Nearly five months that our material maker is in Africa with Termatière, her bio-sourced materials company. The key moments upon her return.
Lomé, correspondence (text and photos)
I have always wondered if time slows down in Africa or if it accelerates in France. I sometimes get the impression I have two brains, which is both unsettling and stimulating. The key word: adaptation. Anyhow, I am incapable of doing only one thing at a time. Which is why working in two countries and two cultures in parallel makes me blossom. These mental gymnastics enable me to continuously step back, put things into perspective and bounce back with a fresh outlook.
In the end, the different projects on which I worked did not all see the light of day. A “material maker” workshop for students in architecture was postponed after several weeks of discussions, a project of local product design is not finished for lack of organization. But I succeeded in carrying out consulting services, acquired a better understanding of the market for Termatière, adjusted the economic models of the three activities of the company (collaborative R&D, consulting, training) and had many promising meetings that extend the network of Termatière over here. What seems simple is sometimes the most difficult to implement here, and vice versa.
When I came to Togo, besides the planned projects and missions, I had three objectives in mind to develop Termatière: test consulting on local upcycling of materials, adjust the economic model of the company and look for partners for the compressed earth block project.
The new Termatière offer
I worked on testing the new Termatière offer on the African market: consulting on upcycling local resources into materials. In the course of my encounters, I was able to identify potential clients, understand their expectations and most importantly verify their needs to adjust my proposals.
Going through cities and villages, I covered a lot of ground inside the country to get information on production residue and agri-food processing. Coconut husks, pineapple skins, mango stones, soybean cake, shea nut shells… there is no lack of materials. Even though some people are wondering about the upcycling of these by-products, for lack of time and ideas, these are burnt or thrown into dumpsters. I sent out a few quotes to apply the Termatière “material maker” methodology. So, to be continued.
Adjusting economic models
Local materials and moreover, bio-sourced, are truly my cup of tea. I intend to develop via Termatière my own projects of new material creation, coming from the DIY in my garage. In France, I worked for nearly two years on the development of 100% bio-sourced vine shoot composite, while looking in parallel for the economic model, clients and shaping a company! In reality, this material project is now only a part of Termatière and allowed me to do a dry run to structure the company.
Now, R&D projects by Termatière are done from the start in collaboration with partners that co-support the project and are the beneficiaries. It’s the “social innovation” part of Termatière that I tend to develop, in which all my values and convictions are to be found.
Searching for partners
Whereas in France, I adopted a sector approach in order to add value to the resource (vine shoots) in the viticulture sector (a composite aimed at the manufacture of wine cases), in Togo, I adopted a territorial approach: an analysis of the needs of the area in materials and of the local resources available enables me to decide on the project.
Here, developing a stabilized compressed earth block with agricultural residue turns out to be pertinent: it enables the farmer to diversify his income while proposing a durable, economic and quality material that makes construction easier and reduces the environmental impact. This project, that I am convinced will have a considerable social impact in rural areas, is the common theme of my trips to Africa.
I already carried out several months ago brick prototypes with very interesting results. The objective was to find good local partners. That’s done now! Two options are being considered with Togolese and international NGOs with this brick by Termatière. Here too, to be continued!
Another two days in the Togolese coolness (yes, yes, it’s winter here, rain, mud, wind, catching a cold, pullovers) and I will be back in the land of cheeses with new unforeseen developments on the horizon at the start of the academic year. I am evolving at the same time as Termatière is being shaped. Very pleasant feeling to model a professional project that reflects my personality, to do what you enjoy.
And since in Togo, you never say “goodbye” but rather “see you later”: “Eyizandé”!