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Mise à jour : 28-09-2023 - Promouvoir le concept d'écovillage en Afrique - Ecovillage Movement in Africa

Eco-Villages for Africa

Strategies and Issues

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Why should we support the eco-village movement in Africa?


Contribution from Roland Mayerl - June 2017 Contact: lreyam (AT) gmail.com


Promoting eco-villages in Africa
Reducing the economic and social divides
Fighting rural exodus and immigration to Europe




-- Why should we support the eco-village movement in Africa?

-- The origin of eco-villages

-- What is the situation in Africa?


-- To highlight the concept of eco-village / The first stones

     1.- charter

     2.- strategy

     3.- accompanying structure

     4.- tools

     5.-  traps and possible drifts

     6.-  actors to be mobilized, the partners to be found


Why should we support the eco-village movement in Africa?
Not only to curb the rural exodus and thus also immigration to Europe, but above all to bring hope to young people, to women, to men, by making them want to undertake on macro-scale in their villages and even in urban areas.
Eco-villages will create jobs and improve the quality of life for all those who may feel left out of the development of their country.
In the spirit of the eco-villages, the objective is to give small groups of inhabitants the tools and knowledge to ensure them in the long term more autonomy food, energy and financial, while allowing them to open more on the world.
Here you will find a holistic approach to the issues, as well as models and resources to motivate and guide the various actors of this movement from the inhabitants to the politicians, experts, artisans, inventors, researchers and students.
This is of course a first outline of proposals and subjects of reflection to encourage others to refine each of these themes and thus arrive at a global vision of what could be a method, a process, A policy to promote the movement of eco-villages in Africa.
All that is presented here is in open-source and free of rights.
All good wills are welcome to improve the content as the presentation. (References, comments, ideas, methods, translations into several languages ...)

As an architect I would like to compare the project of promotion of eco-villages in Africa with that of the concrete realization of a building or an eco-neighborhood.
Initially an idea, a concept, a vision, then a program, a timetable. Once must quickly find the right partners and collaborators who join the project, and also convince the administration, the technical departments, the bankers. The obtaining of appropriate funding for each phase of the project requires its completion within a given timeframe. It is necessary to define a specification, to realize the first sketches, then the plans, models, a model apartment, etc ... all well before the start of building.

Promoting eco-villages on a continent-wide scale is an arduous and long-term task.
Baptizing "eco-village" with great pomp, one or the other existing development project combining a few appropriate technologies and agriculture is not enough to launch and diffuse this concept across Africa, especially when we know that this continent will double population in the next thirty years.
From my point of view, therefore, it is necessary to implement approaches based on what has worked elsewhere.
A dual approach in fact: one that irrigates the continent from what works around the world, the other from the bottom up that it is a question of convincing and training but also collct information about local know-how which must be valued.

Among the questions and the areas outline

How to start a project? How to manage it? How can we ensure its sustainability?
How to find financing?
How can we forge links with experts, authors of good practices?
How to convince men and elders, how to train women?
How can we put in place a democratic dynamic?
How can we prevent that only a few privileged people could take advantage of information and power?
How to avoid corruption, clientelism, embezzlement?
How to educate otherwise?
How to build quality buildings with local materials?
How to ensure food and energy self-sufficiency?
How to create jobs?
How to make the villages attractive especially for young people?

Imagine how we could accelerate the dissemination of the concept of ecovillages in Africa:
Draw inspiration from existing good practices around the world:
identify them, visit them, analyze them. Create a network for exchanging information.
Share information with as many multilingual websites as English, French, Portuguese, Arabic and Swahili regional languages, Wolof etc., lowcost tablet, conferences, TED interventions, local radio, documentary films, TV
Motivate universities, schools of architecture, management (South and North) to take charge of the themes mentioned here (surveys, memories, competitions of ideas, international competitions ...)
Imagine ways for information to reach the field

Imagine how to create across the continent three types of networks, a kind of network of places that will be responsible for promoting the emergence of ecovillages (information, training, financing, management, sustainability of achievements ...)

