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Author: Ronel Suthers ~ Environmental Manager, Maccaferri (African Gabions)

( Article Type: Explanation )

Gabion is a derivative of the Italian word Gabbione, which means a large cage.

Gabions are made of various types of material, the earliest dating back 2 000 years to the time of the ancient Egyptians, and were made from willows, filled with small stones and used to protect the banks of the River Nile.

Today gabions are traditionally made from steel wire with various forms of coating, which will influence the life span of the product. Typical examples of coating include galvanizing and extruded PVC coating, which have life spans of at least 40 and 120 years respectively. The steel wire, with its protective coating, is then woven into a double twisted hexagonal mesh arrangement and made into a basket known as a gabion.

Gabions, which come in various shapes and sizes, are then filled with suitable rock whose diameter is slightly larger than the diameter of the mesh configuration. Adjacent units are joined to one another in a special way and used to form structures that are used primarily in the civil engineering and soil conservation industries for erosion control and embankment stabilisation. The rock-filled gabions form flexible, permeable, monolithic structures such as retaining walls, channel linings and weirs.

Gabion construction is labour intensive and can be conducted using unskilled workers. Gabion works are made primarily of a natural resource: rock, and can be easily vegetated to blend into the natural environment. This makes them a very good solution for conserving South Africa’s very precious, nonrenewable resource: soil.