Beldi Tribe – Agricultural and community recovery project

sustainable development architectural processes


The “Beldi Tribe” farm used to be seven hundred hectares dedicated to agriculture, today no more than thirty-five remain.

In 1997, the Al Wahda reservoir, one of the largest in Africa, was inaugurated. Its flooding in 2001 led to the disappearance of the valley’s farms and with them the jobs and social and economic dynamism they implied.

This had a strong impact on the inhabitants of the area which was even more profound in those villages that suddenly found themselves isolated and difficult to access during the rainy season, as in the case of Ouled Hammou.

sustainable development rural architectureIdeas, dreams and objectives
In 2012, a few young people, one of whom had a connection to the area where he had lived during his childhood, decided to return to these places, driven by a passion for nature and with the intention of promoting a project capable of combining this passion with the desire to do something useful for the community.

After the flooding, the local population found itself on the same territory, but at the same time uprooted from it. They had not been able to recover and look for alternatives to the disappearance of the way of life that had been carried on in that area, they were in a state of discouragement and unwilling to accept outside help. However, the good relations that the father of one of the promoters had left in those communities, having been the last to cultivate those lands, made it possible to overcome this blockage and start an initiative linked to permaculture and social sustainability. participatory architectural processes

The aim was to demonstrate, through the reactivation of the farm, that human activity can be developed in a way that respects nature and is both ethical and profitable. However, the initiative would not only involve the agricultural aspect but also the community aspect, and this has materialised over the years with the construction of infrastructure such as the rainwater collector tank and a pre-school centre in and for the community of Ouled Hammou.

At the beginning, it was necessary to deal with the fact that the chosen land had no infrastructure, presenting only a few ruins of stone buildings, as well as the lack of access, water, electricity and supply difficulties due to isolation, as well as the lack of motivation on the part of the local community.

Project development
Over the past ten years, the promoters organised activities and invited experts who could provide real tools and expertise to think, design, plan and implement the project’s objectives. Some of the collaborations adapted better than others to the initial situation on the ground and in the community and thus thrived, while others failed but still provided valuable lessons.

In 2012, the meeting between the initiative and Ctrl+Z took place during a workshop that was being held and during which the idea of organising a course on the superadobe technique on the farm to train local workers was born, which was held in 2013.

By then, construction work had already begun and the first completed facilities such as a provisional kitchen, some living spaces, toilets were available, as well as the availability of a tractor. All of this facilitated the development of building and farming activities and staying on the farm, allowing work to be done and activities to be organised on a different scale.

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Architectural approach
Since then, a stable collaboration has been established for the construction of the work spaces (farm warehouses, forge and dairy), the stables and the recovery of the ruins on the property for kitchens, warehouses and other unfinished buildings for future product sales, educational activities, two houses, etc.

Ctrl+Z’s work has been divided between working at a distance and on the farm in Ouled Hammou, where various residency periods has been realized over the years, some brief, others lasting almost two months.

The interest that immediately prompted to accept the proposal was the approach of combining the construction processes with the training of local staff and with experimentation in order to find suitable and appropriate techniques to implement with the means and materials available locally. Complicated scheme at first but becoming easier as the project developed.

Real participatory architectureDuring the design, construction and experimentation phases, the community is not seen as a passive subject waiting for the instructions of the technicians, but as an active subject contributing both the “genius loci” and the deep knowledge of the territory from a physical and socio-cultural point of view. They pointed out, for example, the different types of soil present on the ground and the traditional ways of mixing and applying them, as well as the availability of other materials in the markets of nearby towns.

All those involved agreed on a “motu operandi” in which architecture was not an independent process but integrated into the sustainable development of the community and the territory. This kind of approach, committed to the values of the project and linked to the local community, benefits all parties involved and the initiative as a whole. The experimentation and research processes, as well as the design and planning processes, have been conducted in a shared way, and this has enabled the refinement of intermediate solutions that draw the best of many sources.

To date, there are a dozen complete and operative infrastructures and another half-dozen under construction, as well as an on-site crop and natural water movement project that includes, among other things, five rainwater harvest and retention basins.self-building earth workshop

Architectural achievements
After many tests, a technique comprising stone foundations, a wooden structure and vertical closures made of straw and clay (5%) protected by traditional plaster was chosen for its adaptability to the local area and the local workforce, as well as for its thermal properties, durability and aesthetic integration.
Solutions were also found for floors, heating (rocket stoves), etc…

In an isolated and at the same time globalised context, the local population was abandoning traditional techniques in favour of concrete block buildings and zinc sheet roofs, which did not really suit the climate of the region and the local culture, as well as being a great expense and presenting logistical problems of accessibility to materials.

Through direct training through courses for their own workers or indirectly through the experimentation of different techniques for the construction of the farm’s infrastructures, they were able to contribute to enhancing the know-how and materials already present on site and to recover some techniques in their original or updated form, not only for the construction of the farm, but as knowledge that each of the local builders took home to improve the surrounding environment and living spaces.

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traditional earth plaster

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self-made earth floor

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sustainable development rural architectureSocial objectives and achievements
In the medium and long term, the aim of the initiative was to establish a symbiotic relationship with the community, so that the community could benefit from the dynamism generated and the project would have a community to lean on.

At the beginning of the initiative, the population, especially the young people, saw leaving the community in favour of the city as the only way to improve their situation, so many abandoned the project as soon as they collected enough savings to do so.

One of the major achievements of the initiative was to reverse this situation and provide these young people with reasons to stay, not only economically, but also in terms of pride in being part of the solution and the rebirth of their community.

inclusive architecture for allFuture
In spite of all that has already been achieved, in my conversations with the promoters, they believe that the first phase is still in progress and that the infrastructure needed to implement the project in all its aspects (agriculture, training, local employment and in the future tourism, etc.) is not yet complete.

Its objective for the next 5 years would be to function 100% as a productive and self-sufficient farm that improves the physical and socio-cultural environment in which it is embedded.

The improvement of crops and animal breeding infrastructure, the installation of a solar power grid and the construction of some hospitality facilities are part of its new goals to ensure that the project can continue to be a locomotive for the entire local community and to expand its object and purpose.

The greatest satisfaction is to see how the knowledge provided has been incorporated by the local community and is being used in the area in its original form or modified to better suit particular conditions of use.

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