- Network of resource centers - at least one by geographic or linguistic area - drawing on GRT (Groupe de Ressources Techniques) in Canada or CAUE (Conseil d'Architecture er d'urbanisme et de l'environnement) in France or Plan International strategy

- Network of training centers such as universities for field actors (Barefoot College)
India - Barefoot College - The Tilonia model Barefoot school

- A network of model works that can be visited and provide training and which also glean information on the remarkable local achievements to be shared with all. Inspired by Songhai in Benin, Development Alternatives Group in India, etc

Imagine how to finance the dissemination of information, the realization of networks and then the financing of the projects proposed by the inhabitants themselves:
Role of the African Diaspora around the world, crowdfunding, foundations, development agencies, European Union (projects supported by the European Commission on immigration), collection of a tax on air tickets (1 / 00), creating a cooperative ethics body (an alternative to Western Union), forging links with African VIPs and showbiz and sports stars.

Move closer to Habitat (UNCHS) in Nairobi to find favorable echoes, as important institutions in the world

See how much the big GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) could support this movement.

. .. all this must of course be only a basis for discussion.

Ideally, a Mindmapping, a multilingual forum, collaboration spaces should be put online. It is also necessary to set up a small team of reflection to draft a basic text that could be sent to the Schools of Architecture and Management, Universities, experts and institutions for advice.
This amended text could then be submitted to institutions such as the European Commission to finance a first stage of feasibility and testing in several African countries in partnership with European NGOs.


May the collected information and good practices pinned in the world be useful to all stakeholders in the field open for the future. Networking is desired, thank you to share with me information about your projects, best practices known to you
Roland Mayerl architect, project developer, ideas smuggler - It would therefore be in Europe's interest to support this movement by financing the implementation of local resource centers: a project would have to be developed to submit it to the countries of the North and to the European institutions.
Contact me to set up a project on this subject and then submit it to the EU in particular.

Email: Roland Mayerl  lreyam ( @@@ ) gmail.com 




The origin of eco-villages
In the northern countries (eg Europe, North America, Australia) eco-villages have developed mostly at the initiative of groups of individuals who have a certain degree of self-sufficiency based on a model Economic environment where ecology has a prominent place and gives priority to man and his environment. The services available outside the community are those granted to all citizens, including the possibility of connecting to the energy and information distribution networks, having local means of transport, health services and An education system often multi-faceted. The inhabitants can thus focus on their projects. They usually provide their own funding. Eco-villages are, in this context, a choice of the present for the future, laboratories of participatory democracy that come in various forms: eco-villages based on ecology and agriculture or on a spiritual philosophy, Eco-villages structured to revitalize sociability, intergenerational or which follow broader objectives based on notions of sustainability and equity.
The inhabitants of these eco-villages thus federate around a common vision to create a community, a village or a sustainable hamlet, a model in liaison, echoing the social, ecological and economic life of their respective countries. It is also about promoting solidarity, education, leisure, culture, training, personal development, the fight against exclusion, the exchange of knowledge and skills, the enhancement of the historical and cultural heritage Protection of the natural environment, renewable energies and green tourism.
Today, some ecological precepts are being taken up in initiatives on a larger scale, such as Villages and Cities in transition, eco-neighborhoods and even green or ecological cities.


What is the situation in Africa?
On this continent, at least for the moment, only a small number of people - some visionaries among intellectuals, researchers and policy-makers, some pioneers on the ground - think that it might be possible, if not desirable, to To adapt the eco-village concept to the rural world of African countries in order to vitalize the campaigns and integrate them into the development process. A concept that would also apply to peri-urban areas. The challenge is that this approach, this global project, would be able to bring better living conditions to their inhabitants - especially to women with their children and to young people - which should help to curb the rural exodus and even Encouraging young people and members of the diaspora to return "to the country" in their villages.
The target audience is not, a priori, not really asking! The vast majority of rural people do not even know the existence of eco-villages and it is possible to imagine that the villagers, like everywhere else, are rather suspicious if not resistant to changes likely to change their habits and local equilibrium, We can also say that a poor person is a priori a very enterprising person and the only thing she desires in life is to go forward. Rural people are surely the largest reservoir of small entrepreneurs in the world. If villagers are asked to help them, with the money that is going to arrive, they will applaud with both hands, but it will not necessarily be their project and the risk is great that the project will hover as soon as the tap Of subsidies will be closed.


