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Sep 08, 2023

Residents of Migori have taken to embracing the new technology of making concrete blocks for building constructions and are gradually moving away from the traditional earth-baked bricks.

The new technology involves mixing murram soil with cement or using murram alone to make concrete blocks using a hydraform machine.

Jared Opiyo, a businessman in Migori town makes his own concrete blocks for construction of his house and encourages residents to utilize the government owned hydraform block maker machine to conserve the environment.

He said that the block maker machine produces between 1200 to 1500 blocks per day with a fuel expense of 5 litres, making the whole process cheaper than going the age-old earth-baked bricks using hot kilns.

Opiyo said that the machine produces blocks that are thrice the size of one earth-baked brick. With a work force of four people, the block maker is capable of producing at least 1,500 blocks a day.

The businessman said that initially he used to make earth bricks for sale, a task that could take him seven days with a workforce of eight labourers to produce what he is producing in a day using the hydraform block maker machine.

He said that digging up the soil, mixing it, making bricks and finally baking the small cubic bricks in hot kilns is a process that may take months to complete.

"I used to take three months to produce 3,000 earth bricks. With the block maker machine I am able to produce 3,000 blocks in two days with a workforce of four," stated Opiyo during an interview at his current plot where he produces building blocks employing modern techniques.

Opiyo further said that earth brick making process is quite tiresome, uneconomical, and hazardous to human health and is an environmental pollutant.

He said that the process of burning earth bricks requires huge tones of trees, a process that interferes with the existing forest cover that should be conserved for future generations.

The businessman also acknowledged that making earth bricks is not economically viable. "When I used to make earth bricks, out of 1000 bricks I could have 200 breakages. Some bricks could not undergo proper burning process reducing another 100 bricks. At the end of the day I could only account for 700 bricks that were ready for the market," Opiyo said.

Earth brick making is a traditional process that Opiyo says anybody can do. The supply is so high making it impossible to sell unless one reduces the costs to Sh7 a brick instead of the initial range of between Sh12 to Sh15.

Those who have engaged in earth brick making have created huge gullies on their farms following the massive excavation of soil for brick making.

Opiyo says that this is hazardous to the environment, human and animal life. The gullies left behind on people's farms pose a serious bane to food production besides posing death traps for both human and animals in case of accidental falls.

In this case, good alluvial soils are destroyed at the expense of farm products as well as creating gaping water-logged ponds that become mosquito breeding grounds. The disadvantages are countless and needless to enlist.

Many youth who have engaged in earth brick making have destroyed their arable land meant for farming. Opiyo highlighted that many youths have ended up selling their pieces of land cheaply thinking that the land is now useless after destroying it by scooping earth for brick making.

When a buyer buys such plots they reclaim them by refilling them with murram soils and then they build rental houses. He says that those that sold their lands ends up in depression when they see the land they perceived valueless is benefitting the buyer through earning good money in rent.

Opiyo encouraged Migori residents to embrace the new technology of using the government owned block maker machine to improve their livelihood and build decent houses.

"Let's not destroy our forests and our arable lands in the name of making soil bricks. The government is trying hard to conserve our environment and we should be at the fore front to conserve it," said Opiyo.

Migori County Director for Housing Ms Linnet Nyakiti said that any resident who wishes to use the machine is free to do so. She encouraged the residents to embrace the block maker machine to cut their costs of house construction.

The Director stated that it is always a dreams to own a decent house and the government has ensured that it provides the necessary tools to make sure that Kenyans have affordable housing.

She explains that the Affordable Housing Programme (AHP) is a key pillar in the manifesto of President Uhuru Kenyatta's Big Four Agenda to ensure that all Kenyans have decent and modern homes.

By Geoffrey Makokha and George Agimba

By Geoffrey Makokha and George Agimba