Last days in Benin for our material maker. Mission for upcycling waste from the cotton industry nearly wrapped up, ephemeral project in local materials with the Atelier des Griots finalized. How time flies!
The project in Benin upcycling by-products of the cotton industry into materials for the research laboratory at the Abomey-Calavi university (UAC) where I am doing an internship has made an important step forward thanks to the methodologies inspired from social design, DIY and the maker culture.
DIY machines in progress
Students were entrusted with making the machines (a defibrillating machine and a thermo-press made from a tile press), even though they are not really available at the end of the school year. The contingencies to go from plans to production took more time than expected! So, no samples yet…I am concentrating on documentation. I have a few days left to finish a tutorial made of drawings in A5 format. A sort of index card that will be easily distributed in mechanical engineer courses as well as in maker networks and laboratories.
Free creativity, imagine all kinds of materials from the Benin cotton industry waste, such was the objective of the first co-creation workshops. But once the brainstorming proposals had been examined with the fine-tooth comb of economic viability and technical feasibility, there were no concrete avenues…Which is why I decided to change strategy.
A fine analysis of the market and actors of the ecosystem of local materials in Benin enabled me to target the priorities and opportunities. Roofing materials are therefore in the line of sight of the project because of the necessity to offer bio-sourced alternatives to the ill-adapted corrugated iron and the too expensive tiles. I was able to reach hypotheses of material recipes and industry creations faster by taking on the project by location, context, by concentrating on the available means of transformation and potential local partners.
Because beyond the material, the whole value chain needs to be thought out. Who does what? What are the interests? How does one associate one structure and another? How does one generate value for each actor of the project? These mental gymnastics are an integral part of my designer role, as an interface between the field and the research lab.
I conducted a last co-creation workshop, focalizing on roofing materials and the three following contexts in the industry: the textile factory, the ginning factory and the crush factory. The ideas put forward by the chemists, PhD students in materials, teacher-researchers were more convincing: composite drop ceilings made of fiber waste + starch glue waste; roofing braided with glued thread ends + polypropylene waste turned into threads, etc.
It remains to test these recipes, characterize the materials and pursue the work I initiated bringing together partners. My work served to prepare the project and make a start on three main research avenues. Up to the PhD and master’s students to take over.
L’Atelier des Griots
Every Saturday in Cotonou, I joined l’Atelier des Griots, a NGO of architects, the mission of which is to support a community in regenerating a public space in its neighborhood (I told you about it here, in French). Using what we have at hand and recycling a maximum of materials. It looks like a fablab every Saturday in the courtyard of the Akpakpa Dodomey Enagnon youth center, where we have been working for two months creating an ephemeral work site.
Palm tree branches to compose wall covering motifs, pallet wood for furniture, hanging gardens made of plastic bottles, restoration of the wall and painting. Now remains to find low-tech solutions to create the rooftops. So, Saturday, I went to collect thongs on the beach with a team.
It was a good catch: after about ten minutes, we had filled two large bags. It has to be said that the thong is the national shoe here, huge quantities get washed-up on the shores. We started to make a frame basis on which will be nailed the cut out thongs. To see what goes on next, see the Atelier des Griots Facebook page ! As for me, I will be going back to France very soon, to explore raw materials and materials again and again!