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Trying my hand at brick making

Trying my hand at brick making

It’s a beautiful day here in Kivumu Sector, Rutsiro District. I am excited to be here. For members of the local community, it’s business as usual. Farmers are tending to their crops, coffee processors are unpacking bags of red cherries and one young woman is walking from one hill to another, carrying a pot on her head and a baby on her back.

As usual, I am here to learn something new and experience life in rural Rwanda. In this community, villagers grow their own food and consume home-brewed beers. Roosters serve as alarm clocks and coffee is not a beverage but a crop. When you mention coffee, what comes to their minds are fruit-bearing trees surrounding their houses.

While visiting the area, remember to put some cash in your wallet. Your bank account may be loaded, but your VISA card is as useless as an unloaded gun. The use of mobile money is common. However, there is a possibility of procuring goods or services from someone who doesn’t own a cellphone, let alone a mobile money account. To be safe, pack a little bit of cash.

Today, I am learning how clay bricks are made. The science behind one of the most important construction materials is complex. To simplify the subject, my excursion is tailored around three major stages: molding, drying and firing.

My instructor, Jean Marie Nsengiyumva, is a seasoned brick maker. He walks me through multiple stages of clay preparation. Then I roll up my sleeves and use a wooden mold to produce a few rectangular blocks.

Raw bricks are arranged in a way that doesn’t impede the circulation of air. Drying takes three to ten days, depending on the weather. While artificial drying is common in some parts of the world, Rutsiro people dry their bricks naturally.

Fully dried bricks go through fire to be transformed into finished products. Piling up bricks to build kilns is a lot of work. In some cases, it takes as much effort as building a simple house. Around the country, small scale brick makers use firewood to fire their bricks. About a ton or three cubic meters of stacked firewood is needed to fire 1,000 bricks.

In his 1943 paper titled Theory of Human Motivation, Abraham Maslow documented his findings on the topic of universal needs of society. The bottom-up classification, illustrated in the said paper, coined the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The widely discussed theorem recognizes shelter as a basic need. As mentioned above, bricks are important housing construction materials the world over. My brick making experience in Rutsiro is absolutely fulfilling.


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