Based on shared ecological, social-economic and cultural values, eco-villages are formed by small-scale communities that cooperate with peer villages in networks. Sustainability in terms of construction methods, water and waste-treatment systems, food and energy supply, transportation as well as the social systems represents the aim of the community.
Case study – Tlholego Ecovillage
Tlholego Ecovillage is situated on 150 hectares of land near Rustenburg in the Northwest Province of South Africa. It is strategically placed between the Magaliesburg Nature Reserve and the Molokwane Iron-Age heritage site.
The Tlholego Ecovillage and Learning Centre was established by the Rucore Sustainability Foundation in 1990 as a practical way of learning about sustainability and sustainable development in a post Apartheid South Africa. Tlholego is one of South Africa’s pioneer centres for permaculture education, natural building and ecovillage development.
It consists of a residential village, training centre, eco-venue and demonstration site.
In the past 20 years Tlholego has:
Established itself as a diverse cross-cultural community comprising 25 members today; They live in community, work at the Learning Centre or work in the surrounding area.
Attracted over 3000 visitors who seek inspiration for innovative approaches to sustainability challenges.
Continues to work with leading organizations and professionals from southern Africa and globally to develop and refine their understanding and strategies for sustainable communities and rural livelihoods.
Active local participation
In 1990, the run-down cattle farm near Rustenburg, where the Tshedimosong School (place of enlightenment) established in 1982, for farm worker children was to be closed. The imminent closure of the school became a catalyst for Paul Cohen (Rucore director) to connect to a small group of people interested in saving the school and supporting his ideas around sustainability.
Contextualized Architectural Design and Building Methods
Many different building technologies had been experimented over the years in the Tlholego ecovillage. The exchange of information among the network of the eco-villages around the world allows the community to improve their technology. In the last 12 years, the Tlholego Building System (TBS) creates a high-quality, low-cost sustainable housing system. The main characteristic of this method is the use of locally available building materials, skills and labour, which significantly reduce the cost of the building.
The connections among Tlholego stakeholders, Rucore Sustainability Fundation, the local planning professionals and the University of Pretoria is helping the community to refine their ownership and land reform structure.
“The new structure provides Tlholego stakeholders with land for residential purposes and opportunities for developing the Learning Centre, Eco-venue and cooperative enterprises.
The current plan includes a residential village for members as well as further development of the training infrastructure, educational programs, organic gardens and Eco-venue enterprises.”
Social and economical development
Tlholego encourages the development of local entrepreneurs in the Rustenburg area and is currently working on an enterprise development model for recycling waste into functional art. The agricultural production is focused on organic herbs and their transformation into nourishing products.
Tlholego ecovillage promotes educational workshops, events and overnight accommodation. Educational and training workshops cover the following areas:
– Farming and gardening, natural building, water stewardship, sanitation, climate adaption, youth leadership, enterprise and integrated development.
Participation at different scales
The success of the eco-village model works on two different scales of participation. The local participation of the communities living in the place, and the partnership at the global level with association, universities, organization and NGO’s. The collaboration between this level make possible the development of the village in terms of application of new technologies and creation of networks and new partnership with potential investors.
Further Information and Sources:
Karen T. Litfin (2014)Ecovillages: Lessons for Sustainable Community, Polity Press, Cambrige