Bolgaun Stories: Earthbag Baby - House #1

When 23 year old Karchu Bomgyang was helping her husband, Sugyalbo, fill the foundation of their new Earthbag house, she suddenly let out a small scream and dropped everything she was doing.

Karchu had gone into labor and suddenly the need for a stable, permanent home was more urgent than ever before.

Joining her older sister, Sabina (age 4), baby Sompalmu had come into a world that had been neither easy nor kind to their parents. Two years ago, Karchu and Sugyalbo had left their family and village of Bolgaun to look for work in India. Abandoning everything they knew in Nepal for the sake of earning a living. Sugyalbo worked day to day as a farmer and laborer while his wife stayed home alone to take care of their first child. Each morning around dawn, Sugyalbo joined a whole truckload of other workers to be taken to whatever project needed employees on that day and would first come home late in the evening, with a small sum of money to help provide for his family. Days, weeks, months, and eventually years passed like this until abruptly on April 25th, 2015, everything came to a sudden halt.

On a sunny Saturday in India, Sugyalbo and Karchu felt a slight shaking from below. What felt like a minor tremble to them, however, had entirely leveled their village in Nepal, destroying their family’s home and ending the lives of nearly half their neighbors, friends, and family. Upon hearing of the magnitude of destruction, this sweet family was on the road again- headed back to Bolgaun to be with those dear to them.

Arriving home after days of walking, they recognized little of the village they once knew. The road to Bolgaun had been wiped away by landslides and the entire village had fallen to the ground, killing and injuring those who had been in the way. Karchu and Sugyalbo joined the community in the long wait for aid, food, and medical help, but nothing ever came until nearly 18 months later when Australian medical workers spied the leveled village from across the valley.

Helen Simpson began a long trek across the valley and made a connection with the village of Bolgaun that finally initiated the process of rebuilding this shattered community. Now, Karchu and Sugyalbo are the first of many families in Bolgaun to rebuild their home using Earthbag method and the first to have a permanent, sustainable, and safe home for their beautiful new family.

This project is sponosored by Nimbin Health and Welfare association.

Kaule House #3 for Durga family is almost finished

Durga is 30 years old. At this age, many of us are just beginning what we consider our “adult lives” but Durga has already lived a lifetime. At 30, Durga is married, has fathered three beautiful daughters, has worked as a security guard in Malaysia for six years, created a home with his family, lost this home when the 2015 Gorkha Earthquake reduced it to dust, and has lived in a tin shack for over a year. Durga knows how to farm, how to do carpentry work, how to support his family, and now, he has learned how to build an Earthbag house.

Durga has been sleeping in a tin shack for the past 18 months with his wife and three daughters. The tin was a donation from an international relief organization and has been conveniently assembled in the front yard of a small crooked brick house, where his sister, his parents, and his grandparents all sleep. For the past week, Durga and his wife and kids have also been sleeping in this brick house, where they cook hot meals of rice and lentils for the six volunteers who have been kindly offered the tin shack during the building process.

But they won’t be homeless for long because in just a matter of days, Durga and the volunteers have built an Earthbag house with the help of neighbors from the community. The first one to show up in the morning and the last one to leave, Durga has taken charge of the build- advising his neighbors on how to sift the earth, fill the bags, and tamp them properly. He’s more than ready to move his family into their new home and his eagerness has led to a deep interest in Earthbag building techniques and a willingness to teach these methods to his community. Two courses away from finishing the walls, Durga turns to the volunteer by his side during their tea break and tells him he’s confident he can replicate this design.

India Initiative: Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India

Kateryna Zemskova and Dr. Owen Geiger at the model Earthbag building, Anna University Campus, Madurai

Kateryna Zemskova and Dr. Owen Geiger at the model Earthbag building, Anna University Campus, Madurai

We are proud to announce our new India Initiative, designed to bring widespread sustainable Earthbag building to India for the first time.

Partnered with government-sponsored Anna University, our teaching and building program are also expected to play a critical part in Prime Minister Modi's Clean India initiative.

