Living in Sustainable Villages project
The Living in Sustainable Villages project was initiated by GEN Germany in 2017. It supports collaborations between ecovillages and nearby conventional villages aimed at identifying workable solutions to key social, economic and other issues affecting rural settlements. It has inspired similar projects in Scotland and elsewhere.
Many ecovillages provide working examples of how to reinvigorate rural communities in areas facing depopulation due to demographic, economic and social decline. Their expertise in this area are now being recognised and shared with other communities in their home regions. The Living in Sustainable Villages project is run by GEN Germany in cooperation with local authorities in Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and Baden-Württemberg. The first phase of the project ran during 2017 and 2018, funded by the German environmental agency and co-developed with input from academic researchers. A second phase began in 2019. In the first phase, five established ecovillages (Sieben Linden, Lebensgarten Steyerberg, Gastwerke Escherode, Schloss Tonndorf and Schloss Tempelhof) worked in partnership with conventional communities negatively impacted by factors such as falling soil fertility, drinking water quality, biodiversity and aesthetic qualities of the landscape due to agricultural intensification, disappearance of traditional forms of employment forcing people to commute long distances or migrate to urban areas in search of work, pressures on general services, increasing numbers of vacant houses and overall aging of the population. All of these are leading to declines in the social, cultural and economic quality of village life.
Ecovillages work with their partner villages to identify common problems and develop a positive vision of their community's future. These visions include factors such as revitalisation of village social life, retention and/or immigration of young people, strengthening local and regional economies and increasing employment, sustainable agriculture (including smallholder production and local marketing, increasing local and regional self-reliance in key areas such as energy production, and the revival of cultural traditions. They will then collaborate on making these visions a reality, creating a village sustainability plan and fostering the linkages, learning and mutual support among people, places and organisations necessary to implement the plan. It is hoped that this will lead to development of a transferable methodology and build capacity to support other villages inspired by the project to do similar work. Projects initiated include supporting farmers to adopt practices influenced by permaculture, developing sustainable transport systems, and actively implementing methods for community-building. An English language presentation gives an overview of the project. The German project page is very extensive.
The project was the inspiration for the Moray ecovillage development project in Scotland, which later led to development of Ecovillage transition in action, an Erasmus+ strategic partnership project led by GEN International that began in 2019.