Gabions – How Do They Work?

Basically, gabions are strong wire baskets that are filled with rocks and installed to strengthen slopes. Gabions are used by contractors and engineers, especially in countries like Ethiopia and across Africa, where soil erosion and landscape stability are significant concerns.

Gabion structures or walls are known to last over 100 years. It’s hard to believe that a structure made with wire baskets last this long, so let’s try and understand how they work.

In this article, we explore what they do, when they are used, and how they work.

Gabions Defined:

According to Wikipedia: “A gabion is a cage, cylinder or box filled with rocks, concrete, or sometimes sand and soil for use in civil engineering, road building, military applications and landscaping.

Leonardo da Vinci designed a type of gabion called a Corbeille Leonard (“Leonard[o] basket”) for the foundations of the San Marco Castle in Milan.”

Gabions are essentially wire mesh containers filled with stones, primarily used for erosion control and construction projects. They are known for their reliability and durability, making them ideal for various applications.

What Do Gabions Do?

1. Gabions Help Control Erosion

One of the primary functions of gabions is to control erosion. In areas prone to soil erosion, gabions act as natural barriers that prevent the loss of valuable topsoil and maintain the structural integrity of landscapes.

For example, gabions have been successfully used along riverbanks in Ethiopia to protect against soil erosion, ensuring that arable land remains fertile and communities are safeguarded from the ravages of flooding

2. Construction of Retaining Walls

Gabions are also used to construct retaining walls. These walls serve as support systems for soil stability, especially in hilly or uneven terrains.

An excellent example of this can be found in the construction of retaining walls along roads in Ethiopia. Gabion-based retaining walls not only stabilize the slopes but also offer an aesthetic appeal to the landscape.

Here, gabions have been installed to stabilise the road embankment

When Are Gabions Used?

Three Main Applications for Gabions

1.      Slope Stabilization

In areas where steep slopes are common, gabions are invaluable for slope stabilization. They mitigate landslides and protect against erosion, enhancing the safety and longevity of roads, buildings, and agricultural fields. Gabions have played a crucial role in stabilizing hillsides in various parts of Africa.

2.      Riverbank Protection

Gabions are a popular choice for protecting riverbanks from the force of flowing water. By acting as a natural barrier, they ensure that riverbanks remain intact, reducing the risk of flooding and preserving the delicate balance of ecosystems. Many successful riverbank protection projects have been executed in African countries using gabions.

Gabion construction to stabilize a river bank in Nyerere, Tanzania.

3.      Road and Infrastructure Projects:

Gabions are integral to road construction and infrastructure development. They are used to create stable foundations and support structures for bridges and highways. Notably, road projects across Africa have harnessed the power of gabions to ensure the stability of crucial transportation networks.

How Do Gabions Work?

These factors are what make gabions work so well:

  • The wire mesh structure: Gabions are constructed using a wire mesh structure, forming rectangular boxes or mattresses. This mesh that we use meets international standards and is strong and durable, ensuring the longevity of gabion structures.
  • Stone Filling: These wire mesh containers are then filled with carefully selected stones. The choice of stones and their proper compaction are important to ensure the effectiveness of gabion structures.
  • Drainage Function: Gabions allow for effective water drainage. This drainage function is crucial, as it prevents the buildup of hydrostatic pressure behind the gabion, maintaining its stability.
  • Durability: Gabions are known for their durability and resistance to weathering. They are capable of withstanding the test of time, ensuring that the structures they support remain intact for years to come.

How Do You Buy Gabions?

It’s difficult to imagine how such large structures are transported directly to job sites throughout Ethiopia and Africa.

The Gabion Baskets are folded flat and packed into compressed bundles for you to assemble on site, this way they use the least possible amount of transport space.

You then fill them with rocks or stones from your nearest quarry.

A Gabion basket unfolded for assembly.

How Do Gabions Last So Long?

Our Gabions can last up to 120 years. This is because the steel wire our Gabions are made from is protected by heavily galvanizing or zinc alloy coating Galfan.

For hydraulic or highly aggressive environments, a plastic coating provides added protection to be able to reach a design life of more than 120 years.

Over the long term, they work together with nature to form structures that help combat soil erosion and flooding.

Find Gabions Here

Go here to see more details on our Gabions and to request pricing.


Gabions are a powerful tool in the hands of contractors and engineers in Ethiopia and other African countries. They help control erosion, stabilize slopes, protect riverbanks and coastlines, and support infrastructure.

By understanding how gabions work and where to use them effectively, you can harness their potential to create sustainable projects that benefit communities and the environment.

In your next construction or infrastructure project, consider the mighty gabion – a natural and durable solution for a stable and sustainable future.


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