Anna University is one of India's largest and most prestigious universities, with five regional campuses and 600 affiliated colleges. Good Earth Nepal is now building a model Earthbag conference center on Anna's flagship Madurai campus, and we expect to build more Earthbag structures on Anna campuses in the coming year.

Anna engineering and architecture students are building the conference center themselves, with training and supervision provided by Good Earth Nepal. Soon these young building professionals will be constructing their own Earthbag structures, all over India.

Kateryna Zemskova and Dr. Owen Geiger were also keynote speakers at India's first-ever Earthbag Conference, "Promoting Entrepreneurship In Innovative Construction Techniques". The two-day summit in Madurai was a huge success, with over 350 scholars, students, researchers and government officials in attendance.

Thanks to Dean Swarnalatha and our Good Earth Nepal staff in Madurai, India for making all this happen, and we look forward to further work with Anna University and the Indian government.

Presentation at Earth Institute, Columbia University, New York City

Co-founders Kateryna Zemskova, Nathan Belofsky and Baris Tuncer were honored to present "Earthbag Technology" at the Fourth Annual ICSD (International Conference on Sustainable Development) held at Columbia University's Earth Institute on September 21st and 22nd.

The Earth Institute is one of the world's leading sustainable development organizations, with several of its members having served on a Nobel-prize-winning committee on climate change. Keynote speakers included renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs ("The End of Poverty") and Erna Solberg, the Prime Minister of Norway.

We were pleased to meet with sustainable development movers and shakers from all over the world, and doubly honored to be the only conference presenter featured in the Earth Institute's online magazine!

Read the full article here:

Harnessing Soil to Rebuild Rural Nepal

Thanks Earth Institute and Columbia University, hope to see you again soon.

New Project: Ten Homes Project, Kaule, Nuwakot

In the village of Kaule, Nuwakot District, Good Earth Nepal is working with Carisimo and Kaule Environment Nepal NGO on a special multi-home construction project.

Ten families from the village have been selected to receive the resources and training necessary to build an Earthbag home with the understanding that they will aid one another in the building process. This community-based model encourages neighbors to come together to rebuild a village alongside each other.

The selected families have undergone primary training in Earthbag design and concept and we are now in the process of clearing the land.

Perhaps the most important aspect of this project is the families that have been selected to build their own homes. We wanted to highlight a few of these families to shed some light on just who the faces in the photos are and hope that it allows for our supporters to feel the connection between Good Earth Nepal, the non-profits we work with, and the Nepali people who are rebuilding their own country.

The Family of Indra Bahadur Tamang

Indra, his wife Dil Maya, and their four children used to live in a stone masonry house before the earthquake destroyed it on April 25th, 2015. Like so many others in Kaule, they now live in a temporary shelter built of scraps from their former home. They have received a total of 15,000 Nepali rupees from the government as aid after the earthquake, an amount approximately equivalent to $150 USD.

We met with Indra’s wife, Dil Maya, and two of the couple’s four children. Indra, she told us, was working their land somewhere down on the intricately terraced mountains in Kaule. With the monsoon season starting, the villagers of Kaule are busy preparing the land for the planting of rice.

Dil Maya Tamang and two of her children in the doorway of their shelter.

Dil Maya Tamang and two of her children in the doorway of their shelter.

Their shelter stands next to the ruins of their former home, overlooking the terraced mountains of Kaule

Their shelter stands next to the ruins of their former home, overlooking the terraced mountains of Kaule

The Family of Gopi Tamang and Chinni Maya Tamang

Gopi Tamang used to live in his stone masonry house with his wife and son. His sister, Chinni Maya Tamang, had left her husband and was living with her father and mother when the earthquake hit in 2015. Ever since the earthquake, Gopi, Chinni Maya, their father, mother, their two brothers, their sister, their nephew and Gopi’s son all live in the same shelter, built from materials salvaged after the earthquake. Like many others, Gopi and his family have not received any aid from the government due to the strict requirements of formal land ownership.

Gopi returned three months ago from Qatar, where he was working to support his family. Chinni Maya and him now survive on what they can grow in Kaule.

