Retaining Walls

Through the Jimmy Carter Work Project (JCWP) in 2002, 100 houses were constructed over a five-day period with assistance from volunteers from the USA, in Sherwood – a suburb (also known as Ethembeni) located 5km from Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.

Based on Habitat SA’s revolving fund model at the time, a Rent-to-Own Housing strategy was developed to increase access to housing for low income families in the Ethembeni area. Over the last 4 years, Habitat evolved its organisational strategy towards holistic community development, while at the same time, continuing to manage the collection of outstanding loans and the transfer of home ownership where applicable.

Due to the timing and nature of the JCWP, insufficient time and planning was allocated to address the geo-technical risks of the land prior to construction. As a result, most of the houses have been constructed on steep hills with inaccurate measurements and cheap construction materials, and insufficient consideration to possible landslides and unstable structures.

Heavy summer rains in KZN, coupled with the clayey nature of the land, resulted in massive soil erosion and mudslides next to homes. In addition, some home owners attempted to increase their plot size by cutting away at the slope which has significantly compromised the retaining walls and trenches in the area. This problem, if not addressed, could lead to more damages – destroy roads and properties. Remedial work carried out in 2009 identified approximately 60 houses as being high risk – mostly those that were built on hills.

Habitat SA has engaged the services of various contractors to mitigate these risks, and to ensure that the health and safety precautions are put in place for residents. Habitat SA is committed to complete and close-out this legacy project after approval is secured from the necessary authorities.
The program team will lead a short-term social engagement programme focusing on basic housing consumer education and awareness of the risks in undertaking construction on ones’ own.
The primary strategic goal is to refurbish 35 retaining walls in the community in order to reduce risks, ensure durability and improved health and safety.


  1. Refurbish all 35 incomplete retaining walls in order to reduce damages caused by soil erosion and landslides near homes;
    2. Create awareness amongst residents regarding the dangers and/ or implications of building on their own through social engagement;
    3. Enhance knowledge and awareness of home-maintenance, insurance, and housing regulations amongst home-owners in Ethembeni