Satara, where the project is situated, is a squatter area which now houses approximately 30% of the population of the town of Rosso. The area was established by families seeking refuge from floods during the 1950's, though the population also increased considerably during the drought of the 1970's. In 1980, the population was estimated at 12'000. It composes several ethnic groups, among them Arabs (Maures) and Africans (Wolofs, Toucouleurs and Sarakolles), each with distinctive customs and lifestyles. In 1975, the squatter settlement was flooded and the government undertook emergency action to house those whose dwellings were destroyed and began to investigate a permanent solution to the problem. In the same year, ADAUA selected Satara as a project site. With the collaboration of SOCIGIM -who represent the national government in such matters- ADAUA planned and instigated the project to construct 1'400 house units. The principles of ADAUA -to use self-build techniques and to use local, natural materials to avoid expensive importations- are fundamental aspects of the project.
The site is completely flat and flooding occurs during the rainy season due to the overflow of the river Senegal, or the occasional rupture of dams. It covers some 35 hectares in the middle of the shanty-town of Satara and is home to some 1'400 families. A multi-disciplinary team from ADAUA worked for two years from 1975-77 to study environmental conditions, architecture, local materials, construction techniques and the socio-economic traits of the population. Parallel research into local materials showed that the treatment of local clay would allow its use as the base material for cement-stabilised bricks. The region has a desert climate with high temperatures, frequent drought and seasonal flooding during the short winter season from July to September.
Considerable hesitation for the project on the part of the local population stemmed from mistrust of the use of the chosen construction materials and the adoption of essentially alien forms for house units. To demonstrate their skill and establish some measure of credibility, ADAUA constructed a pilot house followed by the construction of 12 house units. This enabled the training of 25 masons, brick-makers and other workers associated with the extraction of plaster and lime. In 1978, further flooding caused the collapse of many squatter structures, following which ADAUA undertook the construction of a water protection dam which consists of a 3 km long concrete drainage system and pumping station.
From 1980-83, further units were constructed to implement the original layout plan which allocated regular shaped plots of land to villagers in exchange for a token sum of money or a pre-determined number of hours of labour. House units vary in size and plan shape, and the size of plots permits the expansion of units to correspond with family expansion. Families must, however, begin construction of their unit within one year of plot allocation. Differences in plan shape and size of individual units permit infinite variation on an otherwise repetitive theme.