Our History

Our Values

The EarthEnable team

Gayatri Datar

Co-Founder and CEO

Gayatri Datar is the co-founder and CEO of EarthEnable. Prior to founding  EarthEnable, her experience in international development has spanned the  private, public, and NGO sectors with a focus on monitoring and evaluation,  impact investing/social entrepreneurship, energy access, and agriculture.

Gayatri has served as a Senior Consultant at Dalberg Global Development  Advisors and held roles with the World Bank, the Government of Liberia’s  Department of Revenue, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the  International Finance Corporation, and grassroots NGOs in India, Namibia,  Nicaragua, Albania, and the United States. She holds a BA in Economics  from Harvard College, an MPA/ID from the Harvard Kennedy School, and  an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where she was an  Arjay Miller Scholar.

Rick Zuzow

Co-Founder and CEO

Rick Zuzow holds an M.S. in biochemistry from Stanford University and a dual B.A. in Molecular and Cellular Biology and Integrative Biology from the University of California Berkeley. Over his 15+ year career in science he has worked on biological questions including: the origin of multicellularity, how bacteria know what time it is, and why some bacteria make petroleum-like compounds. Rick’s overarching goal is to unite science and design to solve problems facing the base of the economic pyramid. He has worked in multiple university laboratories and has experience both in human-centered design and numerous fabrication methods.

Rick co-founded EarthEnable and utilized his chemistry background to develop the varnish production process used by the company, including designing and fabricating the low cost and safe reactor used to produce the varnish. He currently manages much of EarthEnable’s research and development, particularly related to improvements in the floor and varnish production processes.

Board of Directors

Betty Tushabe

Board secretary

Julie McBride

Board Chair

Sylvia Mwangi

Board Member

Belinda Bwiza

Board Member

Senior Team

EarthEnable actively promotes equal hiring practices and values representation. We prioritize developing  leadership from across our teams and investments in professional development.

Lina Ng’inja

Chief Of Staff

Carine Uwase Kananira

Rwanda Finance Manager

Edouard A Cyuzuzo

Rwanda Managing Director

Jean De Dieu Niyonsenga

Rwanda Regional Manager North and east

Athanase Nzayisenga

Research and Development Director

Octave Kazeneza

Rwanda Regional Manager West and south

Jerom Hamenyi

Uganda Finance Manager

Jonathan Dushimimana

Senior Systems Manager

Jean De Dieu Niyonsenga

Rwanda Regional Manager North and east

Jean De Dieu Niyonsenga

Rwanda Regional Manager North and east

Jean De Dieu Niyonsenga

Rwanda Regional Manager North and east

Frequently Asked Questions

An earthen floor is an ancient flooring technique that has been revived and modernized in recent years and is especially popular in the western United States. Earthen floors are made from natural materials that can be sourced locally (laterite, sand, clay and water) and layered to make a surface that is as strong and resilient as possible.

First, a laterite layer is applied on a flat, compacted foundation, with manual compaction helping keep the laterite layer level and strong. Next, a screed layer, which is made of sand and clay is applied and trowelled flat. The floor is then sealed by a layer of drying oil that polymerizes (plasticizes) as it dries to form a plastic-like resin on the floor.

In the US, boiled linseed oil is traditionally used. However, boiled linseed oil is expensive and is not locally available in Rwanda and slightly noxious. So our co-founder Rick Zuzow formulated an alternative oil that converts flaxseed oil into a similarly performing varnish/drying oil. Our varnish is green and healthy, free of the noxious fumes found in boiled linseed oil is produced at a fraction of the cost of linseed-based varnish. As a result, we are able to provide durable and healthy floors that are 70% cheaper than the only alternative, concrete.

We charge about $2.50 US dollars per square meter for a floor that we estimate will last 10-15 years. A typical home is 25 square meters, costing 63 USD. Customers pay in three installments, and often build one room at a time, which self-finances the floor. 

Our varnish is completely safe for people including our customers and employees who work with it on a day-to-day basis. Our varnish is free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and poses no health risks.

EarthEnable has a hybrid organizational structure. EarthEnable, Incorporated is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in the United States that 100% owns EarthEnable Rwanda and EarthEnable Uganda, both of which are for-profit enterprises in Rwanda and Uganda. This structure reflects our deep commitment to our social mission of improving health for the world’s poor as well as our belief in market-based solutions. Any profits generated by the for-profits in Rwanda and Uganda (and any future for-profit subsidiaries in other countries) will be directly donated to the nonprofit umbrella organization to fund start-up costs in new markets and further R&D.

Roughly 10% of our clients get free floors, but this is exclusively for new technique testing. For example, we install free “innovation floors” for our masons to test a new technique a few times each year (e.g. a new material, method, or embellishment such as color and tiles). We also build free floors for some customers during monthly community service days (Umuganda). Additionally, we work with local leaders to select families that cannot afford to build a floor and partner with community members to build their floors for free. 