Gopi Tamang on the new patch of land he is helping to make level for the construction of his new house

Gopi Tamang on the new patch of land he is helping to make level for the construction of his new house

The Family of Jhalak Man Tamang

Jhalak Man Tamang’s home was also destroyed in the 2015 earthquake. He currently lives in a temporary shelter with his wife and daughter. To earn a living, he grows his own food and works with other various forms of labor.

When we asked Jhalak Man Tamang if he had received any help from the government after the 2015 earthquake, he answered no. In rural Nepal, informal land ownership and subdivision deprives people of the little help they would otherwise receive from the government, which requires official papers. In some ways, this requirement is a necessary precaution, but it often gets in the way of thousands of people receiving much needed aid. As an NGO, Good Earth Nepal tries to help those who are not able to receive aid from the government because of such constraints.

Jhalak Man Tamang

Jhalak Man Tamang

Thanks to intern Sergio Espinosa for the information and portraits.

Shree Jana Primary School, Nuwakot: Open!!!

This Spring we celebrated the grand opening of Shree Jana Primary School, a two room school that Good Earth Nepal has built in cooperation with Australian organization, Birds of Passage, who funded the construction. The opening was a great success, attended by members of Nepal Reconstruction Authority, Nepal Engineers Association and journalists from leading newspapers.

 

We were also very pleased to have Dr. Owen Geiger join us for this great opening of our second finished Earthbag school. It looks like the children were happy to have him there!

Earthbag Tour with Dr. Owen Geiger

This Spring, Dr. Owen Geiger visited us in Nepal and spent three weeks working touring and evaluating Earthbag buildings in collaboration with Good Earth Nepal . His visit was sponsored by GLS Treuhand Bank and Schock Familien Stiftung and GEN is very grateful for their generous support in funding Dr. Geiger's visit to Nepal.

The first weeks of the tour were spent visiting current Earthbag construction sites around Nepal and evaluating the building practices, assessing building techniques and the safety of construction.

Among the villages visited was Mulabari, in Nuwakot District, where German non-profit Carisimo has built 30 Earthbag homes since September. The project emphasizes community and self reliance as the villagers not only build their own homes, but help neighbors in constructing theirs.

Good Earth Nepal is now partnering with Carisimo in a similar project where we will be building ten homes for families in the village of Kaula. More on this in the coming newsletter! 

                        Villagers in Kaule, where Good Earth Nepal will be working with Carisimo

With Dr. Geiger, we also visited a village in Sindupalchowk where New Zealand based non-profit First Steps Himalaya is building an impressive school, as well as a round kindergarten. Prior to the earthquake, this organization had just finished building their first school which completely withstood the shocks.

                             Round Kindergarden by First Steps Himalaya

The tour was a great success and we look forward to continuing our partnership with Dr. Geiger, Method Ambassador and Technical Consultant to Good Earth Nepal.

                                     Six Room School by First Steps Himalaya

Hands-on Workshop with Dr. Owen Geiger in Phulping

Together with Dr. Geiger, our Method Ambassador, Good Earth Nepal conducted a two-day hands-on workshop in Phulping, Sindupalchowk where we are reconstructing a school. This workshop was part of Dr. Geiger's three week tour of Nepal, sponsored by the GLS Treuhand Bank and Schock Familien Stiftung oundation.

       Trainees at Dr. Geiger's Workshop in Collaboration with Good Earth Nepal

       Trainees at Dr. Geiger's Workshop in Collaboration with Good Earth Nepal

This project is unique as we are reusing an existing foundation, metal poles, roof trusses, windows and doors. We are using Earthbags to reconstruct the old school with these recycled materials. 

Dr. Geiger was there to share tips and tricks and assist us in leading a more advanced technical workshop. Among trainees were Nepali architects and engineers, several villagers, and volunteers from Spain, UK, Israel, and USA.

Mahakal School Opening

We are happy to announce that this Saturday we HAVE OPENED OUR FIRST EARTHBAG SCHOOL: Mahakal Primary School in Makwanpur district. 
The project has been a real challenge for us due to many obstacles that constitute Nepal reality: strikes, gas shortage, inflated prices, festivals, cold weather, electricity blackouts, etc... The school site is located in a remote area with poor road access and at times our volunteers and workers had to carry heavy materials for hours uphill. 
On the other hand the end result is INCREDIBLE. The school itself is beautiful, the kids and villagers are happy to have a new school, the workers were able to earn income and volunteers had an unforgettable experience that they will remember for the rest of their lives.
We would like to thank everyone who has participated in this project, and special thanks to Nathan, Roshan, Eric, Arnaud, Flo, Manish and Dn who played key roles in the success of our project. 