However, villagers generally have almost no financial means, no know-how, to start an eco-village. In most cases, the capacities of local or national authorities in financial and managerial terms are rather limited. Cities, major works, and the large-scale economy concentrate most of the investment. Infrastructure (roads, telecommunications, health, education) remain relatively undeveloped on the continent or even lack in some rural areas. The models conveyed, in particular by the media, are in tune with those put forward by globalization and fuel the dream of individual social success with rapid gains in the city if not fleeing to the north. The model of the eco-village is still to be promoted.

The goal of transforming thousands of villages into eco-villages in a few years is a real challenge, especially in terms of persuasion and logistics.
An eco-village is not, in any case, only a few solar panels, a water tank, a biogas plant, a chicken coop and a drip installation. First of all there are men and women, young people and the elderly who must be convinced, engaged in a process, a process that they must understand in order to make them actors of change, A sine qua non condition to ensure the sustainability of these eco-villages and their duplication across the continent.
Or in other words, in our reflection for Africa, we must add to the concept of eco-village the setting up of a sort of structure of sensitization, training and monitoring as well as the implementation A network of eco-villages themselves, a little by analogy, as for the human body, in which organs, organisms and programs ensure the connections between cells, their functions and their reproduction.

In the long run, it is important that villagers be able to take ownership of a culture of ecological lifestyles that respects the planet and that they are able to take charge of themselves in order to develop their Environmentally friendly way integrating ecology and technology. Women are the surest actors in this change.


To highlight the concept of eco-village and bring hope to the villagers, it is thus a matter of quickly laying the first stones with in particular:


     1.- a charter

     2.- a strategy

     3.- an accompanying structure

     4.- tools

     5.  traps and possible drifts

     6.  the actors to be mobilized, the partners to be found


1. a charter


Gathering, federating around a few simple ideas

A charter is to bring a vision, clarify the objectives, to constitute a kind of label to which the candidates for an eco-village project can refer.
A charter is a way to give the concept of eco-village a clear framework assimilable by all. The charter, which is yet to be drafted, could also be disseminated in the form of a video in the local language and perhaps through a play. The importance of empowerment, food self-sufficiency, energy autonomy and openness to the world, as well as alternative models (agro-ecology, agroforestry, family farming) will be highlighted. For more autonomy, but also less autarky!
Each eco-village retains the possibility, from there, to define its orientation, its sensitivity and its own functioning while privileging the networking and exchanges with the other eco-villages near or far to encourage the duplication of Successes while learning mistakes in an exchange of know-how. An eco-village is also the interaction of its members and the community that can generate a local economy.
This applies to "urban eco-villages", "eco-neighborhoods" where shared gardens, agricultural terraces, barter services, non-polluting transport etc. can spread.



2. a strategy


Let the eco-village become the project of the inhabitants

It is a question of encouraging the inhabitants of a village to work together on a global project within a village association, to take charge of it, to be the actors of change. From this point of view, the eco-village is a very good endogenous development solution that will help to mobilize all actors in the field and even in the diaspora. A way to combine incentives and advice from the eco-village network with the grassroots dynamics ("Poverty Alleviation Efforts")
The key word is empowerment: from assistance to autonomy or how to encourage villagers to become entrepreneurs of their lives. A reversal of perspectives that shifts from a charitable relationship to an ability to rise, to negotiate projects. Empowerment is increasing the capacity of villagers to participate, negotiate, and control projects. This involves investing especially in the women who produce the most returns both social and economic. Ordinary people are the best experts for themselves. This implies ongoing training, follow-up, via the network.


