Common mud brick home. It does dissolve every time it rains.
Common mud brick home. It does dissolve every time it rains.

The most common brick used to build homes is Malawi is a simple mud brick. Mud bricks are simple and easy to manufacture on site. They are basically on-site soil that is hand shaped and placed in the sun to dry. They will dissolve when the winter rains come. Some homeowners will make a mortar to plaster over and coat the bricks to enable them to last longer. While this method works, the homeowner still needs to purchase the cement, which costs money.

Burnt Brick factory
Burnt brick factory.
Burnt Brick stack
Stack of burnt brick awaiting sale. It takes about 4 to 6 of these piles to build a standard home.

Burnt brick are commonly used in the home building process in Africa. Burnt bricks are mud bricks that have been “burnt” in a makeshift oven. Because of the high heat firing, burnt bricks will last longer than traditional mud bricks. However, they still dissolve during the rainy season, just not as fast as a non-burnt brick. Burnt brick are a status symbol. Many homeowners will only plaster the front of their house leaving most of the side wall exposed to showcase their status. This is commonly known as “billboarding”, since a billboard size area is left for observers to admire the status of the homeowner.

It takes about 4 to 6 piles of burnt bricks to make a standard home. This process uses over 6,000 lbs. of wood to “Burn” them. It contributes massively to deforestation and CO2 emissions.

Burnt brick home showing the “Billboarding”. This home was built a few years ago before HFHM changed over to cement bricks to help stop deforestation and CO2 emissions

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