By U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Stephen Linch, CJTF-HOA Public Affairs December 6, 2011
KARATBI SAN, Djibouti -- Local villagers, Djiboutian service members and soldiers from the U.S. Army Civil Affairs Team 4902, 490th Civil Affairs Battalion, assigned to Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, worked side by side on an eco-dome in Karatbi San, Djibouti, November 29 through December 2.
The project is a part of an ongoing effort between CJTF-HOA, the Djiboutian military, villagers, non-government organizations and international organizations to provide Karatbi San, a remote village in the Tadjourah region of Djibouti, with a community building.
"We are building an eco-dome. It's a form of durable housing," said U.S. Army Captain Justin Lev, Civil Affairs Team 4902 team chief. "We are teaching them (the villagers) right now, so they can take this lesson and build their own home, their own community."
According to Lev, upon completion the eco-dome will stand 21 feet high with a 21-foot diameter main dome and a 15-foot diameter adjoining dome. Its main purpose will be as a community health clinic or a community school.
Though the civil affairs soldiers have worked diligently on the eco-dome, they are not the biggest contributors to the project.
"These villagers have really been working on it on their own. Essentially we showed them the concept and some skill sets to help them with the construction," Lev said. "They are taking those and really doing the work while we are gone."
"We will come back, and they will have done a significant portion of the work," he added.
The villagers are working on the structure, because they know what it means for Karatbi San.
"It (the eco-dome) will help a lot, and that is why everybody comes and participates in the construction," said Mohammed Hamodo Hamada, a Karatbi San villager. "This is the first time we have seen people building Afar-styled structures, which is a dome."
"We are excited about it," he added.
Until recently, the incentive for the villagers to build the eco-dome is the betterment of the community. "Now the World Food Programme will be providing food for their labor," Lev said.
Other NGOs and international organizations, such as the International Red Crescent, have donated all the materials needed to construct the eco-dome including sandbags, barbed wire and cement. These materials, which make the building economically feasible with low maintenance requirements, would normally cost about $3,000 for an eco-dome the size of the one being built, he said.
"It (the eco-dome) doesn't cost much money, but it gets the community together to build it, and once they are done building it, it's theirs," Lev said.
A new community building is not all the villagers gain from the project.
"They have learned some valuable skills that they will be able to take and be competitive for some real modern infrastructure projects in the area," Lev said.
In the coming months, the soldiers will continue to work with the villagers until they complete the eco-dome.
"After this dome is built, it will mean lots of things for the locals," Hamada said. "I would like to thank them (the team) for coming … all the way out to Karatbi San and helping our people."