This overall project should also include:

- the means to acquire a social protection system which constitutes an investment whose benefits will be considerable (mutual health insurance)
- a structure that allows the representation of small farmers, notably via the eco-village network (see Plan International's policy on this subject)
- a program of micro-credits without interest as it is done in Bolivia
- solutions as a complementary local currency and a local exchange system (barter of services)
- tools to encourage the search for external funding (especially crowdfunding) and the ability to directly enter into partnerships with organizations in the North
- adoption of agro-ecology, agroforestry (training, networking)
- means to promote strategies from the "base of the pyramid", Social Business as well as the consideration of the gender dimension
- equipment to encourage young people to stay in the village (sports hall, Internet access, bakery / café, cultural section)
- training in autonomy (not autarky) and in social business and self-entrepreneurship.



3. an accompanying structure



Starting from germs
Developing a strategy around a network of organizations in charge of the accompaniment condition the development of the movement of eco-villages in Africa.

... to disseminate the concept, promote the movement of eco-villages, ensure the follow-up and sustainability of the works, promote the exchange of knowledge and skills at the local and international level, it is absolutely necessary to imagine relays, Organizations (Resource Centers) and resource persons (experts from all over the world) who can accompany the inhabitants.


- the creation of Resource and Demonstration and Training (CDRF) - similar to the Technical Resource Groups (GRT) in Quebec or the Community Design Centers (CDC) in the United States - centers serving a group of The order of a dozen eco-villages for example (according to a zoning to be defined and according to the density of the eco-villages), Centers capable of ensuring the diffusion of know-how, training in the democratic spirit (Empowerment, bottom up), offering vocational training courses and project monitoring. These centers will also be places of demonstration of perennial solutions. They will be equipped with telecentres and community radios, develop prototypes adapted to local conditions and will liaise with experts both nationally and internationally. These centers will contribute to fostering a nursery of innovative solutions, the creation of crowdfunding sites and micro-credits services without interest that can ensure the financing of projects. They must be rapidly self-sufficient from a financial point of view, financed in the long term by the villagers themselves. These Centers would also be responsible for instilling a spirit of co-operation, civic and team work between villages, community mutual assistance and the setting up of mutual health insurance schemes. The centers will finally educate villagers to take action against corruption (see the Rwandan model).


- the creation of cooperatives owned by its members who assume democratic control and use its services. Basic democratic body to oversee projects. An example is the model developed by Plan International, which focuses on education, training of executives and the establishment of democratic structures.

- the judicious exploitation of young parties in the city (their desire to act for their villages: valuing volunteering) and the diaspora (crowdfunding on community projects, sharing of skills)

- raising students' awareness in schools (example of the Moderne school in Dagana with its kitchen garden managed by the pupils and its exemplary cleanliness). Sensitization also of the faithful on their places of worship.



4. Tools


Adapting tools to the real expectations of the inhabitants

... to raise awareness, train, support, inform, convince, organize, mount and manage projects, find funding and raise awareness of sustainable development issues.

Tablets to convince and exchange on good practices in the world
It is a question of providing villagers with tablets that enable them to learn about good practices in the world as well as tools for them to set up and manage their projects; The Android 7 inch tablet from Aakash for example is sold at 45 dollars (10 to 12 million copies produced in 2012)
Informing and training are essential steps in the success of eco-villages.
This involves collecting, processing, disseminating information, creating databases accessible to everyone (even without access to the Internet), media libraries, adaptations to local languages

Dissemination of information via tablets but also via community radio, wifi (tin cans), schools (hole in the wall in India), using motorbikes all over the world like in India (broadcasting of information, usb keys , Transport of goods), traveling cinema, a theatrical company as a means of raising awareness


Accompanying over the long term:
Propose aids, services, tools to ensure access to finance. The networking, in relation (coming from volunteers), provision of sites of the Crowdfunding Platforms type, promoting referrals via the diaspora, privileging social business, empowerment, buttom up (by offering continuous training ), Ensuring the sustainability of projects (monitoring, evaluations, advisory services, networks of international experts), evaluation of the local NBB (in the spirit of Bhutan's national happiness - Happiness as an engine of growth) The populations, promote the swarming ... / ...

