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What could possibly delay brick making?

After smashing out 850 bricks in our first two days, the team was chuffed. What could possibly delay our brick making progress?


1) Unexpected rain (even four months after rainy season ended) turns the earth into unworkable mud AND boggs the path into Jamnya

2) A deadly snake and scorpion hang out under the plastic sheet while the bricks are curing

3) Cows & goat block the roads, delaying our supply of cement bags

4) Vilage workers have gone into town for a festival

5) The annual government audit of the school takes up two days

Let’s try to risk mitigate that in our next project plan gantt chart!

Words: PT

Meditating in a lorry truck with a brick press

The team purchases the compressed stabilised earth brick press for the teachers quarters at Jamnya. Over a coffee in Melbourne, we discuss how to transport the brick press across India from Auroville to Jamnya, some 1500kms. It was critical that the press arrives by December so that bricks could be prepared in time for construction to start in January. We agree that the only way to guarantee that the press arrives in time was to pick it up and transport it to Jamnya ourselves. We were committed to the project. We were up for the challenge. It would be a fun roadtrip.

Ah, how naive we were.

Ah, how theory and practice differ.

After a long flight from Melbourne, Paul and I arrive in Chennai. We smile and gently nod our heads at the familiar smells and sounds of India – unbelieving that 11 months has passed since our previous trip. We are whisked 3 hours south to Auroville. Our friendly hosts at Pitchandakulum Forrest greet us upon arrival and we launch straight into training with experts from the Auroville Earth Institute. We soak in details on earth construction, learn how to use and maintain the earth brick press, and discuss the test results of our soil samples taken from Jamnya earlier in the year. The next evening we prepare the wads of paperwork required for the press purchase and transport. Our lorry truck arrives and our Tamil drivers load up the equipment for our road trip.

The next morning Paul and I jam into the front seat of the small lorry with our driver. Our second driver is wedged in the back of the lorry with the press and equipment – we nervously smile, wondering what we have gotten ourselves into.



We travel 1500kms across half of India to get to our destination. I try to practice mindful meditation to pass time, but am frequently shaken by the bumpy roads or by the discomfort of my sore butt. Paul navigates and tries to read. We are questioned numerous times by police and state border checks… Who seem slightly baffled by two foreigners in a lorry truck transporting a brick press across the country with two Indian men. The national highway gives us a maximum of 70km/hr, but most of the journey is bad gravel ditched roads at a painful bumpy 20-50kms/hr. We drive past banana and wheat farms, men urinating, herds of goats and cows, piles of rubbish, and small shady villages.

The country starts to look the same after a while. But one village would be well remembered – the one which our driver decided to pull into during the middle of the night. As our driver left the lorry to take a leak, two men on a motorbike in bandanas and clubs approach us…. My heart skips beat as I lock my passenger door. Luckily they were just checking our paperwork and we drive off safely. Supposedly it was quite normal for men to be out in the middle of the night wearing bandanas and balaclavas.

Driving all night and almost 48 hours since we left, we arrive in the mountains to be greeted by the local NGO. I have never felt so happy to see familiar and smiling faces. We unload the lorry, take several chais, and farewell our drivers who had a long journey back home. With the brick press at our side, we were now ready to start the real work and start making bricks.


Words: PT

A Sustainable School for Jamnya

CERES Global has been travelling to India since 2006 facilitating cultural exchanges with local communities and like-minded organisations in South India, Mumbai, Central India, Delhi and the Himalayas. Over this time the relationships between CERES Global and the local organisations have grown and strengthened to create enduring and trusted connections.

In 2012 CERES Global and Satpura Vikas Mandal, a local NGO, began discussing the possibility of building new teachers’ quarters for the Jamnya School, one of their poorest boarding schools of around 400 students in a remote tribal village near Pal in northern Maharashtra.

The Jamnya School believed that in order to retain passionate and highly educated teachers it is critical to provide good quality accommodation that matches the aspirations of this progressive school. 

Jamnya School and CERES Global worked with Environ environmental engineers and Modus Architects to design a prototype housing project and secured a grant to research appropriate construction methods and build resilient, sustainable and culturally appropriate teacher’s accommodation.


India - Team meeting the India students

The team meet the students and teachers of Jamnya School

Project consultation, planning & data collection

In 2013 a team from CERES travelled to Jamnya to meet with representatives of the school and to commence the consultation and planning phase of the project. The initial project brief expanded to include developing a brief and master plan for improvements and expansion of the whole Jamnya School, boarding facilities, staff accommodation, support facilities and the teacher’s quarters. A weather station was installed to gather data about the local climate. It has also has been incorporated into the school curriculum as the students learn to collect and record data and make mathematical calculations.
Strategies were also discussed to make improvements to the existing school infrastructure and education programs, particularly relating to sanitation and waste.

