This is a traditional Acholi grass thatched hut. The landscape in Northern Uganda is dotted with thousands of them. If you go to Google earth and zero in on Gulu, you will see them…they show up as little round objects. This picture to the left is a hut being constructed. They are nearly always round. The walls are made of bricks which are then covered with mud and cow dung or sometimes concrete. Some have concrete floors and some have dirt floors. This one in the pic on the left is having its grass thatched roof installed. There are only certain times of the year you can do this…because of the availability of the grass. Typically huts are built in the dry season because that is when the grass is available and also the construction is not hampered by rain. I am told that a well constructed roof can last as long as 30 years but most typically last around 10 years! They are amazingly water proof.
This is the finished hut after the grass thatched roof has been trimmed and the house has been painted. The paint is usually a mixture of ash and water or other materials. You would be amazed at how nice and cool these huts can be when it is hot outside…at least 15 degrees cooler, I would guess. Some have electricity but most do not. Toilets are usually in a separate area and are pit latrines. There is no plumbing so water must be fetched daily. Cooking is often done on charcoal fires…sometimes inside the hut and sometimes outside the hut.
You will usually see clusters of huts together for extended families with gardens surrounding them. Nearly everyone has a garden and grows their own food to feed the family. I am told that a typical hut using only traditional materials can cost between 500,000 – 800,000 Uganda shillings…that’s about $250-$400. No huge mortgages here…no keeping up with the Jones’. Just simple homes, living off the grid and growing their own food. I find it ironic that there is movement in the US and other developed countries towards this simplified kind of lifestyle. Indoor plumbing, however, is a modern convenience I would find hard to live without. How about you? Does living off the grid…maybe with solar power and 150 sq. ft. home with a little garden and a few chickens in a coop appeal to you?