Palmira, Valle del Cauca, Colombia / December 1, 2018


2037 2037 Civilian


On a 3-hectare site in Colombia, 88 women victims of the Colombian conflict have developed a sustainable community for the last fifteen years. Wall panels were made from recycled debris from construction works. The women built the houses with their own hands but did not pay any money in mortgage or down payment, as the houses were free. In 2009, the first 41 women moved in with their families, although the sewage and water system were only partially working as they had no other alternative for they had been evicted from their rented shacks. In 2012 we received from the Central Government subsidies for 39 more houses. It took three years for the houses to be ready for occupancy. Now there are 80 women living in Nashira with their families, 310 people.

Nashira has an elected board of women composed of one member from each housing complex, one internal coordinator who is elected from the founders, one external coordinator who is chosen amongst the daughters raised in Nashira bellow the age of 30 and 6 young people sons or daughter of the founders bellows the age of 30.

Fifteen years later, Nashira has become a robust project. Nashira has drinking water. The sewage system does not contaminate as it uses natural disposal technology. Waste is recycled and a source of income. The women are organized into production groups specializing in activities such as recycling and collecting waste from Nashira and the neighbouring houses, a nursery garden, a community store, elaborating recycled products such as hand made paper, pappier mache arts and crafts, glasses made from recycled bottles, ceramic ware, a solar restaurant and eco-tourism development. Permaculture is established and staple food is produced. They hold a market on the first weekend of every month to sell their products and strengthen a solidarity economy with their own regional complementary money Nashiras.

Institutionally, the project was conceived as a means of empowering women. Women in Nashira say: “Men help us but we take the decisions. There is very little crime in Nashira. Unlike low-income neighbourhoods, the houses in Nashira don’t need fences or iron bars. Family violence has been dramatically reduced as the community has established their own ethical and behavioural procedures. On the cultural side, the children learn to dance salsa and have a salsa group. English is taught every Saturday.

Nashira has become a visitor’s destination, holding a National Tourist Certificate, which allow us to receive visitors. People can stay in the houses of the community, as in each house there is a room for a visitor. There is also a restaurant where local food is served. University students come and do their thesis in Nashira; some of them have been published as books.

In 2016 we were one of the 10 projects chosen by the UN Habitat awards. The international media company “VICE” made a documentary that won several international recognitions. Nashira also received in 2017 The Prestigious National collective leadership award, and in 2018 the Hildur Jackson award given by The Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) for an extraordinary project.

There is no doubt that GEN has to become not a way for a better quality of life for those few, who decide to live in a different way but a way of living for most people. The case of Nashira where the houses were free and it was a solution for women displaced by the Colombian conflict has proven that GEN can also be a model to solve the problems of poverty in most regions of the world.

Angela Cuevas, Nashira un canto de Amor Palmira, Valle del Cauca, Colombia