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Meeting with the Minister of Education

We were excited this month to meet with Nepal’s Minister of Education, Mr. Girirajmani Pokharel. We discussed alternative building techniques and presented Earthbag technology during the meeting. Our presentation was well-received by him and his team, and we have been invited to submit Earthbag school designs to the Ministry.

Earthbag School Agara, Oct. 29th-Nov. 10th.

After much deliberation, delays, dedication, adaptation and good fun, the materials for the Agara school build have finally arrived along with the volunteers to assemble the village's first earthquake resilient earthbag structure ! Let the barb wire roll! Let the bags be filled tamped and levelled. Onward !

Villagers of Agara pick up the tools and skills quickly as the building team moves forward into the first couple earthbag courses, a huge relief after smashing the foundation gravel by hand for a week.

Villagers of Agara pick up the tools and skills quickly as the building team moves forward into the first couple earthbag courses, a huge relief after smashing the foundation gravel by hand for a week.

October 29th finally happened to be the day when the building materials, food and volunteers all departed Kathmandu to the remote village of Agara, Makwanpur. Initially the idea was to depart Kathmandu at 7am to arrive in Agara in the early evening, but due to the fuel crises delays, we were able to leave at 6pm ! 

View of the cue for petrol at a station in Teku, Kathmandu. Our delivery truck had to wade through the waves of traffic for hours to finally move onto the highway to Makwanpur.  

View of the cue for petrol at a station in Teku, Kathmandu. Our delivery truck had to wade through the waves of traffic for hours to finally move onto the highway to Makwanpur.  

After an 11 hour delay, an overnight stop, a rain storm and multiple mud stuck moments, the supplies finally arrived in Agara, but the waiting was not over yet ! 

After an 11 hour delay, an overnight stop, a rain storm and multiple mud stuck moments, the supplies finally arrived in Agara, but the waiting was not over yet ! 

As we rounded the contours of the lush mountain roads, rainy conditions delayed the truck one more day from reaching the school's drop off site. Volunteers were greeted warmly amidst the unseasonably cool and wet conditions by the villager host's. The children were quick to help set up tent accommodations, and happily jump up and down to tamp the ground flat for the weary travellers to rest comfortably.

Children greet volunteers and supply truck at the drop off turn around point. 

Children greet volunteers and supply truck at the drop off turn around point. 

The school remained another 10 minute hike by foot up a steep terraced slope and was only possible because of the many helping hands of children, teens and adults, who were eager to move the supplies to the school. A truly galvanizing moment to know and see that after over a month of planning and perseverance, materials finally landed. 

Let the Smashing Begin ! 
Due to the difficult access to the remote building site in Agara, it made more sense economically, ecologically and socially to smash the rubble from the old school into gravel for the foundation of the new school. Shipping prepped gravel by truck was certainly not a realistic option as the price of ordering trucks was through the roof. This gravel job was big, as an estimated 500 cubic feet of gravel were needed to fill the school's foundation. Teams of locals were employed to help break down the rubble from the old to create the solid base for the new. A week of rock crushing by hand, filling the trench with the french drain with layers of rubble and gravel was no task for the faint of heart.

A section of the rubble pile from the remains of the the earthquake destruction. Smash On ! 

A section of the rubble pile from the remains of the the earthquake destruction. Smash On ! 

Villagers smile during a jokingly afternoon smashing rubble from the destroyed school into gravel for the new foundation.

Villagers smile during a jokingly afternoon smashing rubble from the destroyed school into gravel for the new foundation.

Moving buckets of freshly smashed gravel to fill the foundation trench as students stand by. 

Moving buckets of freshly smashed gravel to fill the foundation trench as students stand by. 

