The Eco-Villages Empowering African Women & Saving the Planet

By Shaan Khan (22/03/21)

As a relatively new yet massively successful species, we are faced with a new lesson in life today, one that will test our ongoing capacity to learn—or will prove we have reached the cap of our success which could seal the deal that it’s all downhill from here for humanity.

The lesson being taught to us is that we can’t just use the planet’s resources and energy without considering the side effects. Through hindsight, we’ve only just begun to learn about the harm we have caused over hundreds, if not thousands of years, from our actions.

Humans want warmth, tools, luxuries and a means of fast travelling, but our method was to burn fossil fuels, creating carbon emissions that heat up the globe.

The rise in global temperature would profoundly impact a continent like Africa, where areas are synonymous for their dry spells and heat waves, leading to crop failures and droughts.

Outside of the environmental issues, I find it’s essential to consider the ethical nature of an eco-friendly initiative such as renewable energy and it’s benefits for the impoverished & unwealthy.

According to a case study analysis conducted by Mckinsey Global Institute in May 2020, those immediately affected by climate change will be the ones with little money or access to resources. Farmers, tribes and the poor in general will lose out from the little they have or what their land can provide them in this stark, encroaching future.

The problem with fossil fuels is they are held onto by corporations selling you an unsustainable commodity; you are chained to them for what they offer you throughout your lifetime.

When the land around you is dying out, or the value of their fossil fuels rise and become rare to the point they are unattainable, then what could that spell for the future of Africans & their continent?

It’s time for a sustainable world that offers humans more self-sustainability & empowerment.

Eco-Villages

Courtesy of Troy Wiley & World Summit (2018).

For decades, stripping away our rural landscapes has been a billion-dollar business that has been monopolised by select groups of corporations—leading the few to be in charge of collecting and distributing those resources to the many.

They pump the resources into supermarkets in national or international cities; with more jobs and items to find there—humans flock to the epicentres and support corporations with their mass cultivation that has been harming our planet at an unprecedented rate within human history.

The motif of an eco-village is aspiring consciousness to cultivation. Instead of indirect involvement with environmental damage through purchasing goods from unethical companies, the aim of an eco-village is to promote the traditional way of communal living and ethical trade where small communities in rural environments are in direct control of cultivation for their own living means.

These eco-villages are founded on taught values, principles and a pragmatic system for sustainable living & cultivation that has a low impact on our environment, unlike corporations fixated on the need for capital surplus.

 Some features of an eco-village include:

  • Organic farming and permaculture
  • Growing medicinal plants and planting trees as windbreaks
  • Rejuvenating biomes by saving and growing endangered plants, crops & fruit trees
  • Constructing buildings out of natural & local materials via new-age methods & based on modern designs
  • Practising the universal use of electricity over fossil fuels via clean & renewable energy generation such as wind turbines & solar panels
  • Water purification & desalination processes that support people to reuse, recycle and reduce
  • Utilising biodigesters & composting with no waste
  • Encouraging artisanal craftsmanship & self-entrepreneurship by opening up fair & ethical trade

An evolved landscape of eco-villages protect our environment and offers a lifetime sanctuary for those seeking stable lives. By fostering a means of living that is non-taxing in terms of resources used to sustain its operation, it changes ideas of what we know about lifestyles and the costs associated with them.

It takes a level of involvement and cooperation to work. Still, it’s an economical solution to offer sanctuary to the impoverished and those impacted by declining job markets or hampered by the lack of access to corporate goods such as consumer products.

It, too, is about bringing life back into rural Africa and an ethical way of doing so.

GEN

GEN is a charitable organisation that is intrinsically involved in the political advocacy and cultural movement of eco-villages over the globe— particularly in Africa. They offer education and programs for people like villagers to get them on board with the eco-village initiative or by supporting them with the transition of their village into becoming one.

Some noticeable cultural impacts GEN has achieved is the four-week educational program started back in 2013, which as stated in the program’s name, it’s ‘By Women, For Women’. GEN funded the program that connects African women with others from their continental counterparts. They are taught by the program leaders or one another and share their ideas around sustainable community living and design concepts for eco-villages.

Also, GEN has funded projects in African schools that teach & train students in sustainable community development.

But the eco-villages themselves, where is the funding that goes into their creation?

GEN outlines they are at a stage of educating to build awareness for their cause to secure more funding from private and public bodies eventually. GEN focusing on teaching farmers about permaculture should influence them to personally invest in developing their farms to reflect eco-villages.

GEN hopes the few existing eco-villages of Africa today can set an example for a means of future living that Africans can support.