Through eco-villages, it is a matter of developing a solidarity economy: Barter and local exchange systems are one of the ways to accelerate the development of Africa:

- economies that operate in local currencies: these local currencies allow a community to make full use of its existing productive resources, especially the unused labor force, which has a catalytic effect on the rest of the local economy)

- Local Exchange Systems (SELs) or Service Trochus. For example, community projects (collective works) have been financed in Senegal, in vouchers, by the Doole network ("the strength of the union" in Wolof) - set up by Enda
See also the many exciting initiatives that accompany the emergence of the collaborative economy and that could very well adapt to the African continent


Openness to the world is not only about being able to interact with others, it is above all an extraordinary means of learning and of creating links within the framework of the most diverse networks. The benefits can be multiple: support with the crowdfunding, coming of volunteers, tourism developmentt ...


Be part of networks to support the eco-village movement
There are many networks that are waiting for the opportunity to expand in Africa: For example: The various GEN (Ecovillage Network - Global Ecovillage Network - Europe, North America, Oceania, Asia); The Incredible Edible networks; Cities and Villages in Transition, Eco-neighborhoods, organizations promoting What Works, New Heroes that move the world (New Heroes), Alternatiba to raise awareness (building a better world by The Climate Challenge! Citizen Transition) etc.


Refrences and details on the site




5. traps and possible drifts



Avoid diversions, recovery,
Limit the role of intermediaries

It is illusory to think that states can organize and finance everything, they do not have the means to do so at the level of a country! Alternative solutions must therefore be preferred.
On the other hand, there is a proven risk of misappropriation of funds collected at the international level with a view to developing eco-villages, in particular to cover operating costs which are often excessive. Corruption is certainly a global scourge, but in Africa it is practiced on a large scale to the level of the most deprived if the latter has a little power. According to press reports almost every day, the concept of eco-villages is also likely to be recovered - if not in part - by politicians, heads of agencies or associations of organizations more or less Ecological or religious - sometimes created just for the purpose of raising funds - for ultimately a few personal interests. This predisposition of institutional actors should not be overshadowed. The presentation, with great pomp, of some pilot projects - sometimes developed or recovered from old projects - is not enough. Too often these projects are ephemeral because they are not actually carried by the inhabitants themselves.
(See also Rwanda's actions against corruption in this area).


Towards self-financing of development in Africa: A small part of the amount of external aid reaches populations. The major part is intended for the provision of administrative services in the transfer of resources mobilized. The phenomenon of "leaking bucket" thus hits development aid: a good part of the initial resources is "lost" in the process of making them available - Georges Vivien Houngbonon



It is up to the inhabitants to take charge ("Help you and the sky will help you")!
The village space is a hierarchical space. The founding principles of the village order, without being fundamentally challenged, are gradually eroding because of the influence of social fields. The associations, the NGOs in the field, have created real semi-autonomous social fields, regulated by specific norms that certain authors have called "project law" and which have stimulated a real dynamics of local development. (Examples of Benkadi, Suco, Ben-Ba and Plan International). However, they can also lead to conflicts that may cripple the start-up of projects and, above all, jeopardize their sustainability.

How can we create more solidarity-based villages and the socialization of projects?
Between tradition and modernity. It is a question of taking into account the relations of the existing forces between the social fields and the strategic groups that animate them. Reports of forces also between local elites, chiefdoms or chieftains, teachers, elders, notables, religious and even holders of certain powers of witchcraft, each claiming to want to supervise the population, while preserving certain privileges. (Local Law in Africa: Local Experiences in Mali - Gerti Hesseling).
The risks of "diversion of democracy" are manifold. Strict respect for the Western democratic process is ill-suited to the logic of thinking of local actors, who more clearly conceive of village power in terms of consensus. The training of the inhabitants in democratic decision-making which is in the interest of all is essential.

Most people are unfamiliar with democratic theory and therefore do not immediately adopt democratic principles and rules. They accept new ways of doing things when they make a difference in their lives and help improve their daily lives.


