Support Malawi Earthbag Projects

Flood resistant earthbag house by Support Malawi
Flood resistant earthbag house by Support Malawi

“Thank you Owen for this great development. Together with the Roscher Youth Development Centre in Rumphi, Malawi, I built a wonderful prototype of sandbag house last year, which now is impressing and convincing everyone about construction with earthbags ( Aaand we now almost finished a first house for a teacher’s family.

A lot of people are now taking an interest in the building. The construction official of the district has approved the construction, and wants to publicize this method of construction if it proves successful. Now the next on our plan is to erect a school block with 4 classrooms.”

Our house will cost around €5000 ($5,510), less than half that of a brick house. As a prototype, we need it to be an attractive home, with electricity and a modern toilet. The young people involved will have learned to build a sandbag home, and can do so again elsewhere, for example in the South of Malawi, where large areas were destroyed by floods in the rainy season at the beginning of the year, and a large proportion of the rural population are now living in temporary camps. New houses could be built quickly and cheaply for these people. The rivers burst their banks in January 2015 and destroyed villages and fields. More than 150000 people are affected.”

Heinrich Wegener
A sandbag house for flood victims in Malawi

10 thoughts on “Support Malawi Earthbag Projects”

  1. Owen,
    Now we have built already 5 houses in the northern area of Malawi. And it will become a real success story in Malawi.
    One point makes it a bit difficult: barbed wire is rather expensive. Now we’re thinking of a reduction of use of barbed wire. We want to put it every 3rd row only between the bags.
    What do you think about it?

    Or are there alternatives to barbed wire?

    Take care

    • Thanks for the update. We really love hearing success stories.

      You can tie the bags together with baling twine like Kelly Hart shows on his free Dome Building Guide.

      Raschel mesh tubes are less likely to slip than polypropylene and so less barbed wire/ties are needed. Tubes are way faster than bags once you learn the proper technique. See this free article:

      A combination of ties, raschel mesh, no high walls and good workmanship could eliminate need for barbed wire. If you have earthquakes, hurricanes, etc. then you’ll want the barbed wire for safety reasons.

      Workmanship is a big factor in how much reinforcement is needed. Less reinforcement is needed if you use corner guides to help build perfectly plumb walls. Be careful each course is level and well tamped. Do not allow any courses to get rain damaged or that layer will collapse under the weight of courses above it.

  2. Dear Owen,

    The house looks great – and I really enjoyed the Reuters article.

    I am a a structural engineer, and a volunteer working with The Mlambe Project ( The organisation was set up in 2012, and one of its aims is the construction and promotion of earth bag building in Malawi.

    As part of my role, I have been tasked with researching alternative methods/materials that could reduce the cost of or improve construction, and with contacting other organisations working with earth bag construction in Malawi.

    The current structural scheme that our earth bags buildings adopts involves the use of a corrugated metal roof (supported on wooden rafters). This is the most expensive and unsustainable component of the building, and I have been looking into what could be used as an alternative roofing system. From your picture, it appears you are using a kind of thatch roof – I would be really interested in its composition, method of construction and performance.

    Keep up the great work!

    I look forward to hearing back from you,

    Charlie Bowles

    • Great to hear of your project. I’ll take a look in a few minutes.

      Thatch can work in some cases. It all depends on what’s locally available. I’m not sure what project you’re referring to though. I haven’t built in Africa.

      Thatch solutions have to be sought out locally because materials and techniques vary considerably.

      Other good solutions include homemade clay tile and homemade micro concrete tile (MCR).

      • Thank you for your response. Apologies, the image at the top of this page is captioned “Food resistant earthbag house by Support Malawi” – I assumed this was your project?

        Do you think I could get your email? Mine

        Kindest regards, and I hope to hear from you soon.


        • Hi Charlie,

          in fact it was our project (sorry for the very late reponse).
          And yes, because I wanted this house in Rumphi as a prototype for many people to have a look at an attractive sandbag house, I thought that a straw roof would look much prettier than iron sheets.
          We had a very experienced builder for this roof. But at least this was more expensive than simple iron sheets.


          • Hello mr Heinrich I’m one of the students who took part in building these earthbag houses in rumphi district with mr moir .just wanna know more about the project is it still continuing?wanna learn more.

  3. With trees disappearing, Malawi turns to “earth bag” houses
    by Joel Chirwa | Thomson Reuters Foundation

    “…an unusual home construction technique – using dirt or sand packed into plastic sacks and stacked – is now being tried out in Rumphi, in the north of the country, as a way to cut back on bricks and save what’s left of the region’s forests. We have lost a lot of trees and we now still continue losing them, at a chilling rate. Our mountains and hills that had thick forests are now bare except for a few trees and shrubs.”


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