Case #905
Title: A Colombian Village to Reinvent the World
Summary: Paolo Lugari, fresh out of university in the 1960's, was invited on a flight across the Andes. He looked down and saw the Savannahs for the first time, an area four times the size of the Netherlands. He saw empty, barren, rain-leached land and had a vision. He knew that his country, like so many countries, was going to increase in population and that people were either going to tear down forests or crowd into cities and make them unbearable. He went round the universities in Bogota asking what it would take to live in an environment like that and what would grow there.

He was told nothing, because the soils were too leached and toxic, but eventually he found people who thought it would be an interesting challenge to see if it could be done. In 1971 a group of professors, students, technicians and visionaries decided to prove that they could live and thrive in one of the most brutal environments imaginable. In his book, Gaviotas - A Village to Reinvent the World, Alan Weisman tells the story of the incredible and inspiring adventure that turned the vision into reality and made it into one of the most successful environmental stories ever told.

THE STRATEGY: Take the empty, barren, rain-leached land of the Columbian (South America) Savannahs, and make them into an environment that could support human settlement and some type of agricultural product to use or sell.

*** In 1971 a group of professors, students, technicians and visionaries decided to prove that they could live and thrive in one of the most brutal environments imaginable.
*** Everybody at the village of Gaviotas was there because they had something to contribute and everyone was encouraged to come up with great ideas. They had so many inventions that they created a factory to market them.
*** The United Nations Environment Programme became involved and Gaviotas was recognised as a model village for alternative technology.
*** Because the soil was so poor, the Gaviotans learned the hydroponic techniques for growing food.
*** They found that Caribbean pines grew well and many other plants also flourished in the shelter of the young trees. They found that they could harvest the bark resin allowing them to inaugurate a forest product industry that involved leaving the trees in place and not cutting them down. From their resin-producing pines, they allowed the rainforest plants to take over and replaced the pines elsewhere. There was another bonus; these forest plants provided medicinal drugs as a replacement crop.
*** Due to political turbulence and the Colombian civil war, it is a dangerous country. But Gaviotas remains peaceful. They have no guns. The result is that their hospital has become a refuge both for the army and for the guerrillas to bring their wounded there.

IMPORTANT POINTS: *** "Elsewhere they're tearing down the rainforest. Here, we're putting it back. If we can do this in Colombia, there's hope that people can do it anywhere." (Paolo Lugari, founder of Gaviota.)

See similar articles #48 and 774.

Location: Colombia
Action: Agriculture, Conservation, Environment, Resources
Setting: Third World
Extent of Action: Local
Categories: Agriculture, Conservation, Environment, Resources
Year(s): 1971
Outcome successful
Source: : Living Lightly, #20, Summer, 2002, p. 14
Contacts:, Gaviotas - A Village to Reinvent the World by Alan Weisman
Prepared By: sl, 11/09
Rating: 0