Four students from ETH Zurich are helping Kenyan villagers as best they can: backed by the local population, they are using their expertise to build bridges. Seizing the opportunity to assist on one of their projects – a wooden bridge to link up communities – Sika Sarnafil supplied membranes to protect the structural timberwork against moisture.

Are Sika Sarnafil membranes available in Nairobi?

"Can you get hold of Sarnafil TPO membranes in Nairobi?" This was the question put to Sika by Didier in August 2013. Didier is a civil engineering Master's student at the ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) in Zurich and a member of Econosphere Projects, an organization that endeavors to cover some of the basic needs of communities in Kenya.

A river separating the Maasai villages

The Olkuroto River separates the villages of Talek and Aitong. During the rainy season, the stream turns into a raging torrent that is impossible to cross for days on end, cutting the local communities off from the market, schools and medical care. The solution proposed by Econosphere Projects involved constructing a footbridge to permanently link the villages. The concept is based on the bachelor thesis of Didier and two of his fellow students. In September, at the end of a thorough planning process, the young, committed students set out for Kenya with the aim of building the bridge. Their work is voluntary and they even paid for their own air tickets.

The Bridge construction

Once the necessary materials had been obtained in Nairobi, they were taken on a long and bumpy journey to the Maasai Mara, where work on the bridge commenced the very next day. The first step was to cast a concrete foundation for the timberwork. The easiest solution would, of course, have been to assemble the entire bridge on land and then crane it into position. But with no crane anywhere nearby, the construction team had to improvise. The bridge was duly assembled on land in small sections, which were then installed piece by piece.

The local villagers showed a keen interest in the bridge project and assisted wholeheartedly in the works. Indeed, the project was fully in keeping with the aims of the organization, which seeks to promote knowledge transfer to local communities.

The journey of the membranes

Once the timber structure was in place, it was time to install the Sarnafil TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin) membranes. But how did these get to the Kenyan hinterland? Unfortunately, the answer to Didier's enquiry on the availability of Sarnafil membranes in Nairobi had been ‘no’. These are not (yet) among the products stocked by Sika's recently established branch in the Kenyan capital. However, the necessary products were simply flown in from Switzerland without further ado. Glad of the chance to support sustainable projects of this kind, Sika naturally bore the material and shipping costs.

After their long journey from Switzerland to Kenya, Sika Sarnafil's waterproof membranes now proudly protect the timber bridge, built to link up people and communities. Thanks to the tireless commitment of the budding civil engineers and staunch support of the Maasai villagers, the footbridge was completed in only three weeks.

Further details of the project can be found in the blog

For more on the Econosphere Projects organization and activities, please visit the website