Filling the first of three courses of gravel bags for the foundation with Volunteer Florian Cuisset. 

Filling the first of three courses of gravel bags for the foundation with Volunteer Florian Cuisset. 

Lining the course with barbed wire to hitch the bags together. Let it Roll !

Lining the course with barbed wire to hitch the bags together. Let it Roll !

The work carried on steadily with only 2 afternoon breaks between October 29th and November 10th. The restful and enlightening holiday festival of Tihar has now arrived. The crew expresses its sincerest gratitude to the people of Agara who have graciously and gratefully welcomed the earthbag building volunteers into their community with song, celebration and the finest dahl bhat ever ! 3 hours of non-stop improvised song and dance strung together multiple verses expressing their love and appreciation for the volunteers and each other ! Happy Tihar ! 

Volunteers, Village leaders and the beloved cook at the campsite. From left to right, ( volunteer Arnaud, village leader Tikaram Rumba Lama, volunteer Erich Burton, Sundar the cook, Translator DN, Nish Dai, Volunteer Florian, Engineer Nitesh.    Article and Photos by Volunteer Erich Burton  

Volunteers, Village leaders and the beloved cook at the campsite. From left to right, ( volunteer Arnaud, village leader Tikaram Rumba Lama, volunteer Erich Burton, Sundar the cook, Translator DN, Nish Dai, Volunteer Florian, Engineer Nitesh. 
 

Article and Photos by Volunteer Erich Burton  

New Office Opens to Accommodate our Growing Team!

Last week, Good Earth Nepal initiated our brand new office space in Kathmandu with a meeting between members of the growing team. The Good Earth Nepal team has been rapidly expanding as volunteers and experts from around the world arrive to offer their skills so it was time we found a space to convene.At the first meeting were members of the dedicated core team, including Kateryna (Co-Founder), Nish (Project Manager), Roshan (Executive Director), Andy (Creative Director), as well as one technical supervisor, two professional engineers, three engineers in training, one architect, and five new volunteers. Amongst topics discussed were government proposals, on site supervision of the Sankhu project, and the progress the volunteers are making in Agara. The team is very excited about its indispensable and dedicated new members.

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The office is just a five minute walk from Thamel, located in Lainchour, in the heart  of Kathmandu. It’s a functional space with several rooms and a kitchen, and plenty of space to work and sleep(when not working). As the volume of projects continues to expand and volunteers and experts continue to appear, this new office will serve as a crucial space to convene, progress, and work together.

Earthbag School, Agara, Makwanpur Week #1

 To many Nepali's relief, the countries most celebrated holiday of Darshain has finally arrived. It has been a long tough year for Nepal. The earthquakes of April and May, followed by the uncertainty of the new constitution, the strikes, the border blockades and fuel crisis have understandably stretched thin the spirits and patience of many people here. Amidst all the chaos of material shortages, inflated costs, trucks running out of gas, and untold mental and emotional anguish, Good Earth Nepal and Expansion Nepal have been persevering with their humanitarian aims. The Agara Earthbag Elementary Project has finally broken ground ! 

Day 1 of Digging the Foundation Trench. 

Day 1 of Digging the Foundation Trench. 

After 2 weeks of a drawn out logistical nightmare of dimension calculations, cost analysis, purchasing and transporting materials and tools, struggling with a severe shortage of fuel, Good Earth and Expansion Nepal finally got down and dirty with community members of Agara, Makwanpur. The initial stages are underway of the valley's first permanent school structure since the Earthquakes of April and May saw the school completely collapsed, reduced to rubble... 

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Luckily, the school was empty of its 200 student children when the earthquake struck. There has since only been a corrugated metal frame with a rocky earthen floor with a few benches and tables for the school to work with. Attendance has understandably drooped. As the villagers of Agara live a life of constant subsistence farming work, the task of adequately rebuilding the school on their own without extra support is relatively impossible. Good Earth and Expansion Nepal have made it their latest mission to support the community of Agara in their development into a dream village, putting the children first. 

8 year old Nambrita takes notes during a chess lesson in her temporary home in Agara. Her family has been hosting Good Earth and Expansion Nepal members during the preparation and initial building days before the holiday break of Darshain. 