Limit the role of intermediaries, brokers
The groups on the ground want any help and they adapt their needs to the help that the agency proposes and will indicate the "right" priorities. This puts the identification of needs aside. The supply of development agencies reflects the views of industrialized countries on the urgent needs of the population. Brokers risk being caught in the "authoritarian trap" and become mere transmitters of the ideas of development agencies. 5 types of potential brokers: local managers, representatives of village organizations, intermediary individuals, religious leaders, political leaders .. (more info under "Management - Good Governance")

Local and international languages
Other problems lie in the communities: the relationship between the local language and the use of a language allowing exchanges at national or even international level. Risk of privileging a new local elite.
The question also of who controls the knowledge and how to make it accessible even to the least educated, illiterate people in particular.


Prefer the buttom up, from the base to the top
Inspired by Barefoot College in India, this is a promising path. This University of Barefoot, allows illiterate women in Africa to become solar engineers in their villages. Why not be inspired to develop such universities at the level of Resource Centers.

Youth and Elder Involvement
The potential contributions of youth and elders as well as members of the diaspora are paramount. Many people have been trained in their countries or in Europe or in North America. The aim here is to invent new means to encourage them to intervene in their villages.


Determining role of women
African women are the future of Africa, even if they do not have the easy part: they represent, by their hard work and their clever ways of organization, the first economic and social agents of the black continent. "Woman is the beast of burden of Africa. This statement is always true. African women often carry on their shoulders, in all senses of the term, the economic health of the African countryside. But today, it is the women who, concretely, hold the control levers of the continent. This is the paradox of the status of women in Africa.

Short circuits - financing without intermediaries
Finally, short financing channels should be devised to prevent the greater part of the funds from disappearing during the long journey of money. There are initiatives around the world in which the money collected truly and fully benefits people on the ground.
(More information under Process-Convince) 

Dans tous ces domaines, il s'agit d'apprendre des succès et surtout des erreurs des autres, d'où, encore une fois, l'importance du partage des savoirs et des savoir faire et des outils et processus pour y arriver.


It would also be necessary to stimulate a contraceptive revolution:
The African challenge: "demographic bomb" or "demographic dividend"? May 28, 2016 on diploweb. If demographic bomb there, how to defuse it? What are the obstacles? ... The population remains predominantly rural. The child is perceived as a workforce and old-age insurance. The desire for a child remains strong: the ideal family would be 8 to 10 children in surveys in the Sahel. In addition to this, the delay in schooling, especially of girls in secondary education, the early matrimony of girls, and the near absence of public population policies in most countries.



6. The actors to be mobilized, the partners to be found


Promoting the concept of ecovillages in Africa can only be achieved with the support of a broad community of researchers, experts, donors

In the case of schools and universities, this would involve mobilizing teachers and students for briefs, field surveys, development of models etc.

It would therefore be necessary:

- undertake a systematic information campaign aimed at universities, schools, research centers, national institutions
For example:
In Senegal :
Panafrican Polytechnic Institute <info@ippdakar.com> http://ippdakar.com/accueil
In Mali: School of Architecture: esiau-infos@esiau-mali.com www.esiau-mali.com

- identify researchers, departments that might be interested and guide students on dissertations and theses that can serve the movement of ecovillages

- to find on-line submissions, theses, publications related to the topics dealt with by the ecovillages movement and to contact their authors


- draw up a list of subjects that can be studied (see list on my website: http://habiter-autrement.org/37-ecovillage-afrique/73_eco-afro.htm)

- propose synthesis texts in the main national or regional languages: English, French, Arabic, Portuguese, Swahili, Wolof etc. with a link on the Net

This requires a follow-up, a method and surely of the world to deal with it: young people or retirees for example who have time to devote to it ...
Ideally it would be necessary to get to contact schools of architecture in Europe and indeed in the world, because they could support this effort of contacts and dissemination of information with their own means.

For example, in Belgium one could try to obtain support from the school of La Cambre in Brussels

There are also networks of schools of architecture that could serve as relays (articles, announcements, calls for support ...)
North America and Europe:
European Association for Architectural Education
USA Canada Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture

There are networks through which it should be possible to find people interested in the concept of ecovillages ... as


Architectes sans frontières without borders
France/Suisse ...: http://asffrance.org/


Manager Without Borders
Projects Manager Without Borders



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