Located outside the town of Cerbère, near the sea on the border between France and Spain, Can Decreix describes itself as “a centre for exploring, experimenting and practicing organic agriculture and agroecology, eco-construction and renewable energy [and] for research and activism around the ideas of degrowth.” It is possible to visit their beautiful sustainably farmed land to discuss, among other things, ways to voluntarily simplify our lives and to question our focus on monetary exchange and profit. Can Decreix also offers full courses on the concept of “degrowth” — in the hopes that participants, having been inspired by Can Decreix’s simplicity and beauty, will bring the idea back to their own communities. To learn more, visit Can Decreix’s website. Photo by alicebiketour (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
In 2011, Chololo, a village of 5,500 people in the semi-arid drylands of central Tanzania, created a system for testing best practices for climate adaptation and food security. With guidance from Tanzania’s Institute of Rural Development Planning, farmers organized into groups to pilot more than 20 ecological methods in agriculture, forestry, livestock management, and water conservation, and share successful strategies with other groups. The villagers saw significant improvements in crop yields, nutrition, and food security after just two years, and the program expanded to three more villages in 2015. Read the case study in this report from iPES-Food, and visit the Chololo Ecovillage website to learn more. Photo by Michael Farrelly
In 1998 the Balinese village of Desa Ban – a cluster of remote hamlets on arid, steep land – was home to 15,000 people living in terrible poverty and beset with serious health issues. Over the past twenty years, the East Bali Poverty Project (EBPP) has facilitated a holistic community-led approach to improving lives in the village, centered on vetiver and bamboo as a base for sustainable, diverse agroforestry systems and slope stabilization. Communities built their own rainwater harvesting systems, healthcare facilities, and schools that function as community learning and development centers, featuring organic gardens and vocational training. Their story provides a blueprint for arid, rural communities seeking to revitalize their ecosystems, communities, and local economies.
La Casa de los Ningunos is an experimental community in the Bolivian capital city of La Paz, 12,000 feet up in the Andes Mountains. They are striving to create a world in which even Los Ningunos — ‘The Nobodies,’ or have-nots — are not marginalized, because relationships in the community are not driven by profit, and basic needs and more can be fulfilled by collective labor and exchange. Read the full story of La Casa de los Ningunos in this Medium article.
Pejeng Village, which lies in a region of Bali beset by mass tourism and overdevelopment, has dedicated itself to achieving water, food, energy, and economic sovereignty. Leader Cok Agung Pemayun and the Pejeng government are creating a local economy of interdependent organizations that can provide sustainable livelihoods for the village’s 6,000 residents. Their projects so far include a community organic farm to teach best practices to local farmers, a natural textile business, water wheels for hydroelectric power and water supply, a holistic primary school, and a community conservation center managed by the Friends of the National Parks Foundation. The Pejeng government sustainable development blog and this article by Bali Lite (both in Indonesian) give further details.
In 2001, when technical services failed to create a shift toward sustainable farming practices in rural Shanxi, China, former schoolteacher Zheng Bing gathered women together for public dances. Within a few years, more than 1,000 women from 43 villages participated; this social cohesion formed the basis for a group of farming cooperatives with 2,700 families on 2,000 hectares. The group focuses on improving quality of life and ecological consciousness in rural areas, with programs such as sustainable agriculture trainings, bulk purchasing of organic food, and social services for the elderly. Read this interview with Zheng Bing and a case study in this report from iPES-Food to learn more. Photo by Chlukoe (Wikimedia Commons)
Qiandao Ecovillage, located in a valley near China’s Qiandao Lake, combines Taoist and Buddhist philosophy with natural farming practices and a zero-waste lifestyle. Founded by a Taiwanese Buddhist monk, the community views farming as a path towards the Tao, the ‘ultimate truth’, and as a practice requiring constant cultivation not just of the soil, but of the self. The village produces its own toothpaste, soap, shampoo, and fertilizer, in addition to growing its own food and getting drinking water from a fresh spring. And they have a lot of leisure time, too, involving singing, dancing, calligraphy, and more. Read more on the Global Ecovillage Network website.
Founded in 1967 on the values of cooperation, egalitarianism, income-sharing, and non-violence, Twin Oaks Community in Virginia is the oldest secular income-sharing community in the USA, and – with around 100 residents – the largest. Residents work 42 hours a week on the organic farm, in the community’s tofu and hammock businesses, or elsewhere on the site. All work – from childcare to business management – is valued equally. In exchange, residents receive free housing, food, clothing, healthcare, a monthly stipend, and a supportive and lively social network. Visit TwinOaks.org to learn more about the community. Photo by Carly Gayle
Vauban is a neighborhood in Freiburg, Germany, that is often cited as one of the best examples of sustainable urban living in the world. Built in the late 1990s on the site of an abandoned French military base, Vauban was envisioned from the beginning as a “sustainable model district,” and built using a mixture of sustainable technology and common sense to serve the needs of both people and the planet. To learn more, visit The World’s Most Successful Model for Sustainable Urban Development?. Photo by Tom Brehm (CC-BY-NC 2.0)