Two years into a five-year project, African Parks has completed two of its ‘elephant
schools’ in the Zakouma National Park periphery and is working on a third.
Zakouma National Park has a unique system whereby the elephant herds use the park in the dry season but migrate up to 130km away when the rains come. These migration corridors and the wet season feeding grounds are critical to the survival of Zakouma’s elephants and are shared by local villages and, at certain times, the nomads as well.
The aim of the Elephant Schools project is to provide much needed schools and teachers in key villages within the extended elephant range. These ‘elephant schools’ will form an important link between local communities and the park by providing a platform for conventional as well as environmental education.
Hamida Bourma, manager of African Parks, explains: “Chad does not have a large commercial brick-making factory. All bricks are made out of either mud (raw and burnt) or cement. And cement costs about US$30 per bag delivered in the park, so we needed a method of construction that is not only environmentally friendly but also uses minimal cement. Hydraform was the perfect choice.”
Furthermore, since Hydraform machines are mobile, the machine can be moved to wherever the construction is taking place. Other advantages highlighted by Bourma are the relatively low cost (no mortar, minimal cement in block), and ease of construction, which is critical because most of the available labour in the rural areas is unskilled.
African Parks received its first Hydraform blockmaking machine in April 2013 after it was flown in thanks to a private donation. Since then, the organisation has completed the construction of one primary school and one secondary school. Work continues on a second primary school and, at the time of writing, the block of three classrooms was already at lintel height.
When the project is complete, it is expected that six primary and two secondary schools in key villages will have been built. Thereafter, and since the Hydraform belongs to Zakouma National Park, it will stay there to be used for other construction work or, perhaps, to continue with the school building programme after the initial phase is complete.