In the US, earthen floors last 20-30 years as long as they are maintained with a fresh coat of varnish every few years. In Rwanda, given that floors are typically washed every day, we anticipate that the floor will last 10-15 years and that revarnishing will be required every few years.

Revarnishing is easy and can be done by customers themselves. They can simply purchase a bottle of varnish and re-apply according to our floor maintenance manual and as they see fit. If customers would rather have one of our trained employees re-apply the varnish, we send someone over for free during the regular warranty period of six month and for a small fee.

There are multiple studies which cite dirt floor replacement as a possible health intervention with potential for big impact in the developing world. A study conducted in Mexico showed that replacing a dirt floor with a concrete floor has the potential to reduce diarrhea by 49%, parasitic infections by 78%, and anemia by 81% while leading to a 36-96% improvement in cognitive development among young children. (Reference: Cattaneo, Matias D.; Galiano, Sebastian; Gertler, Paul J.; Martinez, Sebastian; Titiunik, Rocio. Housing, health, and happiness. In American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 2009, 1:1, 75–105.)

To show the positive impact from using earthen floors as opposed to cement-based floors, we are in the process of completing a biological plausibility study that compares the health of our customers before and after receiving the floors to similar control households in geographic areas where we have not yet scaled. By creating a hard and impermeable barrier between the bacteria and bugs in the floor and the humans that live on top of it, we eliminate dust, bugs, and other harmful human pathogens from the home environment to support clean, hygienic, and healthy living conditions.

There are multiple studies which cite dirt floor replacement as a possible health intervention with potential for big impact in the developing world. A study conducted in Mexico showed that replacing a dirt floor with a concrete floor has the potential to reduce diarrhea by 49%, parasitic infections by 78%, and anemia by 81% while leading to a 36-96% improvement in cognitive development among young children. (Reference: Cattaneo, Matias D.; Galiano, Sebastian; Gertler, Paul J.; Martinez, Sebastian; Titiunik, Rocio. Housing, health, and happiness. In American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 2009, 1:1, 75–105.)

To show the positive impact from using earthen floors as opposed to cement-based floors, we are in the process of completing a biological plausibility study that compares the health of our customers before and after receiving the floors to similar control households in geographic areas where we have not yet scaled. By creating a hard and impermeable barrier between the bacteria and bugs in the floor and the humans that live on top of it, we eliminate dust, bugs, and other harmful human pathogens from the home environment to support clean, hygienic, and healthy living conditions.

There are multiple studies which cite dirt floor replacement as a possible health intervention with potential for big impact in the developing world. A study conducted in Mexico showed that replacing a dirt floor with a concrete floor has the potential to reduce diarrhea by 49%, parasitic infections by 78%, and anemia by 81% while leading to a 36-96% improvement in cognitive development among young children. (Reference: Cattaneo, Matias D.; Galiano, Sebastian; Gertler, Paul J.; Martinez, Sebastian; Titiunik, Rocio. Housing, health, and happiness. In American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 2009, 1:1, 75–105.)

To show the positive impact from using earthen floors as opposed to cement-based floors, we are in the process of completing a biological plausibility study that compares the health of our customers before and after receiving the floors to similar control households in geographic areas where we have not yet scaled. By creating a hard and impermeable barrier between the bacteria and bugs in the floor and the humans that live on top of it, we eliminate dust, bugs, and other harmful human pathogens from the home environment to support clean, hygienic, and healthy living conditions.

Our customers are generally poor, living in rural Rwanda and Uganda. Even though our price is 70% cheaper than concrete, it can be expensive for them to pay out of pocket. Thus, we give customers the option to pay in installments and they often install one room at a time to spread out payments further. A 25 square meter floor will cost roughly 63 USD, so paying for the whole home over 6 months would cost the family about 10 dollars per month. 

Our customers are generally poor, living in rural Rwanda and Uganda. Even though our price is 70% cheaper than concrete, it can be expensive for them to pay out of pocket. Thus, we give customers the option to pay in installments and they often install one room at a time to spread out payments further. A 25 square meter floor will cost roughly 63 USD, so paying for the whole home over 6 months would cost the family about 10 dollars per month. 

After learning and understanding our product, people are thrilled to see a product that looks like concrete (and sometimes looks even better)! Additionally, people are used to seeing cracks in concrete, and are therefore ecstatic to see a floor that does not crack. Initial skepticism about a new technique that nobody in Rwanda had ever seen before quickly faded away after seeing a demo installation of our product.

We train apprentices for 1-3 months alongside an already trained mason. While they work with the trained mason, they learn not only about the technique of mixing the correct proportions, recognizing sufficient compaction, and troweling, but also about how to handle common issues such as leaky roofs and uneven house foundations.