Workers pour a concrete floor in Mozambique. While the project would be simple in Canada

Same job, but different technique

Building with concrete is nothing new for Mozambique; in fact, it’s a matter of necessity.

Building with concrete is nothing new for Mozambique; in fact, it’s a matter of necessity.

Although local hardwoods abound (huge logging trucks rumble by on the highway, their cargo headed for China and beyond,) the reality is that termites will make short work of any wood product in no time. If you want something to last here, steel, stone, or cement are your only viable options.

So while pouring a cement floor is a common event for our Mozambican workers, the methods they use differ greatly from those we use in Canada.

Sand is dug out of a river bank by hand and then loaded into a three-tonne truck before being off-loaded by hand at the building site.

With no gravel crushing plants nearby, all the stone is broken off by fire and hammer, and again loaded into the truck by hand.

On the day of the pour, there are no redi-mix trucks to call, so all the mixing is done with a gasoline-powered cement mixer, with each load then wheel-barrowed to the pour site where the mixture is hand-troweled roughly into place.

The final finish comes later, when a thin ‘top mix’ is applied to make everything look nice and smooth.

But since our project is a vehicle maintenance shop, a thin top coat won’t do. The floors must be strong enough to withstand the demands of heavy vehicles resting on jacks and stands, and yet smooth enough to roll equipment around on. What is needed is a different way of pouring the floor, a way to create a strong floor with a smooth finish all in one go.

It’s something we take for granted in Canada, but is totally new for the African bush.

Fortunately for Mercy Tech Mission, Summerlander John Topham has joined me for the month of May.

As a representative of the Summerland Rotary Club, Topham is here to teach woodworking skills to the local men, as well as assist with other building and maintenance projects that arise.

Using our combined skills and experience, we teach the local tradesmen a new technique for pouring a thick, smooth, and level concrete floor, using a simple leveling device called a screed.

Peter, our mason, is very impressed with the results, and he and his crew have taken immense pride in the finished product.

It is literally the most level floor he has ever poured in his life.

But although a strong, smooth floor was our primary objective, the bigger picture was the gaining of knowledge, the ability to envision if not a better, at least a different way of doing things.

Breaking out of tradition is difficult, especially here in Africa where tradition is everything. Where this new knowledge will lead is not totally known right now, but one thing’s for sure — it’s a step forward.

The work of Mercy Tech Mission (and now the Summerland Rotary Club) at the SAMM mission base in Mozambique is to help pass on the knowledge and experience that we have in a way that will bring about meaningful change.

As always, we continue towards our goal of changing lives, one skill at a time.

Mercy Tech Mission’s blog is available at