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A New House in 50 Days

Reconstruction in Nepal following the 2015 earthquake has stalled because there are simply not enough skilled professionals available. In recognition of this need, Swisscontact was funded to train 600 construction workers and 400 masons in Sindhuli District. Now they not only have income, they are also supporting reconstruction and finding their way back to a normal life.

  • Stone by Stone 1

    Stone by Stone 1



    The 2015 Nepal earthquake destroyed 34,256 houses in Sindhuli District alone. Swisscontact is supporting the reconstruction effort by training urgently-needed construction workers.


  • Stone by Stone 2

    Stone by Stone 2



    During the on-the-job training, trainees learnt to build an earthquake-safe house in 50 days. Each training group comprised 10 people.


  • Stone by Stone 3

    Stone by Stone 3



    Easy-to-understand posters at construction sites explained the individual steps, techniques and work safety rules.


  • Stone by Stone 4

    Stone by Stone 4



    Wall thickness was measured precisely.


  • Stone by Stone 5

    Stone by Stone 5



    A view of Sindhuli District, which was severely hit by the 2015 earthquake.


  • Stone by Stone 6

    Stone by Stone 6



    A training group at the Sukoshi municipality training site.


  • Stone by Stone 7

    Stone by Stone 7



    Trainees recharge during their breaks.


  • Stone by Stone 8

    Stone by Stone 8



    Ganga Puri, 24, builds a stone wall at the training site. The training promoted the wearing of protective clothing.


  • Stone by Stone 9

    Stone by Stone 9



    Three women proudly hold up their certificates after completing the 50-day training. Women play an important role in the reconstruction process as their husbands are often working abroad as migrant labourers.


  • Stone by Stone 10

    Stone by Stone 10



    Two graduates in Golanjor Rural Municipality carry a steel rebar. This will hold a house together in case of an earthquake.


  • Stone by Stone 11

    Stone by Stone 11



    Already-trained masons and graduates of the 50-day Swisscontact training course have banded together to take on work orders.


  • Stone by Stone 12

    Stone by Stone 12



    Rabi Acchami, 38, lost his home in the earthquake and attended the Swisscontact training. His work group decided to rebuild his house. Here he prepares a foundation stone for his new house.


  • Stone by Stone 13

    Stone by Stone 13



    The training demonstrates the use and importance of various tools. After completing the training, all graduates were given a 14-piece toolkit that allows them to work as professionals.


  • Stone by Stone 15

    Stone by Stone 15



    Naina Bahadur Chaulagain (right) is a mason who completed the nine-day advanced training course. He demonstrates construction techniques to the homeowner that will make his house more earthquake-safe.


  • Stone by Stone 14

    Stone by Stone 14



    For already experienced masons, Swisscontact offers a nine-day advanced training course. Mason Bir Bahadur now leads a group of 10 people working for him on a contractual basis. The team divides earnings equally.


  • Stone by Stone 16

    Stone by Stone 16



    Bimala Giri from Sunkoshi Municipality stands in front of her new earthquake-safe house, which she herself helped to build.


In early 2015, the inhabitants of Sindhuli District in Nepal were optimistic. A new highway linked the region with Kathmandu and the trip to the capital was radically shortened from 400 to 185 kilometres.  Transporting goods and medicine became cheaper and access to education easier. For the region’s 300,000 inhabitants this meant the start of rapid development: The new highway represented a road out of poverty.

Wanted: 4,200 construction workers

On April 25, 2015, everything changed when the earthquake struck. Over 34,000 homes in Sindhuli were destroyed and the new highway was severely damaged, resulting in the disruption of food and medicine distribution to this hilly region. Sindhuli was among the 14 most severely affected regions. Despite the significant needs, there were no humanitarian organisations present other than the Nepalese Red Cross. Reconstruction began slowly. Only 150 trained masons in Sindhuli knew how to rebuild earthquake-safe houses; it was established that 4,200 workers would need to be trained to support for the reconstruction efforts.

To help address this lack of skilled professionals, Swisscontact launched a training programme with Swiss Solidarity funding for people who had lost their homes in the earthquake. During a 50-day training programme, with participants working in groups of 10, they rebuilt a group member’s home. In doing so, they learned hands-on all the steps required for earthquake-safe construction.


Large female contingent at the construction site

Of the 600 training participants, more than one-third (224) were women. As many men work abroad, women in Nepal are playing a key role in reconstructing the area. Swisscontact also organised advanced training for 400 professional masons to expand their skills in earthquake-safe construction. Over 80% of graduates continue to work in the construction sector, even after having built their own homes. There is no lack of work and opportunity for these now-skilled individuals.


Project with national impact

In addition to the training, Swisscontact was the only organisation to launch a sensitisation campaign for homeowners in the reconstruction. Initiatives ranged from information events in villages to a national TV programme. The objective of the campaign was to enhance people’s skills in earthquake-safe construction to ensure that they are better prepared for any potential future natural catastrophes.

Nine Tips for Safe Reconstruction

Swisscontact’s “Skills for Safe Reconstruction Project” in Nepal features two main components: qualification of construction workers and sensitisation of homeowners. Together, they form the basis for secure reconstruction after the April 2015 earthquake. Below we list the essential steps for ensuring a newly-built home will remain standing after an earthquake.

Technical support


Technical support

Access to technical support ensures that the minimum legal requirements set by the authorities for single family homes will be respected. Only after a state-appointed engineer confirms compliance with these minimum requirements will homeowners receive state support of up to 300,000 Nepalese rupees (around 2,800 Swiss francs) for earthquake-safe reconstruction of their homes.

Trained workers


Trained workers

Well-trained masons ensure the work quality. They apply their certified skills in earthquake-safe construction techniques.

Correct use of high-quality construction materials


Correct use of high-quality construction materials

Earthquake-safe construction alone does not guarantee that houses will be protected in an earthquake. High-quality materials must be used and correctly implemented. Examples include using long and flat stones, rather than small, round ones, as with the latter there will not be enough of a mortar bond; using high-quality wood as this will prevent rot and insect infestation; and soaking the bricks in water before use so that they do not draw moisture from the wet mortar.




The lack of foundations was one of the main causes for many houses collapsing during the 2015 earthquake. A foundation is essential for a sturdy and safe house. It not only supports the weight of the building, it also protects it against strong winds. The foundation is a solid anchor for vertical concrete reinforcements.

Vertical reinforcement


Vertical reinforcement

Vertical reinforcement is made of steel or wooden rods placed in the corners of the home and affixed from above and below. With movement of the ground they prevent the walls from “falling out of the house.”

Horizontal concrete reinforcement and wooden rods


Horizontal concrete reinforcement and wooden rods

Horizontal rods function like a belt that is tightened around the girth of the house. Combined with vertical reinforcement, they hold a house in place during seismic movements.

Light-weight roofing materials


Light-weight roofing materials


Light-weight roofing materials are preferable to heavy construction materials such as stone plates or flat wooden roofs, which are often covered with an earthen layer. Light-weight roofing reduces the load on the walls and foundations during earthquakes.

Form und Höhe des Hauses


Shape and height of the house

Earthquake safety is higher if defined maximum heights and optimal building shapes are respected. U- or L-shaped buildings or those with long, unsupported walls are less resistant to seismic shocks. Very tall buildings and homes with large doors and windows are also more susceptible to earthquake damage.

Handwerkskunst wiederentdecken


Rediscovering the art of skilled manual labour


In the age of cement and steel, traditional construction with stones has been left by the wayside to save time and money. But the centuries-old technique of using interlocking stones, headers and cornerstones make the walls far more earthquake resistant.

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Swiss Foundation for Technical Cooperation
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