SA Affordable Housing March - April 2019 // Issue: 75 - Page 18

FEATURES Call to aid informal brickmakers Driving into small, rural towns around South Africa the Clay Brick Association of South Africa’s (CBA) John Volsteedt looks for columns of smoke. He says that if it isn’t the municipality burning garbage, it’s generally a good indication of where he can find the town’s informal clay brickmakers. By Warren Robertson | Images by John Volsteedt Techniques currently result in inferior quality. S ince 2009 CBA sustainability desk manager Volsteedt has reached out to brickmakers around the country in an attempt uncover the scale of their operations, their basic working conditions and to try and establish just how sustainable the industry really is. His answers are not encouraging. “For informal brickmakers, It’s a bleak industry,” Volsteedt explains. “No-one we have ever spoken to is in it because it’s a good career. They are all doing it because they have literally no other options. We go to a site with a list of names of who should be working there drawn up on the previous visit, but just a few months later, those guys are gone and there’s a whole new team.” “Working full days of back-breaking labour, an employee at an informal brickyard can earn as little as R500 a month and often the payment for this is deferred as they wait on a client to buy the actual bricks,” he says explaining just a small part of the problem. “Given literally any other chance, or hope of a chance, the workers won’t be there.” 16 MARCH - APRIL 2019 But the social aspect of the informal industry is only one small part of the overall problem with sustainability. In the formal clay brick sector of South Africa, members file a ‘sustainability report’ for the CBA, in which nine sustainability categories have been identified and reported on; the 2017 report is the baseline. The nine categories are energy, water, air pollution, green house gas emissions, waste, materials, biodiversity, socio- economic and continual improvement. In a report released by the CBA and teams at EcoMetrix Africa (EM) and Partners for Innovation (PfI) in September 2018, titled, ‘Identifying Sustainable Consumption and Production Practices in relation to the Informal / Small Scale Clay Brick Making Sector in South Africa’, researchers attempt to analyse the informal sector along the same lines and the results are grim. Exactly 100% of the sites surveyed by the report make use of non-mechanised mining and handmade green brick production with hack line drying and the clamp kiln method for firing bricks. Coal and coal ash are the primary sources