An example would be the locally funded projects of transforming 45 villages in Senegal into eco-villages with the support of GEN-Senegal, as well as 13 transitioning eco-villages that received outsider funding from the UN’s Small Grants Program. Here are some other eco-villages that are established or being developed:

SEKEM, Egypt

Courtesy of SEKEM.

A sustainable development founded way back in 1977! The eco-village has a successful track record. Starting on desert land, the community now has 2,800 hectares of its eco-village covered with rich crops that supply many desirables such as natural medicines, herbal tea and textile materials. Creating a sustainable habitat through eco-centric ideas, the village’s stability and growth have led to 2,000 people or more being employed.

Incomes are fair, and settlers are taught the holistic & progressive ideology and principles that fundamentally hold together the eco-village of SEKEM—which, simply put, is to cooperate fairly and consciously.

According to SEKEM’s official website, their fair, equal and conscious outlook on sustainable living and cooperation also has bled into their treatment of gender equality. Women empowerment is at the forefront of their ideals to achieve a state of peace amongst all the inhabitants of SEKEM—to have everyone’s voice be integral to the eco-villages future…

…A future whereby 2022, SEKEM will rely 100% on renewable energy. By educating people with new ideas around permaculture, cultivation and living, they can prosper from their business success and develop further into full sustainability, achieved through 100% deployment & use of renewable energy systems.

Of course, such systems come at a cost; but are highly cost-effective & environmentally friendly in the long run, as boasted by SEKEM in their recent article. SEKEM would be going entirely off-grid, no longer relying on the public power grid and its fees. Instead, SEKEM would be directly reliant on their surrounding environment, not passively depending on businesses that don’t adopt eco-friendly approaches for their mass cultivation of energy and resources.

Another group, healing and ethically using their environment around them, is the Sankofa eco-village.

Sankofa, Ghana

Courtesy of Hope for Africa.

This eco-village project has achieved its first phase of land acquisition in Ghana to then develop & establish an eco-village onto it. This joint venture of land acquisition for this project is not the only funding model they will use, as you see with other eco-villages like SEKEM.

Their website outlines how digital communication is a means of securing collective funding via donations from a multitude of international online users that can see their vision of a worthy future.

It’s why Sankofa are using their online platform to bring awareness to the socio-economic issues that are plaguing Africa and its people, such as women—then outlining their designs and principles that will offer a solution to these problems. Sankofa also plans to promote tourism for the eco-village and provide employment in later stages but are now seeking individuals to fill out application forms for seeking settlement in Sankofa—to become early founders directly shaping its future.

Ndanifor Permaculture Eco-village, Cameroon

Courtesy of Better World Cameroon (2017).

The cultivation methods deployed by this eco-village highlight impressive nuance to eco-friendly techniques that people will undoubtedly learn from in the future. One such method includes planting then pruning nitrogen-fixing trees within farms that practise mixed cropping. Once the trees have matured, they harvest from it desirables such as middles and leaves that are used as compost. Then the trees are left to regenerate, so they carry out the same procedure in the upcoming seasons in this sustainable approach to cultivation and environmental healing.

With the success of their nuanced methods of sustainable living, they’ve acquired interest from firms seeking out their supplies through partnership to distribute to consumers worldwide. It’s a promising milestone that companies are now beginning to become aware of low-impact supply lines that are fruitful in quantity to meet the demands of mass markets.

The outcome has only further empowered residents of the eco-village who are encouraged to trade. A notable example would be the women’s eco-friendly ingenuity in creating earthen stoves that have reduced the use of wood for combustion that impacts climate change and allows them to earn a living by selling them.

This is what to expect in the operation of eco-villages—bringing power to the people.

The founder of the Ndanifor Permaculture, Konkankoh, has expressed that his eco-village concept is to put it simply ‘permaculture the African way’. He explains that the traditional way of African living was more environmentally friendly than today and offered Africans a more self-sustainable way of living. Konkankoh believes Africa can go back to its people empowering roots before colonialism and make it viable for the future by incorporating modern ideas and sciences from the international eco-friendly community.

Not only does this highlight the progressive aptitude of modern Africans out there, but it spreads some much-needed light on what was great about African history & culture. Africa has been demonised by the West, portraying its people & their ways as ‘primitive’. In reality, the West is only opening their eyes to the harmful effects they have caused to the globe and now must reassess their judgements on those they once deemed ‘backwards’.

As we’ve taken a look at the nature of what brings eco-villages into fruition within Africa, it presents a clear pattern of ‘lack of endorsement’ by large corporations wanting to hold dominance over the supply sector. But what we’ve come to notice is that ‘we’ the ‘people’ are embarking on this mission of change. Whether it’s charitable organisations, the working class worldwide, environmentalists or African women—we are supporting the cause through financial means, political advocacy or cultural representation.

We do so in hopes to save our planet and empower one another.

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