Limpopo province — and particularly Thohoyandou in the Vhembe regional municipality — is well known for the quality of its clay and the manufacturing of clay bricks. The Switch team visited the region to collect data, and to share sustainable and clean production practices with local informal brick makers.
In the Vhembe region, over 90% of the informal clay brick manufacturers are foreign nationals residing in the country illegally, so they are reluctant to engage with authorities.
Clear understanding of land ownership and education especially among traditional leaders is proving to be an issue. Traditional leaders are giving authorisation for clay to be mined on land that they do not in fact own.
In terms of sustainability there are opportunities for better ground preparation, controlling water run-off, cutting back on burning local trees, improved clay mixes and more efficient kiln packing.
Through the Switch Africa Green project, the Limpopo government engaged with the CBA. They have agreed to investigate opportunities to support the informal clay brick makers. Initiatives that were identified include allocating an area that can be safely mined for clay, compliance with various mining licenses and permits and formalising a market where the informal sector can display and sell their products.
Key Sustainability Issues
- The issues associated with the informal production of clay bricks across Limpopo echo those of other provinces.
- The area is close to the river and not suited to mining
- Mining endangers pollutes and endangers the riverine ecosystem.
- Wood is a poor fuel sources for firing. Clay bricks should be burned to 1000 0C but wood only achieves 6000C.
- Lack of manufacturing and business skills.