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GUNUNG MAS ECOVILLAGE - WEST ACEHGreetings! We are the Gunung Mas Community from West Aceh. We are a community formed after the great earthquake and tsunami that struck the coasts of Aceh and caused so much devastation at the end of 2004. Nearly all of us lost family and friends to the deadly wave. Some of us lost many members of our family. A few of us are left with just one or two distant family members. In many ways we are all children of the tsunami.

The great wave left countless people wandering around the country looking for family members who might have survived. We did not all always find our lost relatives but here in Gunung Mas we found a community. It is this spirit of community which gives us support and now we strive to make a new life. With the help of the Almighty we are trying to give life meaning again not only for us but for all Achenese people. Gunung Mas means mountain of gold in our language. Hope is gold.

So here we are in Gunung Mas with Abu Ibrahim and Abu Othman, who founded the community. Abu Ibrahim is now 106 years old. We are all his family. Many of us still live in tents but it doesn’t matter. Little by little we build houses so that we can all live more comfortably with a proper roof over our heads. Sometimes when we have petrol for the chainsaw, we bring trees from a nearby forest, drag them down the stream and then cut them for pillars, floors and walls as we have always done. The women make the roofing out of Sago leaves in the traditional style.

GUNUNG MAS ECOVILLAGE - WEST ACEHWe now have two schools. We call them Pesantren: one for girls and one for boys: Some two hundred in all, many of them orphans from war or the tsunami. We built everything with our own hands. The Aid agencies seemed to be interested only in building where there were formerly communities by the coast destroyed by the tsunami. Altogether we are about 300 people. Sometimes people hear of what we are doing and come from afar to join us and help us to realize our dream. They feel comfortable here and life is meaningful again.

Actually we could call our community an eco-village. It’s all about repairing the environment and repairing ourselves. We have plenty of land, more than a thousand hectares we can use and a big powerful river nearby. If we could get a micro turbine, the river would give us plenty of electricity with no carbon emissions. This would set a pattern for the rest of post-tsunami, post-war Aceh, which at present gets irregular supplies of electricity from outside Aceh. We want to start thinking locally and to become self sufficient and sustainable. Now the army has gone since the Peace Agreement of August 2005 and there is a new government of an autonomous Aceh. Let’s make a new Eco-Aceh! Our village is a really pioneering project on new land. 



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Dancing Rabbit
Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage

Ecovillage Resources

  1. Websites
  2. Finding Ecovillages Online

Ecovillage Projects in Vietnam

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Ecovillage Projects in Vietnam

By Diana Leafe Christian / (March, 2011)

At Tan Van Chu Ecovillage, Vietnam. Professor Toshio Ogata, Director of Global Environment Project in Asia (GEPA) from Chuo University in Tokyo, is at far left, in blue.

Since the early 1990s the government of Vietnam has set up small ecovillage projects in that country’s poorer, ecologically vulnerable rural areas — barren coastal sandy areas along the Central Coast, and three different habitats (coastal dunes, wetland areas, and mountainous areas) — in the floodplains of the North Delta. The projects are developed and managed by Vietnam’s Institute of Ecological Economy, and its Institute for Strategy and Policy on Natural Resources and Environment — both programs of the country’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE).

The Institutes developed and teach two permaculture-like strategies for ecological restoration and economic development in rural areas: an integrated garden/fishpond/livestock (VAC) plan for coastal dunes and floodplain areas, and an integrated garden/forest/fishpond/forest (VACR) plan for mountain areas. Government funding for these projects was sometimes supplemented by grants from other countries, including Sweden and France.


What is an Ecovillage?

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What is an Ecovillage?

Posted on April 10, 2011 by Daniel Greenberg

Ecovillages are green communities on the cutting edge of sustainable human development. But what exactly is an ecovillage? Defining the term is challenging because, like “sustainability”, ”ecovillage” is used in many contexts with different meanings.

Robert Gilman offered an early and enduring definition in 1991 when he wrote

“an ecovillage is a human-scale, full-featured settlement in which human activities are harmlessly integrated into the natural world in a way that is supportive of healthy human development, with multiple centers of initiative, and can be successfully continued into the indefinite future.”

This is clearly a tall order. In fact, using a strict interpretation of this definition, one could argue that that there are no ecovillages on the planet today. So regardless of what definition we use, ecovillages are better thought of as communities striving towards these ideals rather than actualized utopias.

At Living Routes, we view ecovillages as living laboratories – “beta test centers” – for a more equitable, just and sustainable future. They are creating lifestyles that are both “high quality” with equitable access to resources and power and “low impact” with minimal ecological footprints. We therefore define ecovillages as “communities striving to live well and lightly together.”

Environmental and Social Responsibility

Using this simple definition, it becomes clear there are two directions towards the ecovillage model. Ecovillages within developed, resource-rich countries are typically intentionally created with members exploring how to bring their ecological impacts below local and global carrying capacities while maintaining high quality lifestyles. These ecovillages are also deeply examining the economic and political systems that put them on “top” and are often engaged in social equity and justice work in their neighboring communities, their nations, and the world.

Ecovillages within resource-poor, “two-thirds world” countries are generally indigenous, traditional communities working to elevate themselves above an “Equity Baseline” while maintaining their small footprints. They want access to adequate wealth and resources and the ability to affect political and social change. These communities also tend to have strong social bonds and are striving to honor, preserve and share their local cultures and stories, which often hold deep wisdom for how we can thrive in a post-carrying capacity world.Ecovillages as Living Laboratories for a Sustainable Future

Both intentional and traditional directions are valid and necessary in our quest to create viable models of sustainable, human-scale communities. In this way, ecovillages are helping demarcate the “livable zone” in which all humans must enter if we are to survive as a species. Being optimistic then, perhaps we could say all human settlements are nascent or developing ecovillages.



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Study abroad in ecovillages


Bring your education to life by studying in communities across the globe that are striving to live more equitable, just and sustainable lifestyles. These communities are ideal campuses to learn about and experience personal and community-based solutions to real world issues, which include:


  • Sustainable development
  • Environmental studies & research
  • Appropriate technologies
  • Consensus decision making
  • Peace and social justice
  • Worldviews and consciousness
  • Permaculture & ecological design
  • Organic agriculture
  • Fair trade
  • Local economies
  • Green building
  • Habitat restoration
  • Women's empowerment
  • Bioregional studies


Through rich, academic, interdisciplinary coursework, service learning, cultural studies and community immersions, Living Routes programs support you in developing the understanding, skills, and experience necessary to help restore your life, community and the planet to greater health and resiliency while preparing for a career that makes a difference.


 University of Massachusetts

Earn college credit from the University of Massachusetts on our semester, Summer and January-term study abroad programs. Living Routes is a carbon conscious organization.


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