Liz Johndrow from Earthen Endeavors Natural Building is teaching communities in Nicaragua how to build sustainable and natural homes that have low carbon footprints whilst also working to empower local women.
Teaching new skills with age old materials, Nicaragua Pueblo Project is the latest venture from earth builder Liz Johndrow. Founder of Earthen Endeavors Natural Building, Liz has been building and teaching a mix of styles such as straw bale, cob, adobe, wattle and daub, earthen plasters and timber framing, for several years. Liz finds the good earth, mud, brings a simplicity and intimacy to the process of home building.
Taking her passion and knowledge further, Liz has been involved with the women and youth of Nicaragua over the last three years, passing on her skills and knowledge in a bid to create socially just structures.
Nicaragua is one of the world's more natural disaster-prone countries. The largest country in Central America (and one of the poorest in the western hemisphere), the U.S. backed Contra war followed a savage family run dictatorship, backed by maleficent U.S. government policy. That changed with the broadly popular Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) who overthrew the Somoza regime in 1979. Composed of a diverse collection of parties and ideologies that included Marxists, Nationalists and Catholic groups, the Sandinista's enacted land reform turned around literacy rates with huge country wide campaigns.
Building safe, affordable and natural homes is the mission of the Nicaragua Pueblo Project. And using earth, local resources and natural building techniques is the spirit that motivates them. When it comes to house building in Nicaragua the belief 'concrete is better' is the norm. As Liz explained, "There is the use of concrete as a smooth and easier to clean surface compared to the commonly seen dirt floors and more crumbly adobe walls, as well as the fallacy that concrete is across the board more seismically sound."
The embodied energy of concrete is massive. According to the Environmental Literacy Council, cement, the key ingredient in concrete, is the most abundant manufactured material in the world. Manufacturing cement is intense. It depends on burning cheap coal to heat kilns to more than 1,500oC releasing carbon dioxide into the air from the burning coal as well as the chemical reaction of the cement production.