Wood in Ethiopia

The Wood Technology Society
28 Jan 2019

WTS Board Member, Jim Coulson reports.

"I recently visited Tigray Province in Ethiopia, as part of a study tour organised by my International Wood Committee.  The focus was primarily on 6th & 7th Century timber churches; but we learned a lot about the way rural people still live and how they use wood for building.

Historic buildings in Addis Ababa, the capital city, only date from the 1890’s, when the capital was relocated there. So much building was done in a short time, that the trees around were seriously depleted. So the Emperor consulted tree specialists, to find a suitable fast-grown species: and the chosen tree was Eucalyptus globulus (Blue Gum); which can reach 3-4 metres high and 75mm diameter in 3 years: thus ideal for poles.

The houses today are mostly rectangular in shape: made from closely-spaced poles, which are coated in mud “daub” and dried in the sun. (In the past, they were made in the same way, but were round with thatched roofs. These days, with locals being able to afford corrugated zinc panels for roofing, houses are now rectangular.)  Outside the main cities, Northern Ethiopia is rural and very poor; and it still has a largely subsistence economy, with no electricity or sanitation."