Engineers for Overseas Development

Year:Founded 2000

Duration:18 years and counting


Country: Sub-Saharan Africa

What did this project achieve?

Design and build public health projects in sub-Saharan Africa

Engineers for Overseas Development (EFOD) is a charity that aims to improve the lives of people in sub-Saharan Africa.

EFOD challenges engineers to plan, manage and raise money for construction projects in the area.

Volunteers work to promote and provide public health facilities across the region. They partner with local people and organisations on a range of development projects.

Programmes have included designing and building latrine blocks in Gambia, constructing hospital incinerators in Uganda and planning a footbridge in Zambia.

Volunteers raise money for the projects they work on themselves. EFOD sponsors have included ICE, Arup and Laing O'Rourke.

The charity started in Cardiff in 2000. It now has regional teams in Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester and London.

Difference the charity has made

EFOD volunteers have worked on and raised money for 30 projects over the past 18 years.

EFOD's first programme saw 6 graduate engineers from Cardiff raise £6,000 to fund the construction of latrine blocks in Gambia. The volunteers designed the blocks and travelled to Gambia to build them with local workers.

The result meant a community now had access to sanitation because EFOD volunteers gave their time and engineering skills to make a difference.

Other EFOD projects have helped build a grain store and a women's centre in Uganda and a sewing school in Ghana.

How the work has been done

EFOD volunteers have worked on a range of major projects in Africa. One example is Soroti Baptist Medical Centre in Soroti, eastern Uganda.

Using local design standards, EFOD Cardiff developed a concrete-framed building based on simple pads and footings. The pads and footings rest on murrum - a gravelly type of earth.

Infill panels for the centre were made of interlocking soil stabilised blocks (ISSBs). ISSBs are compressed blocks of moistened soil, mixed with a little cement.

The Cardiff team helped train local workers to make the ISSBs, which were pressed on site.

The volunteers designed a mono pitch roof (a roof slanting in a single direction) to provide natural ventilation for the centre. This has been so effective that staff working in the building sometimes complain they need to wear cardigans.

Rainwater from the roof feeds two 50,000 litre storage tanks – providing water for 7 months of the year.

The centre opened in 2010. It operates as a successful not-for-profit business employing 15 staff and providing low-cost medical treatment to the people of Soroti.


The humanitarian aid EFOD provided has enabled people in Africa to work themselves out of poverty.

Ian Flower

EFOD founder

Fascinating facts

Interlocking soil stabilised blocks (ISSBs) are an eco-friendly alternative to the traditional fired bricks that have been used for generations in parts of Africa.

As ISSBs aren't fired, there's no need to chop down trees for brick kilns. Using ISSBs preserves ancient forests and cuts down carbon emissions.

The blocks' interlocking design means builders can use less mortar than with other bricks. The method can make construction easier and cut costs.

Tests have shown that ISSBs are up to 80% stronger than clay bricks.

People who made it happen

  • Managing director and founder: Ian Flower, ICE member
  • Founding chair: David Jobling, ICE member

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