Construction has started! With it come many challenges…
Our team architect and housing project coordinator lives in Nairobi so a lot of planning and discussion occurred via email and Skype in the previous months. We also chose to hire a contracting company from Juba to do the building. Yet, the project still requires someone knowledgeable on the ground to enforce quality control and liaison between Malakal and Nairobi.
Thankfully I overlapped in South Sudan with my replacement for a week providing orientation; getting him up to speed of the construction process and living life in Malakal. Now that I am back in Nairobi he will oversee the construction process, do the plumbing, electrical and painting to save on costs.
Another challenge is difficulty in acquiring suitable materials and supplies. Construction in South Sudan is very expensive due to poor roads making the transportation costs very high. Availability of materials can also be a problem as almost all roads are closed during rainy season which began in May. The rains just ended allowing things to dry out and thankfully some roads will open soon. Other roads in very muddy areas are still unusable for another month or two. Towns along major rivers (like us in Malakal) can access supplies via boats or barges. However there are few boats and fuel prices are high. Boat transport can also be dangerous as many owners overload their boats for greater profit. This can have tragic consequences when combined with poor maintenance or bad weather.
Most of the planning is finished and the project is well underway. The builders finished digging the foundations just before I left Malakal and were in the process of pouring the footings. The expansive soil in the area requires a good foundation to keep the building from shifting in rainy season. Therefore a lot of effort and money is spent on this part of the construction. After the foundation is complete the project will hopefully proceed fairly quickly. The entire project, a 2 bedroom family house and two guest rooms, should be completed by mid-January!