The Pan-African Ecovillage Development Programme: building resiliency and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. By Tim Clarke, former EU Ambassador, advisor of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN), who was a GEN delegate at the COP 22 Climate Conference in Marrakech.
For the past 20 years, GEN has been developing a transformative model using an integrated, multi-sectoral community-based approach to create sustainable and resilient ecovillage communities. Africa is the home of some of the most innovative ecovillage programmes in the world, notably in Senegal where ground-breaking efforts have been made to transform 14,000 rural villages into ecovillages. Likewise, in Egypt, the SEKEM programme developed during the last four decades, has created one of the most successful and sustainable community development programmes in the world; transforming the desert into a paradise.
For a few years now, GEN has been working towards the spreading of such inspiring examples to other countries. When representatives of GEN met at SEKEM in Egypt in April earlier this year, this idea was formulated in a new and powerful way: that GEN could bring all these distinctive initiatives across the African continent together to develop a ‘Pan-African Ecovillage Development Programme’(PAEDP).
Such a concept, if applied in every village, within every one of the 54 countries in Africa, could totally transform rural livelihoods. Conceived of and driven by local communities, it would make ecovillages THE tool for economic and social transformation in Africa. GEN has the possibility of being a vital part of Africa’s transition process.
The idea for the PAEDP, spawned in Egypt, was rapidly converted into a concept paper and, in the run up to COP 22 in Marrakesh in November, was edited, designed with colour photos and made available in English and French. The PAEDP was born.
The PAEDP vision is to put communities at the centre of the development processes across the African continent. It promotes sustainable livelihoods and practices that are fully aligned to the SDGs goals. It creates wealth and employment opportunities. When applied, it will halt and support the restoration of environmental degradation, and provide communities with the knowledge, resilience, skills and tools to guarantee their future.
The full document, setting out objectives, the methodology, activities and expected results is available on https://ecovillage.org/en/cop22.
The key objectives are:
- To initiate a change process across the African continent that will demonstrate that community-led eco village methodologies can deliver effective and economically viable SDG products and processes.
- To seek the support of all appropriate stakeholders: including governments, educational establishments, local authorities, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), local partners, financiers, and CSOs to work closely together to achieve the SDG’s.
- To establish a number of ‘model’ Ecovillage resource and training centres/hubs whose primary vocation will be to share skills, knowledge and practices.
- To contribute towards fulfilling African local and national commitments towards achieving the UN’s SDGs, global commitments on climate change, Education for Sustainable Development, Sustainable Consumption and Biodiversity.
It is expected that the programme will start in a number of selected countries where communities have already shown ecovillage commitment and leadership. Possible initial countries could include Senegal, Tanzania, Gambia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, DRC, Morocco, Egypt and Zambia.
Provided with PAEDP documents in English and French, the GEN team in Marrakech leapt into action. In no time at all, meetings were arranged with a number of African Ministers, side events devoted to explaining the PAEDP were organized, and the secretariat of the 54 African Climate change negotiators distributed the PAEDP text electronically to all the African delegations.
The enthusiastic response was fantastic. The positive reaction was tangible. We were on to a winner. Previously vulnerable, fragile, rural communities, so long forgotten by development specialists and politicians, could be given an opportunity to control their own destiny in full respect of their dignity and culture.
It is early days yet, but if we can maintain the momentum and interest, we stand a real chance of making the PAEDP happen. At the political level, we can work to get the concept enshrined in official documents of the African Union, regional bodies such as the Great Green Wall Initiative in the Sahel, and individual African governments. At the grassroots level, we can convert the PAEDP into a budgeted proposal and start to find donors who may be interested in funding all or part of it.
Whatever happens, we can be sure that there are exciting times ahead!