A Cross-Cultural Earthen Building Workshop, Mali

by Ed Forteau /
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Aug 20, 2009 / 0 comments

A Cross-Cultural Earthen Building Workshop

January 9th - 25th, 2010  -  Dogon Country, Mali, West Africa 

Let's build a schoolhouse with the Dogon people of Tirelli

The Dogon will share their languages, music, cuisine, farming, and building techniques.  We will build alongside the Dogon villagers to complete a one room schoolhouse.   A 5 x 5 meter earthen dome, its construction will be our main activity.  Students will learn dome design methods while gaining the skills to work with stone, rammed earth bags, and cob. 

We will also learn about traditional Dogon building techniqes by assisting several local builders with their work.  Tour the area by foot and bus to see Dogon Permaculture in action. 


earthen buildings

Experience the daily life of the people of Tirelli, an off-grid traditional village. Visit ruins of old Dogon towns comparable to Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon.  

Early registration (7/09) is 20% less tuition than later registration (11/09).
See details and sign up today at:  www.earthenhand.com

Scott Howard started Earthen Hand Natural Building in 2002, with the goal to build and promote artistic earthen architecture.  He offers workshops about earthen building techniques locally and abroad.  Scott is currently promoting the year's workshop series including: Portland, Oregon (5/09), B.C., Canada (7/09), and the Dogon country, Mali (1/10). 

Scott is also available for hire as a builder, designer, or consultant on alternative building projects. Please see website for contact, and photos of past works.

Atime Saye will be our head guide and contact in Dogon country.  Atime and Scott met in Tirelli, Mali two years ago, and have co-organized this event. He is a a doctoral student at the University of Bamako and tour leader in Dogon country with Ginna Do Tours.

Atime also helps throw the annual Dogon Ultramarathon, which you are invited to as well.  Please see: www.ginnadotours.org

Participants will learn everything that they need to build structurally stable domes using little more than earth from the site. The design is a caternary dome with two windows and a door. Dome building by hand is an ancient art that is still used today in many parts of the world.  It is one of the fastest and simplest ways to enclose a space, and is ideal for environments such as the Dogon country.  The design for the schoolhouse  demonstrates wood-less construction in an area where wood is scarce.


Earthen Building

A 23 ft. earthen dome, built during our workshop in Thailand, 2004.


Dogon villages lie at a unique place in the dessert where the cracks in the land create shelter from the sun's radiation. There are pathways navigating cliff cracks, and rivers running through the land to supply bountiful crops. In more recent times, the Dogon have used adobe brick and stone block to build larger buildings somewhat farther out onto the plain.

The schoolhouse we plan to build is a newer style of architecture in the Dogon country.

There are work trade opportunities available. If you have the desire to help make this event happen, contact me and we can discuss it.  I will document the event with film and photos, and am asking for help with this.  I would also like to see experienced permaculturalists attend this event and offer their perspective. Bilingual French/English speakers will be especially

Workshop Highlights

January 9th - 25th, 2010
Dogon Country, Mali

Dogon 2007

We will be surrounded by learning opportunities
throughout our stay.  The workshop will
be a muti-lingual event with translation
between French, English, and Dogon.

Lectures and instruction will include:

Dome construction
        Rubble trench foundations
        Earth Bag construction
        Cob construction
        Stone masonry
Dogon culture and society

Drylands permaculture

Dogon graineries

Dogon Adobe brick construction

Sign-up today at