The creation of this new ecovillage network enables us to speak with a single voice as eco-champions. Throughout all of our activities, we are engaged in the mitigation of climate change and globalization. We are green warriors for Earth and the environment. With special thanks to the Sandele Eco-Retreat and Learning Centre for its leadership role in the network
Sandele Eco-Retreat and Learning Centre is the hub of the ecovillage movement in The Gambia. Two Ecovillage Design Education courses (EDE) were run at Sandele in 2014 and 2015. The first EDE (funded by the Heidehof Foundation) focused on one village, Kartong, the nearest village to Sandele. In 2014, 26 people from Kartong participated.
The 2015 EDE (funded by COMCEC – an association of Muslim countries) drew participants from 11 villages, 9 of them strung along a stretch of the Atlantic Coast. People from The Gambia and southern Senegal were included and 35 people were trained in all. A permaculture design course was also held, funded again by the generous and dedicated support of the Heidehof Foundation.
The aim behind this concentrated approach is to create a critical mass of people, all of whom will be from the same area and receive the same intensive training, in order to build resilient communities. Both EDE courses were residential despite the fact that the participants all came from villages within a ten-mile radius. This had the effect of building a very strong “community of communities,” so much so that the villages have come together as a registered organisation called The People’s Coast Ecovillage Network (PECEN).
This move has created a bio-regional organisation that is speaking with a single voice. It has also created a critical mass of eco-champions, who are engaged with the community, participating in monthly meetings (with high, consistent attendance), joint projects, and business enterprises at the local level—all simultaneously engaged in the mitigation of climate change and globalisation. These activities meet many of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We estimate that current plans and activities meet at least 10 of the 17 established SDGs.
PECEN enjoys solid support from village elders. Ten alkalos (village chiefs) have signed an accord on behalf of their individual villages to transition to ecovillage status. They have sent, under the PECEN umbrella, a joint application for Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) membership. The two district councillors are firmly behind PECEN and regularly attend meetings and help with the organisation of important gatherings.
PECEN will meet jointly with the Minister of Tourism and Culture and the Minister of the Environment in May 2016, at which time the People’s Coast vision will be discussed.* There has been mention of signing a Memorandum of Understanding. A concept paper outlining the future for PECEN has been shared with government departments and, informally, with the Gambian EU Delegation.
Of the greatest importance, though, is what is happening in the villages. All of the EDE participants from both years attended a permaculture design course (PDC) in May to June 2015 so there are now 70 PDC-qualified people who are bringing permaculture principles and practices home to their relatives and friends.
The adoption of eco-friendly and sustainable practices like composting, mulching, the use of biochar, and so on is very impressive and there is now hectic competition for cow manure in all the villages! Several businesses have been formed, mostly on a cooperative basis, and supportive, additional training has been organised. In January 2015, 15 people were trained in how to make rocket stoves and a rocket pottery kiln has just been completed at Sandele.
At the end of April 2016, 50 people attended a two-day business and entrepreneurial training.
And so it goes!
* The meeting with the government did not happen as planned in May, but we look forward to bringing you more good news from PECEN and The Gambia in the future.