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Mixing wood ash into the soil around the pole footing is reportedly meant to discourage termites attacking the poles in Somalia. although I don’t have first hand knowledge of seeing this working myself. It a cheap (potentially free) solution though if it works, so may be worth a crack.

Other option could be to clad the pole footing with old tin cans. I’ve done this with unskilled labour and seemed to work ok. Another potentially cheap option if you can get hold of WFP oil tins for free from distribution centres, but needs a lot of labour…

OR…design some kind of detail that separates the timber pole from the soil all together.

OPTION 1- A small concrete footing around structural poles (e.g. corners only) might reduce degradation in the key structural parts of the shelter. Half a bag of cement per family, plus four buckets of aggregate and some sand ought to add some durability for limited financial outlay.

OPTION 2 – (the gold plated option!!) would be to supply a precast concrete footing with a L section metal fixing plate welded in. Then you bolt your poles to the metal upstand in such a way that the poles don’t touch the ground. This is fairly standard construction detail in lots of places globally where you don’t want timber touching the ground. This could be cheap if you manufacture on site with a casting mould and an angle grinder.

Pete Mansfield