8 year old Nambrita takes notes during a chess lesson in her temporary home in Agara. Her family has been hosting Good Earth and Expansion Nepal members during the preparation and initial building days before the holiday break of Darshain. 

Sandesh, 5, sits with a Good Earth Volunteer's solar charger and laptop. He and his sister Nambrita enjoyed their first week time hosting volunteers thoroughly and will be attending the Agara Earthbag school upon its completion. 

Sandesh, 5, sits with a Good Earth Volunteer's solar charger and laptop. He and his sister Nambrita enjoyed their first week time hosting volunteers thoroughly and will be attending the Agara Earthbag school upon its completion. 

As Nepal settles in for the Darshain holiday festivities with family and friends, the time has come to reap the seasons harvests and put work aside until the end of Darshain. In the meantime, The Good Earth and Expansion Nepal team are taking some time for themselves as well, reflecting on the journey with more news updates to keep followers informed. Happy Darshain from the Good Earth and Expansion Nepal team in Agara and Kathmandu Nepal ! 

 

Agara, Makwanpur, with the Annapurna Himalaya faint in the distance.

Agara, Makwanpur, with the Annapurna Himalaya faint in the distance.

Expansion Nepal discussing wooden roof plans and work agreements with Agara community members.  

Expansion Nepal discussing wooden roof plans and work agreements with Agara community members.  

Article and photos by Good Earth and Expansion Nepal volunteer Erich Burton.

School Survey Trip to Phulping Katta

This week Good Earth Nepal team has visited Phulping village in  Sindhupalchok District to survey and take soil samples of a primary school that was destroyed by the earthquake. Together with 108 lives we are planning to rebuild this school using Earthbag technology.

Our group was composed of 8 people and included sherpas from the village, Good Earth Nepal team,  Nepali architects, engineers and a freelance journalist Joshua Ryan.

The remote village Phulping is located in a mountainous area close to Chinese border. Usually it takes 5-6 hours bus ride to reach the village, however due to the multiple landslides caused by monsoon season many sections of the road past Barabesi are completely blocked. We had to ride the bus for 4 hours and then trek for 5 hours to reach the village.

Landslides on our way

Landslides on our way

On our way we saw a lot of destruction. Most of the buildings and houses are destroyed. 

Once we reached the village we were greeted by the school principle, Umiss Barsnit and the kids. 

School Principle, Umiss Barsnit

School Principle, Umiss Barsnit

The school used to have 4 classrooms and 78 kids who attended it. Now all the classrooms are destroyed and only used to store corn. 

Our team took measurements and talked to the principle. He informed us that we are the first people who reached their village to discuss rebuilding since the earthquake.

At the dinner time we were treated with great food, warm tea and locally made rice wine. We slept in a shelter that was used as a Gompa. 

Our sleeping house, used as temporary Gompa

It has been decided to start rebuilding process once the roads are cleared of landslides in approximately 2 months.







Good Earth Nepal team attends Earthbag Rebuild Nepal Summit in Kathmandu

Good Earth Nepal team attended first Earthbag Rebuild Nepal Summit in Kathamndu organized by First Steps Himalayas. It was great to see engineers, architects, builders, NGOs and non-profit organizations coming from all over the world and Nepal to share, learn and spread Earthbag technology. What a great effort to help Nepal to recover from Earthquake!

Owen Geiger, internationally acclaimed Earthbag expert arrives to Nepal

Good Earth Nepal welcomes Owen Geiger, the internationally acclaimed Earthbag building author and instructor who just arrived to Nepal. He will teach Earthbag technology for the full month of September and the beginning of October. 

The training will be conducted at Osho Tapoban International in Nagarjun Hill (a short public bus ride from Balaju Bypass in KTM).  The duration of each training workshop is 2 days.

To learn more and to register for the workshops, please visit training Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1613996712180913/

 

Earthbag house for Kamala is completed

We are excited to announce that we have successfully completed the Earthbag house for a widow Kamala and her 2 daughters. This unique project was built during monsoon season. It was a challenge, but as they say: "if there is a will, there is a way". We also have installed smokeless oven for Kamala.