Five Eco Villages Around The World
Communities in Senegal, Colombia, Jamaica, Palestine and Egypt are experimenting with more sustainable ways of living
By Anna Leach / theguardian.com
Earth bag houses Jamaica
 Earth bag houses at The Source, Jamaica Photograph: Nicola Shirley-Phillips

Guédé Chantier, Senegal

“In the 2000s, we felt our land was dying. We were not getting the yields we were expecting,” says Ousmane Pame, who grew up in Guédé Chantier, a village of 7,000 inhabitants in northern Senegal.

In the 1970s Chinese agricultural advisers came to the rice-growing area and taught new methods that involved a lot of chemical fertiliser. 

But by 2002, the soil was seriously degraded and the villagers decided to take action. “The whole village got together for three days to reflect on the agriculture, the economy, the education, because we felt we were going through a crisis.”

Pame had been on an eco village design course in Auroville, India, and told the village chief and the whole community what he had learned; the decision was made to transition to an ecovillage, and Pame was later elected mayor. 

 Guédé Chantier eco village, Senegal Photograph: Ousmane Pame

Now Guede alternates between rice and other crops (tomatoes, onions, corn, okra) and has set up community orchards. The village has also established a centre of genetic resources to provide seeds for local species, which are distributed for free to farmers. They also get lessons on composting, seed production and organic farming. The village’s “eco-guardians” organise regular public clean-ups and theatre is used to educate people about the dangers of litter and chemical inputs in the field.

The village is also moving to renewable energy, mainly biogas. “We have lots of animals so we can use cow manure to power the biogas,” says Pame.

The government has been very supportive of ecovillages in Senegal. It is working on a project to turn 14,000 traditional rural villages into renewable energy-powered self-sufficient communities. In Mbackombel, another model eco village, the children’s academic results went up after solar panels were installed in the village school.

Islas del Rosario, Colombia

Images of Islas del Rosario, Caribbean islands off the coast of Colombia, show a travel-brochure cliche of paradise. The islands were designated part of a national park in 1977, but that hasn’t stopped wealthy people trying to buy pieces of land from the locals, leading to a long-lasting legal battle. 

Children in the Islas del Rosario, Colombia
 Children in the Islas del Rosario, Colombia Photograph: Margerita Zethelius

“In May 2014 the locals were recognised as legal owners of the land after a 10-year struggle,” says Margarita Zethelius, an environmentalist who works with the community.

During the legal struggle, the community looked at ways to become more sustainable. “They started getting in contact with eco villages and learning about permaculture,” says Zethelius. 

With the help of NGOs the locals starting installing compost toilets and solar panels. Fundacion Surtigas installed panels for 34 families in 2007 and another five bought their own systems. 

“The lack of light generates a lot of difficulties – for food storage, for the kids to study,” says Zethelius. “So more and more people have been buying solar panels, second-hand mainly.”

The mayor of the region, Cartagena, is supporting community calls for a centralised solar energy system. “If they had a system that would give energy to the whole community they could sell energy to the big hotels,” says Zethelius. “They wouldn’t be the poor ones, but would be selling services to the hotels. That would empower them.”

Children help out at The Source in Jamaica Photograph: Nicola Shirley-Phillips

The Source, Jamaica

When her mother called for Nicola Shirley-Phillips and her siblings to move back from the US to Jamaica, she only reluctantly agreed. But now the extended family and friends happily live at The Source, a mini eco village with earth-bag homes and renewable energy. 

The area, St Thomas Parish in the south east of the island, is economically impoverished and the family drew on the professional expertise learned in the US to contribute through healthcare, education and permaculture.

The family were the first in the parish to use solar energy. “Jamaica is very much a ‘show me’ place,” says Shirley-Phillips. “So people kept coming in our house to see how it worked, even professors. Then they were able to feel comfortable it. When we started there was only two solar companies in Jamaica and now the phonebook is full of them.”

The Source uses a combination of solar and wind for 70% of its energy. The rest is from the grid. 

“We live on a hill so we can see when the rest of the parish has no power,” says Shirley-Phillips. “When there’s a hurricane people come to us to charge their phones.”

Hakoritna Farm, Palestine

In 2003 the Israelis built a wall right through Hakoritna Farm, an organic farm in Tulkarm, Palestine, taking 80% of the land. To add insult to injury, they built a chemical factory next door. 

“We have tried to fight the destruction non-violently, without success,” says farm owner Fayez Taneeb. “However the core of the farm has endured in the middle of all this damage.”

Taneeb and his wife decided to make their farm a model of sustainability and peace. Students come to visit the farm to learn how to build biogas tanks that convert animal manure into energy and solar dryers to preserve fruit and vegetables. They can then set them up in their own villages and refugee camps.

Building biogas equipment in Hakoritna Farm, Palestine
 Building biogas equipment in Hakoritna Farm, Palestine. Photograph: Mena Vierra

“By doing this we have created a movement of sustainable energy,” says Palestinian activist Aida Shibli. “It’s an extreme place. You see the contrast between dark and light.”

Sekem, Egypt

Ibrahim Abouleish’s friends thought he was crazy when he said he going to reclaim part of the desert north of Cairo for agriculture. But nearly 40 years laterSekem (named after the ancient Egyptian hieroglyph for “vitality”) is 2,800 hectares of green crops supplying successful textile, natural medicines and herbal tea businesses that employ 2,000 people.

