From Mud to Brick

Joyce Lupemba together with her husband Tano all smiles outside her brick house in Mwanza , Tanzania. Photo George Kamau
Joyce Lupemba together with her husband Tano all smiles outside her brick house in Mwanza , Tanzania. Photo George Kamau
Joyce Lupemba beams with joy outside of her brick house in Mwanza, Tanzania. Photo: George Kamau

In the heart of a small rural village in Tanzania, Joyce Lupemba, a determined and visionary woman, spearheaded the formation of the Baponya Maswa group in 2002. With a membership of 90 women and 60 men organized into 10 groups, the group’s primary aim was to address the pressing issue of inadequate housing in their community.

Living in mud houses that offered little protection and came with a myriad of issues, such as water penetration, wall erosion, and the need for frequent repairs, the Baponya Maswa group members knew they needed to take action to improve their living conditions. Under Joyce’s leadership as the chairlady, they set out on a mission to save and provide credit to build decent homes for each other.

We don’t share our savings but instead, we buy construction materials for members such as iron sheets, timber, etc, and also monitor if members have bought construction materials”, says, Joyce, adding that, “our goal is Maswa Nyasi Mapnywa (get rid off thatched houses in our village)”

In 2004, they embarked on their first housing project, determined to move away from mud house dwellings into brick houses.

With sheer determination and a collective spirit, they began constructing sturdy brick houses for their members.

Recognizing the potential for growth and impact, the group officially registered with the government’s Department for Community Development in 2006. This partnership opened doors to additional support and capacity-building opportunities. Through collaboration with Mwanza Rural with the support of We Effect, they received training in brickmaking and advanced building techniques, enabling them to construct even better homes for their members.

Joyce explains “Mwanza Rural Housing Programme (MRHP) trained us to set up enterprise making high-quality bricks from local clay, fired with agricultural residues rather than wood.”

Their efforts inspired the community, and they began buying bricks from the group, impressed by the new building model they introduced.

Joyce’s leadership skills didn’t go unnoticed. She became a respected figure in the community, serving on various committees and representing rural women in different forums. Her dedication to uplifting her community extended beyond housing projects; she also focused on women’s empowerment, establishing initiatives like the “Nyumba Bora” foundation and providing training on brickmaking and other skills to neighboring groups.

Water scarcity was a big challenge for the members, especially women who had to walk long distances to fetch water. Not content with merely building houses, Joyce and her team also initiated water harvesting projects to address this issue, ensuring that clean water is readily available to all members.

As the years have passed, Baponya Maswa group has flourished. They have diversified their activities, engaging in agriculture and baking to generate income. Their success has attracted attention from schools and other communities, who seek to learn from their experiences and replicate their model.

By 2024, most of the group’s members had completed their homes, bidding farewell to mud houses and embracing a better quality of life.

Through their collective efforts, determination, and innovative solutions, the Baponya Maswa group has transformed their own lives and the lives of countless others in their community. They prove that, with unity and perseverance, anything is possible, and dreams of decent housing can become a reality.

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