Acholi Traditional Grass Thatched Hut

Grass Thatched Hut 1

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.

Grass Thatched Hut 2This 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.

2013-10-29 08.36.20You 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?



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9 Responses to Acholi Traditional Grass Thatched Hut

  1. Elizabeth, I would be one who would try it, sounds interesting. I can,t however get my children to let me move out of Bishop Gadsen . I did try once and what an uproar that caused Ugh ! I was not moving in a hut but to a 936 sq. ft. apt. The longer I live here the more it seems that my brain doesn’t, compute the amount of money that floats around here and it doesn’t,t seem to be floating my way Ha-.Ha. Oh well I guess God is in control so I will just share the gospel and let Him handle my life. We have been thru quite a time with Martha and Robert and cancer showing it,s ugly self. I think we are on the up side now and ready for new beginnings. Martha missed taking her written test for priesthood but is on the schedule for Jan. Robert. Is back to work at church after two break troughs of his myeloma and is taking pills and once a wheel injections. Dr. Says he will get him back to “snoozing myeloma ” so we are encouraged. Martha is having radiation every day on a rogue cell that popped up on her spine, Doctor say that will be gone after 8or10 treatments. I have been staying with her when Robert is at church.After writing all this I just figured out you have probably seen all this on face book or not. But I am still praying for you and know this is quite an adventure for you to be where you are. God.s Blessings, Lillie.

    • Thanks for writing, Lillie. I love to get mail…of any sort. I’m praying for Martha and Robert. They have really been thru a lot and their faith and strength is such an encouragement and a testimony. Hope you are feeling well and that your back is doing ok. Much love, Elizabeth

  2. Paul Cooper says:

    Love it Elizabeth! 150 sq ft sounds good to me. That’s even bigger than my man cave! haha Things in the world are as crazy as you are seeing it and reporting on it. The world is groaning in every way possible. Weather records are being set all over the world. Earth quakes in CA. Pestilence is breaking out everywhere (1000s of children have just gotten sick with some mysterious virus in the last few days here in the states, not to mention ebola in Africa). Stay faithful in the One Who saves. We are going to be just fine. It is time to be very bold for the Lord and proclaim the name of Jesus every day. Time is getting short! Love you, Pablo

  3. Susan Sanders says:

    Thanks for that description, Elizabeth. They are very similar to the “palapas” in Mexico. There was also a big push there for straw bale houses, and a team from Univ. of Arizona came down to learn how they were built and take the concept back to the States. We are too spoiled here. I long for a tiny house!! Cleaning would only take 30 minutes and losing these stairs would be a real bonus for me! Blessings to you – we are very proud of the work you are doing, thankful for your success with the chemo treatments, and excited for what God has planned for you next! Susan and Frank

  4. Charlie Dulany says:

    Sis, your blog is so very informative and I am so very happy I am able to follow it closely. Your are an inspiration to all of us who feel a calling to the mission field, but are thwarted by issues that preclude our being able to serve. I would love a grass and mud brick house. Everyday I experience the excess in our country for some,and want for others. These are significant times for change in our views and attitudes for what we need, what we want and what others need. I know
    Mama Lise would be so proud of you, as I know your entire family is too. My prayers are with you for your continued good health and healing, for the work God has given you and for all those who hear the word and the result of God and His salvation for our fellow man. If you ever have a prayer request just email me, spoken or unspoken. I will be happy to put it before our heavenly
    Father. May God richly bless you for His work. In Him Charlie

    • Charlie, thank you so much for taking the time to encourage me. It means more than you know. I hope that my beloved Mama Lise would be proud and I think about her a lot, wondering if she is looking down on me. I appreciate your prayers for me too. I will be sure to let you know of specific prayer requests. Have you signed up to get email alerts of the blog postings? That way I will have your email address. Please be sure to do that on the blog to follow me. Blessing to you!

  5. Otim Julius says:

    Guess this question of appeal was not directed to an Acholi, for whom this is part of traditional life…..thanks for the accurately described piece on the Acholi grass thatched hut.
    To me the concept of our ancestors who made housing round in shape appeals to cohesive nature of society.
    The “Round table” phenomenon embedded deeply in daily life of the natives is one of the time long perpetuated practice that passed from generation to another to instill freely and informally what the modernist call “Round table” approaches that are taught in schools and institutions about how to interrelate with others. Ref. Otim Julius 14th July 2019, Gulu city Uganda.

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