It is that time of year to celebrate our dear Hildur Jackson’s birthday with a special celebration of some amazing ecovillage projects. Thanks to the continued generosity of the Gaia Trust, we are delighted to provide some financial celebration as well.
Celebrating this year’s HJA winner!
REDES (Réseau pour l’ Emergence et le Développement des Ecovillages au Sahel)
The main goal of the REDES network is to stop the rollback of the Sahara desert and its dramatic socioeconomic and cultural impacts. To achieve this, REDES is implementing a trans-border ecovillage hub of 100 villages in Mauritania and Senegal. Municipalities in both countries are on board with signed agreements and engaged local citizens.
The beauty of this programme is that it’s driven by heart-to-heart, community-to-community actions. Over the past year, they have constructed 50 wells allowing access to water for over 2000 people, animals, and gardens. They also planted over 400,000 trees for communities in Mauritania and Senegal and established a tree nursery preparing for 30,000 more.
Learn more about REDES, the people that make up the network and the projects that inspire them in this interview with Dr. Ousmane Pame, Katrina Jeffries and Marie C. Nazon, Ph.D, LMSW.
With so many wonderful applications, we also celebrate this year’s finalists:
Habiba Community (Egypt)
The goals of this bottom-up initiative are to promote environmental solutions to regenerate the land, enhance biodiversity, guarantee food and water security, improve the resilience of the indigenous community, and, ultimately, make the Sinai desert green again. Habiba helped enable positive changes in the ever-growing Nuweiba community. In all these years Habiba’s founder, Maged, transferred his knowledge on how to farm organically to the Bedouins. Habiba’s development model has changed the mindset, by building inclusion, and providing equal opportunities for all to guarantee food security and wellbeing.
This year, they have been working on a project “Zar’at Al Dar” for greening the backyards of Bedouin women houses in the city of Nuweiba. They’ll start by providing 30 houses with different trees that can withstand the harsh climate, such as (Moringa Palm, African Acacia, Pomegranate, Guava, Red figs, red berries). In addition to the winter vegetable crops (tomatoes, eggplant, onions, cucumbers, zucchini) that are enough to meet the needs of every house and surplus to sell. The women are key to making this a success and are actively consulted with to integrate their perspectives and needs. Habiba Community is helping the Bedouin women to have a positive change through achieving the important impacts of the project on the economic, social and ecological aspects.
Aula Taller, tejiendo la SumaPaz (Colombia)
In recent years, the Kunagua Network has grown considerably, currently consisting of about 30 families that protect 80 hectares of cloud forest in the process of restoration. This increase in the population and the protected territory has been accompanied by a wide diversity of activities focused on sustainability. These include increasing agroecological crops for food sovereignty; strengthening the Kunagua School Forest, an alternative, autonomous and collaborative education process; constructing buildings using natural materials, building dry toilets, and managing gray water, among others. The heart houses of Waia Sie have been the scene of markets, fairs, meetings, celebrations, dance and drumming, where the fire is lit and music embraces us, where we dance in the forest and celebrate life. This reserve has been part of the Kunagua network for 10 years.
In addition, they have carried out actions to defend the territory, which led to the suspension of a mining extraction project in a cloud forest area, which has required constant monitoring and verification actions. This reactivation of the Kunagua Network led to its election as host of the 17th edition of the Llamado de la Montaña 2024, the Colombian meeting of ecovillages, one of the most representative meetings of the movement in Latin America. Faced with this responsibility, the Network began a process of community organization based on Sociocracy, with the guidance of the Una Nueva Ecovillage project, and is preparing a meeting that will serve both to bring together the ecovillage movement in Colombia and Latin America, and to connect and articulate with other environmental and state movements, in a quite unique national political situation, with a government with a clear commitment to ecology.
Terra Luminous (Brazil)
This year, they welcomed 20 participants in immersive permaculture courses, providing 4 scholarships for local community teenagers and neighboring farmers. They provided Sociocracy and Nonviolent Communication workshops to the local community’s women’s recycling cooperative and city hall employees. And they created a partnership with the municipality’s education department to provide immersive environmental education experiences for the local school.
They also organised the municipality to participate in the revision of the city’s master plan. The city hall intended to expand urban areas without considering environmental protection laws and they created a counterproposal that encompassed urban, social, and environmental development. Beyond that, they actively engaged with the community to revitalise a local park, promoting sustainable tourism. Finally, they established five partnerships with institutions in São Paulo for research and monitoring of the Atlantic Forest. These include mapping ecosystem services, monitoring fungi, overlaying environmental laws to guide the city’s master plan, studies on local biodiversity, and water quality monitoring.