The overall project vision has now expanded to build a new sustainable school built with locally sourced low impact materials and with the input and participation of local trades and suppliers. The aim is to develop local skills and introduce appropriate technologies that make a positive impact on the environment while remaining affordable and transferrable in the remote tribal context.

In partnership with CERES, the Jamnya School aims to be a school which embraces leadership in sustainability education and practices.

The new master plan and climatic data provides a framework to move forward with developing strategies and implementing improvements to the school infrastructure, building new buildings and starting construction of the teachers’ quarters.


India - Launch of the weather station

Launch of the weather station

Construction begins

In January 2014 the CERES Global team returned to Jamnya with a group of enthusiastic and skilled Swinburne Trade School carpentry and plumbing apprentices. En route to Jamnya, the group spent time in South India investigating innovative sustainable building technologies at Auroville and Pitchandikulam, CERES Global’s other partner organisation in India.

The team achieved amazing outcomes at the school this year. The two main areas of activity that took place were: to make improvements to some of the existing school infrastructure, particularly the toilets and water supply for sanitation; and to continue consultation and commence construction of the teachers’ quarters.

Toilets & water for sanitation

By the time we arrived this year some improvements had started to be made on the existing dilapidated boys and girls toilets. We were able to join in to complete some of the work on repairing the toilets while also installing new water tanks for hand washing and an in-ground sand filter to manage the outflow from the septic system. A number of existing water taps were also repaired and some major leaks were stopped, saving thousands of litres of water per year.


India - Installation of the tank for the boys toilets

Installation of the tank for the boys toilets


India - Toilet Tanks 2

The girls toilets complete with a new tank and artwork

Decorating the boys and girls toilets

Some of our artists invited the students to decorate the toilet buildings and tank stands. The involvement from the students was fantastic, their enthusiasm and energy was amazing. They painted murals on the walls and the water tank stands were adorned with a decorative mosaic. Once the work was done, team members gave demonstrations to the children on how to use the new water facilities for sanitation and toilet cleaning.


India - Group in front of Toilets

The team and students standing in front of their new and improved toilets.

Consultation and design with teachers

The existing teachers’ quarters are below standard by anyone’s measure. The dedication of the existing teachers is remarkable considering the conditions of their accommodation. The final layout of the proposed housing was discussed with the teachers and some minor modifications made to accommodate feedback. We were able to finalise the building layout and location and details of internal details for cooking, bathroom, sleeping, living and outdoor areas.

India - Design meetings

Finalising the designs of the building layout with the teachers

Materials & techniques research

Materials research and investigations concentrated on varieties of compressed brick and bamboo construction. Case studies were visited and studied. Existing locally manufactured fired bricks were analysed for their environmental impact. Bamboo plantations were assessed for suitability for construction. Local soil samples were taken and sent to the Earth Institute in Auroville for analysis to determine appropriate mixtures for compressed earth brick construction. This process has resulted in a clear strategy to use these locally available materials of earth and bamboo combined with local skillsets to create beautiful, appropriate and resilient buildings with a low environmental impact.

India - Locally manufactured fired bricks

Learning about the properties of compressed earth bricks


India - Bamboo

Visiting bamboo plantations

Construction commences

The building site was assessed and the building set-out finalised. A blessing ceremony launched construction. The CERES Global team, local trades, teachers and students all pitched in to dig the trenches for the new footings. The rock and cement footings were built using local low-impact practices. The interest and contribution from students, teachers and local villagers was amazing. All of the work was completed using manual labour and hand tools. The limited availability of electricity and machinery allowed teamwork to flourish. Work will continue through the year under the coordination of a local contractor to complete the footings and building base.


India - group work

The human conveyor belt!


India - Group on site

Everyone happy with the newly dug trenches after a hard days work

The future

In 2015 the team will reassemble and return to continue supporting the project. Work has commenced on detailed design of the building. The upcoming year will look at detailed project work developing ideas and timelines for a number of projects, including: a community solar hot water system, centralised school water treatment, rainwater harvesting & storage, general revegetation, kitchen garden, ventilation strategies for solid fuel based cooking, alternative biomass for cooking, brick making, bamboo harvesting & treatment.

As teacher’s living conditions improve and the school evolves, CERES Global will work with the teachers and local community to develop culturally appropriate infrastructure and curriculum which addresses and educates about universally relevant topics also found in the CERES Sustainable Schools programs.

You can keep track of our progress, make a donation or get involved. 

Words: PA


CERES Global
Phone: 03 9389 0183
Websites: The Jaymnya Project and CERES Global
Social Media:
The Jamnya Project – 
CERES Global – @CERESGlobal and Facebook page

It all starts with data….

With architectural plans in our back pocket and an automatic weather station in hand the CERES Global 2013 team arrived in Jamnya with a very warm welcome from the students and teachers of the Jamnya Primary School.  Following a few very animated rounds of the hokey-pokey and a delicious cup of chia to calm us down again we set out to survey the area that will be the site of the 2014 build. Continue reading