This was all achieved using biodynamic agriculture techniques, a method of organic farming. Sekem’s approach is holistic, with an ethical code of conduct, schools from nursery right up to a university and a development foundation that runs microfinance projects and initiatives to help nearby farms convert to sustainable techniques.

Sekem, Egypt
 Green crops in the desert in Sekem, Egypt. Photograph: Sekem

Sekem runs a couple of small renewable energy projects but gets most of its energy from the grid. “Unfortunately energy is so subsidised in Egypt that it’s not competitive,” says Thomas Abouleish, grandson-in-law of Ibrahim. But he says Sekem is preparing for the government’s plan to reduce the subsidies: “We recently started some renewable energy projects so they can be ready once people start to recognise that there is an alternative.”

These eco villages all feature in ECOVILLAGE: 1001 ways to heal the planet, edited by Kosha Joubert and Leila Dregger. 

3.5 ·
1
What's Next
Trending Today
The Myth of Positivity: Why Your Pain Holds a Mighty Purpose
umair haque · 14,938 views today · Of all the great myths of contemporary life, one of the most toxic is positivity. It says: there are negative and positive emotions, and only the positive ones are worth...
Have You Heard of The Great Forgetting? It Happened 10,000 Years Ago & Completely Affects Your Life
Daniel Quinn · 14,686 views today · (Excerpted from the book, The Story of B) With every audience and every individual, I have to begin by making them see that the cultural self-awareness we inherit from our...
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 9,190 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
10 Stunning Images from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year People's Choice Award
Natural History Museum · 8,393 views today · These incredible images are a selection from of the 25 shortlisted by The Natural History Museum for the People's Choice Award from this year's Wildlife Photographer of the...
Seven Must-Have Skills for the 21st Century
Tommy Lehe · 7,066 views today · We live in a world that moves faster than we do. Trying to keep up can be an overwhelming task that at times feels hopeless, like we are falling further and further behind—but...
Forget Air Force One, Pentagon Wastes Billions and Billions Every Month
Nadia Prupis · 4,865 views today · President-elect Donald Trump's focus on single Boeing contract ignores enormous waste of bloated Pentagon budget
Stunning Summary of US Imperialism and Native Resistance... on MSNBC!
4 min · 4,468 views today · On The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC, Lawrence explains why a protest by Native Americans in North Dakota reminds us of the history American always tries to forget.
DREAM: A Spoken Word Meditation For When Life Is Kicking Your Ass
4 min · 2,676 views today · If life is kicking your ass and the general un-coolness of everybody on planet erf is making you want to off yourself, TALK to someone: 800-273-8255 (national suicide...
Standing Rock Wisdom: How Sacred, Nonviolent Activism Has the Power to Succeed
Charles Eisenstein · 2,279 views today · I am told by Native American friends active at Standing Rock that the elders are counseling the Water Protectors to undertake each action prayerfully and to stay off the...
The Other Way of Knowing
Lilian Na’ia Alessa · 2,126 views today · Western science and Indigenous worldviews are often seen as incompatible, with the Indigenous view usually being far less valued by society at large. But an inside look at...
Amanda Abbington Introduces iAnimal - 42 Days in the Life of Chickens
4 min · 1,993 views today · Shot undercover in British factory farms and slaughterhouses, this immersive 360° video gives you a birds-eye view of what happens to chicken from farm to plate.
The Most Powerful Algorithm in the World
Joe Brewer · 1,894 views today · After the insanity of the U.S. election, a lot of people are blaming Facebook for its algorithms that parse us into ideological bubbles and spread “fake news” and other kinds...
Veterans at Standing Rock Ask Forgiveness for War Crimes Against Tribal Nations
Jen Hayden · 1,855 views today · Jon Eagle Sr., Tribal Historic Preservation Officer at Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has reported something wholly unexpected happened at the Standing Rock Reservation today. The...
How a White Supremacist Became a Civil Rights Activist
Araz Hachadourian · 1,762 views today · The story of a KKK leader’s transformation shows us that we need not live forever with the kind of violence we saw in Charleston this month.
Dear Activists, Maybe It's Time to Admit That We've Got It All Wrong
Mickey Z. · 1,557 views today · “The first step in the revolution is eye contact.” - Alicen Grey
Sean Carroll - The Meaning of Life
7 min · 1,497 views today · The world keeps happening in accordance with its rules; it's up to us to make sense of it and give it value. Sean Carroll Music: Moby - God Moving Over the Face of the Waters
Why People Cling to Old Beliefs
1 min · 1,455 views today · Cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist at McGill University, Daniel Levitin, explains why people can be so stubborn when it comes to false beliefs. This behavior is...
Solar is Already Producing More Energy Than Oil, Says Major Scientific Review
Nafeez Ahmed · 1,396 views today · And is twice as powerful than previously thought
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 1,303 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
The 24-Hour Emergency Hotline for Syrian Refugees
7 min · 1,095 views today · Mohammed Abu Amar runs a makeshift 24-hour helpline from his flat in Hamburg, guiding scared refugees fleeing the violence in Syria across the water to Europe.  Despite losing...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Five Eco Villages Around The World