Ganvie. Benin.


As the world population crosses the 7 billion mark, the greatest minds are thinking up plausible solutions to Food, Energy and Shelter. The current discourse evolving out of these minds are heading in directions were expectations will not be met but even become dire: unsustainable technologies like patented genetically modified foods (Food), additional nuclear plants (Energy) and prefabricated concrete housing (Shelter). It is reassuring that the vast majority of people are not leaving these major human-impacting decisions to a few thinkers. To these ends, the influence and re-adoption of natural bio foods and green energies like wind, solar and new battery systems are fueling the drive to take care of our species and environment in a much better manner.

A Beninoise Technology

Nestled in the outskirts of the Beninoise capital Cotonou, is a unique enclave of about 20,000 people in the village of Ganvie. These people, although seemingly ordinary are the bearers and trustees of a special green technology system that will come to save the world’s housing needs. The housing system in Ganvie is nothing to write home about when you talk of appearance and aesthetics, but within its core foundation is a civil engineering feat that breaks every building technology out there. Houses are constructed with simple amenities like wood and twine and thatch. The ingenuity is firmly rooted in the engineering that enable complete homes to be suspended on sticks +/- 50cm in diameter. The building frame is aerodynamic and permits the flow of light during the day whilst keeping out the moonlight at night. The highest innovative quality shines best during the heavy rainy seasons from June through to September; the houses stay dry and warm.


Traditional knowledge engineers in Ganvie can help the world understand how their engineering systems and constrution methodologies enable them to live in harmony with torrential rain, water and wind bursts. Areas in the world which suffer the effects of floods, tsunamis, tornadoes, earthquakes and other natural but violent reactions to human activity will benefit from these systems. In its current formatting, knowledge of water bodies, silt, sand culture, elevation systems, bridge construction and other housing considerations remain in a culturally-relevant format. This format limits its ability to become a formalised civil engineering system and a future technology that is uniquely Beninoise. To move this knowledge into the future is of paramount importance because of its relevance to the world’s needs.


Benin is a country of tremendous traditional knowledge (TK) systems. From the body of its TK systems comes an engineering technology rooted in Ganvie. As the world grows and the housing needs of people become ever more urgent, the people of Ganvie are in the position to help the world build in harmony with the environment. Their sytems for selecting materials, locations, techniques and for managing water and humans will enable countries like Japan, The United Kingdom, Philippines, the United States and the rest of the world to engineer much better homes.

About the author: Sal Souza is an International Designer (Graphic, Visual, Multimedia, Broadcast Media, Industrial, User Interaction, User Experience) and IT Consultant with expertise in New Media, Web 3.0, IPTV, DTV, Media Production, Product Prototyping, Desktop Software, Interactivity, Mobile Applications, Traditional Knowledge, Geographical Indications and Cultural Goods. He lives and works in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

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