Earthen floors can really make it in Rwanda!

EarthEnable finished floor, Courtesy of EarthEnable

Better housing is one of the key indicators of the economic development, but most developing countries still have a challenge to secure clean homes for their habitants. Dirt floors are often responsible up to 80 percent of diseases. In most cases, parasites live in soil in form of feces and bacteria that can be contagious by either absorption or a simple contact. Fecal matter is the biggest risk as it is easily transported in households either by foot, shoes or animals. 

Gayatri Datar, a Stanford University graduate travelled all the way to Rwanda to do her MBA research and discovered this major housing issue that was trending and affect majority of the population. Back to the US, Gayatri connected with six Stanford colleagues,  and created a social enterprise called EarthEnable to start working on a solution to the dirt floors.

The earthen floors also known as adobe floors have started to be popular in Europe back in the 14th century and some western countries such as the USA use linseed oil to vanish the floor. In 2014, EarthEnable started researching with the support one of the team members Rick Zuzowa, a Stanford biochemistry Ph.D. holder, on the type of oil that they could make with locally available raw materials that were also not harmful,

they used soya oil which is affordable and mix it with a copyrighted “special sauce” and generated a floor-sealing oil that can be used to vanish floors and used as an alternative to concrete.

Gayatri said that five liters, at $4 per liter, can handle floors covering a space of 20-square-meter and the total installing costs are about $80, which is a tenth of the cost to install concrete with the same size.

So far EarthEnable has installed more than 50,000 square feet of floors in over 400 rooms, for over 9,800 families in four districts in Rwanda working with well-trained masons. At the beginning, it was EarthEnable that used to transport all materials such sand, stones but it was a bit challenging as the operations are being scaled up national and region wide. They soon realized many people are fascinated with earthen floors and the demand is high, so to fulfill these requests, EarnEnable has trained and certified non-affiliated masons. Earthen floors can last 10-15 years with some revanishing after some years following the maintenance manual.

“Most of the children would sleep in one room of the house, and the floor could not be cleaned even after the small children would wet the bed, making it unsanitary and making it smell terrible. EarthEnable's waterproof floor has made it able to be washed and cleaned, and has therefore significantly improved their quality of life, “says Jean

In 2017, Gayatri won Postcode Lottery Green Challenge 2017 worth of € 500,000. "The team and I are so thrilled by the honor of having won the Green Challenge. 500K euros will have a dramatic impact on our ability to scale quickly, and we will soon be well on our way to eliminating dirt floors and the health problems that come along with them, “says Gayatri

EarthEnable is planning to scale its operations to Uganda, a neighboring country that also needs this innovation and will obviously embrace it.