little or no mortar in the process of laying. The technology is the product of ongoing trainings in alternative construction methods. The blocks fit in together much like inter-locking puzzle-pieces when assembled, resulting in very sturdy structures that are resistant to all manner of environmental conditions.
Each block is composed of a precise mixture of 70% soil,20% sand and 10% cement. The youths will be trained on all the steps of production: how the selection process for the soils used in the mixture are carried out, how the mixture is then composed based on the soil types, how to handle the hydraform machine, and finally the forming of the blocks. Since the whole process requires intensive labour and manpower, it has potential to be an employment generating venture for the target youth.
The Nyumbani Village Training Centre has two hydraform machines and the capacity to produce 4500 blocks per 8 hour shift. The plot of land on which the centre was built encompasses 1000 acres, and the project involves the ongoing construction of 1000 housing units. The centre employs qualified staff including Mary Munyao – who has over 20 years of experience in construction technologies, and is supported by USAID, several foreign embassies in Nairobi, the Rotary Club, the Catholic Diocese of Nairobi, and a multitude of volunteers, among others.
In a speech made on her behalf, UN-HABITAT Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka thanked the Nyumbani Village Training Centre for partnering with UN-habitat and was hopeful that this would be a beginning of a programme where the Nyumbani Village in collaboration with UN-habitat would continue to support young people.
UN-HABITAT’s Youth Empowerment Programme in Kenya, launched in 2008, recognizes young people as active partners towards achieving a sustainable development. In order to achieve sustainable results, therefore, addressing youth concerns requires a holistic approach and long term support which the organization seeks to provide.
After completing the hydraform portion of the training, the involved youths will also be trained in conflict management skills, business development, peace building skills, and in forming cooperatives. These skills may help them form small businesses and construction brigades to market their abilities with more direction and efficiency. These efforts will be monitored and followed up by added support from the involved partners and UN HABIATAT’s Youth Empowerment Programme. UN-HABITAT recognizes that in order to accurately and effectively tackle youth concerns, that more holistic approaches are needed.
Equipping the youth with marketable skills is one way of empowering them to become more active members of the community and also to harness their potential. By encouraging a more engaged youth, other problems affecting youth can be addressed, such as unemployment ans ill health. Partnerships such as this one with Nyumbani Village Training Centre, serve as an example of the way forward for youth initiatives that combines UN-HABITAT's mandate and Nyumbani's efforts in assisting AIDS affected people.