We start off with a celebration of their recognition from the provincial government as a local environmental development project after years of bureaucracy. The resilient attitude before the passage of Hurricane Ian (category 5) in September 2022 is a remarkable moment. Ramaviva mobilized donations and aid for the Catalinas community. It was a huge blow to the entire structure of Rama, but it made them realize the strength of our networks and the regenerative capacity of the design to minimize disaster.
This year they reached 70% of the construction of their main building which holds meetings, community events, and learning. This includes ecological bathrooms, rooms to accommodate workshop participants, a kitchen and a workshop for the preparation of artisanal bio-products. They also held two national permaculture workshops, Yoga classes, a women’s circle, green medicine workshops, farmer’s parties, and activities for children. Of the dozens of visitors, some have returned to the city and started projects based on experiences of reconnection with nature in Ramaviva.
Living Energy Farm (USA)
Installing Direct Drive DC Microgrids in community centers and low income households in Puerto Rico, this year, they received an award at the Empower a Billion Lives competition Florida.
These Microgrids make coal, natural gas, nuclear, and industrial “renewable” energy systems unnecessary, making a significant impact on ecological regeneration. The energy systems also support sustainable community economic development because they can run for decades without the need for replacement of expensive components. Being community-based and not individually focused, they stand out from most renewable energy systems. This social awareness spreads to cultural regeneration, as the project also supports community centers in the areas where they work. To contribute to economic regeneartion, they ensure the energy systems do not need ongoing replacement of batteries or other expensive components.
Semilla de Mares (Mexico)
They planted 4 new regenerative forests with syntropic agroforestry, with more than 4,000 medicinal and food plants and more than 900 trees in small-scale family projects. They coordinated and produced a tour that brought the pioneer of Syntropic Medicinal Agriculture (Nathalia Muguet) to Mexico for the first time, together with Remedios del Bosque (a natural cosmetics and herbalist company) and trained more than 60 people. Building on that inspiration, they expanded the virtual education of Syntropic Agriculture into Spanish, in collaboration with Sitio Semente, pioneers in syntropic agriculture and the largest school of this tool globally. They also launched an online programme for all of Latin America and provided training to almost 100 people in 4 states.
In addition, they began comprehensive and highly biodiverse reforestation in 3 different ecosystems. They coordinated the transition of 2 ranches of more than 200 hectares from monoculture to regenerative agriculture. They co-facilitated events in cooperation with 10 national slow fashion projects to raise awareness about the relationship between what we plant and what we wear. They also co-created a retreat with the Chiwik cooperative to grow textile dyeing inputs with regenerative agriculture. This led to launching the first Sintropia Textil workshop in Mexico, an organic cotton planting workshop with regenerative and biodiverse agriculture, spinning and dyeing with plants hand in hand with the Kadi cooperative, a project dedicated to the preservation of native cotton in the state of Oaxaca .
They started their first agroforestry experiment in 2018 and today have planted 1.5 hectares of agroforestry. They still have 23 hectares available :). Their approach is to expand only when they feel the area implemented is well-taken care of and low maintenance and currently have 5 agroforestry systems. The latest is much better than the first as they learn through training and observation. They are motivated by the belief that mother nature is an incredible teacher if you have the patience to observe and see the reaction of our actions in the systems.
Culturally, they have an approach of overcoming challenges together, through sharing and integrating diversity. They also have a commitment to break the invisible barriers that exist between ourselves and the unknown.
A highlight of the year was joining GEN’s Twinning Schools project where they contributed to educational resources and creative material. This led them to further explore the possibilities to share these with their children, schools and neighboring educational projects. Resulting in an emerging communication network, they also reconfigured a more solid and more dynamic administrative pedagogical council.
Ecomundi shares their experiences with the community of Chalmita, such as zero-waste initiatives, conserving water with dry toilets, as well as theater and Yoga classes. The community offers spaces for low-income families through barter of services. They practice education not as a business but as an exercise in constant reflection.
Terra Frutis (Ecuador)
With the mission to be a vegan intentional community, practicing agroforestry, permaculture, and syntropic agriculture, they made significant progress this year including expanding the food forest and enhancing the building infrastrucutre.
The project cleared and re-planted approximately 40 hectares of open pasture land with food forest pioneers. They planted hundreds of fruit-bearing plants, including exotic fruit trees, to create a biologically-diverse food forest. They created private structures for community members and visitors to sleep in. They also established showers, hot water, washing machines, cooking facilities, and recreational spaces, including a community center building.
The community has been practicing sustainable living by utilizing composting toilet systems and filtering water from a small spring on the land. They have also been promoting a healthy whole foods plant-based diet, abstaining from oil, white sugar, and refined/processed foods. To address the economic area of regeneration, they have created income opportunities by providing a supportive environment for community members to explore and develop their entrepreneurial skills. Some of these includ artistic and creative pursuits, manual labor, online income, and teaching. They also support the local economy by sourcing local materials and goods whenever possible, building relationships wiht local farmers, artisans, and businesses.