Newfound brickmaking skills for North Bougainville

Youth groups in the Selau-Suir District of North Bougainville are putting their newfound brickmaking skills to use on a range of local construction projects.

Earlier this year, 60 young men and women from 13 youth groups from the district took part in brickmaking training delivered by Caritas Australia.

Ireneaus Semon, 28, from Kamu Youth Group was one of the participants, learning about value chain, brickmaking theory and practice, procurement and bricklaying.

“We first learned how to make bricks by mixing cement and sand, and which ratio is best for different buildings. Then we made the bricks using a brick mould. During the course we made 140 bricks,” he said.

“We then learned how to lay the bricks and make sure they are aligned straight. Then how to mix mortar and reinforcement with steel rods, and which reinforcement is needed for single storey and double storey buildings.”

Since the four-day training, many of the participants are now making bricks for sale, while others are using bricks on construction jobs in the local area.

Semon said members of Kamu Youth Group are extending an early childhood centre in Kororitu village and building a shower block for a residential house in Kokopau, however they are keen to expand the business with better marketing “to make houses, toilets and septic tanks”.

Youth and children in Bougainville make up 60 percent of the population. Delivering targeted youth programs to engage young people in sustainable economic development is a key part of the Bougainville Strategic Development Plan 2018-2022.

In support of this objective, Australia is funding vocational training across a range of sectors in partnership with non-governmental organisations, the Autonomous Bougainville Government and Government of Papua New Guinea.

President of Selau-Suir District Youth Association, Jerome Nouhu, said there are more than 1,000 members of local youth groups in his area. He said skills training is needed to give young people the confidence to set-up their own small businesses and earn an income.

“The training was held so that youth groups can make money out of the blocks. The hope for youth is to build their own houses. Some of the youth have come up with the initiative to set-up a building construction business,” Nouhu said.

“This gets them engaged in their communities. It is only the cement that we need to buy. We can deal directly with suppliers and customers. It’s a bottom up approach.”

In addition to creating employment for young people across the district, brickmaking is also having an environmental impact as local timber becomes scarce.

Semon said only three or four types of timber is used for building in Bougainville, so there is a need to switch to alternative building materials which last longer and protect forests.

“There is good demand for brickmaking from communities since timber is increasingly not available. In the next five years, there will be limited wood available in this area, so there is a need to change to bricks.”

(Members of Kamu Youth Group surround an extension wall they made from bricks following brickmaking training delivered by Caritas with the support of Australia and the Autonomous Bougainville Government)

Press release