The villagers of Rajasthan live in shelters (Dhani) from many generations. They construct shelter through local materials and follow the indigenous technology. All family members play important role for preparing the shelter

Indigenous knowledge for shelter comfort and sustainability

Communities living in rural Rajasthan are used to constructing houses with local materials and indigenous technology for many generations. For construction of their dhani, all the family members play a major role and have assigned responsibilities. While the men of the family collect soil of good quality from nearby places, the womenfolk gather cow dung, which they mix with the mud to prepare the basic construction material. The women of the family do the plasterwork for the new house, as well as for regular maintenance of the walls and floor. The roof is made by tying and weaving the dried stalk and by-product of the local Jowar crop.

The house is oriented in such a way that the wind direction and sun path ensure good ventilation and thermal comfort, which is very critical since summer temperatures in this region reach about 50o C. Normally the size of the openings is very small as it reduces heat gain and also gives less exposure to sand storms, which are a common local threat.

Indigenous Shelter Technology

  • Community leaders set an example
  • Community involvement in construction of shelters
  • Available of local materials at no cost
  • Extreme climatic conditions
  • Good design for safety and comfort
  • Post-disaster shelter programs must capitalize on existing traditional wisdom on construction materials and technologies, since it has been tested over generations and is best suited to the local environment and culture.
  • Technology should be introduced where necessary, but in minimalistic ways, so as to add value to the traditional systems and make them more resilient in the face of new threats such as those posed by climate change
  • Materials used for construction should be eco-friendly and local to the extent possible. This keeps the cost low, and also minimizes the carbon footprint of the intervention.
  • Participation of the beneficiaries in decision making regarding the site, design and construction details is critical to their involvement and ownership of the process.
  • Participation of house-owning families in the construction process is very useful in cutting costs, enhancing the sense of ownership, and keeping the design and construction process flexible enough for each family to be able to customize small elements to suit their preference and convenience.
  • Transfer of technology to local construction workers is very useful to ensure the sustainability of the construction approach, its replication and improvement in the area.
  • Linkage with local stakeholders including governments, academia and the private sector is useful for the smooth completion of such projects, and also for creating a local buy-in for the approach, which will help for its sustainability in the long term.
  • Linkage with other sectors such as water, sanitation, livelihood and education helps create a more comprehensive package around shelter, habitat and lifestyle and provides value added benefits to the local community.

Traditional Dhani (Shelter)