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Ecovillage site exploration trip to southwest Spain and south Portugal

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Project name:Ecovillage site exploration trip to southwest Spain and south Portugal
Project manager:Tycho Huussen
Proposal date:12 Jul 2013
Start date:
End date:2013-11-15 00:00:00
Start capital:€ 1958.18
Fund balance:€ 1958.18


Summary

The EVD foundation is actively looking for and assessing suitable ecovillage sites. The second trip to southwest Spain and south Portugal will focus on the Sierra de Huelva and the Alentejo region in Portugal.

Introduction

Map of pueblos abandonados

Fig1. Map of pueblos abandonados in Spain [source].

A century of urbanization in Spain has left many rural areas sparsely populated. Some villages that provided a home to small farming communities for centuries have been completely deserted. These pueblos abandonados (Fig.1) are getting more attention recently. Mostly from people who appreciate their nostalgic qualities and the beautiful natural setting of many of these pueblos. In addition to touristic interest there are also groups and local governments who wish to rehabilitate these 'ghost towns'. EVD wants to connect to these groups and propose to explore the potential to convert these pueblos into modern ecovillages. Ecovillages are designed to be economically largely self-sufficient and we believe that they will bring back life and economic opportunity to the surrounding area.

No one seems to know exactly how many abandoned villages there are (Fig.1 is not complete), but most estimates speak of "thousands of pueblos abandonados". Tycho Huussen went on an exploration trip in April/May 2013 in his camper van (Fig.2) and visited a couple dozen pueblos abandonados along the way (some pictures were posted on the EVD Facebook page). Figure 3 gives an impression of villages in Aragon, Castilla-La Mancha, and Castilla y Leon.

The trip in April/May also explored Huelva province in the southwest of Spain. This region and in particular the Sierra de Huelva seems to offer some advantages for the development of an ecovillage. The climate is pleasant all year round with mild winters and relatively cool summers. The area can be reached from Sevilla and Faro within 1.5 hours and from Huelva in less than an hour. Faro and Huelva have international airports and the city Huelva has nice beaches within a 20 min. drive. The existence of a fully functional, beautifully located rehabilitated ecovillage El Calabacino exemplifies the potential of the area.

EVD is also looking into ecovillage sites in nearby Portugal. The owner of a 31 hectare plot in south-central Portugal (the Alentjo region) has expressed the wish to develop the land into an ecovillage.

The EVD van

Fig2. The EVD exploration van.

Pueblos abandonados

Fig3. Clockwise from top left: La Mata (Castilla y Leon), Lacasta (Aragon),
Valdeancheta (Castilla-La Mancha), and Juñez (Aragon).

Objective

The first objective of this project is to visit the owner of a 31 hectare piece of land in south Portugal. Together with owner we will explore the possibilities to develop the site into an ecovillage. The second objective is to further investigate the Sierra de Huelva and identify the most suitable sites for ecovillage development in this region. The third objective is to foster our relationship with existing groups in the region that either work towards the establishment of an eco-community or are already living in one.

Results

The outcome of this trip for me is the realization that people are more important than location. A group of committed people who share the responsibilities and energize each other is the foundation a successful ecovillage. Finding a good and affordable location is a secondary challenge.

Within a group one of the main challenges is to develop and maintain open communication between the members. I also observed that it is important that strong personalities practice restraint in taking the lead. A strong leadership might be helpful to achieve a certain material goal but not to build community.

Whatever grows from the community as a whole is much more likely to fulfill the needs of the people. Also it is more likely to fully employ the creativity, knowledge and energy in the group and therefore more likely to achieve better, more sustainable and more appealing solutions to practical problems. And if things don't turn out as hoped it is a learning experience for everyone without the risk of resentment towards the leader(ship).

My experience with the eco-building project is that doing things together in an organic, loosely directed way can be very productive and fun. Thanks to the enthusiasm and deep involvement of the volunteers we were able to build the home in four weeks with minimal resources.

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