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Ecovillage Projects in Vietnam

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By Diana Leafe Christian

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.
(March, 2011)

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.

Some examples:

New homes at Ta Van Chu Ecovillage.
(1) From1993-1998, a total of 25 households in Vinh Hoa hamlet (located in a fallow and sand-covered coastal area of Quang Tri province), were taught how to excavate and realign the terrain to improve drainage in the rainy season, plant stands of trees to stop sand moving across the landscape, and create home gardens of fruit trees and vegetables. This resulted in ecological restoration, more food, and a more nutritious diet for Vinh Hoa residents.

(2) From 1996-1998 an ecovillage project was built on 99 ha (245 acres) of sloping, highly eroded hilly terrain near Ba Vi in Ha Tay province. Among the residents were 90 recently arrived households of Dzao people, an indigenous tribe who’d practiced slash and burn agriculture in another area. People were taught how to create terraced fields on contour, plant stands of trees to prevent soil erosion, improve soil quality, plant fruit trees, and dig fish ponds. Medical clinics and kindergartens were also built.

(3) In 1997-1998, 20 households of shrimp fishermen in Tinh Gia, a coastal wetland area in Thanh Hoa province, were taught to replant 20 ha (49 acres) of mangrove forest to induce the return of the native shrimp population.

(4) In 2007-2009 on 9.7 ha (24 acres) in the floodplains of Y Yen, in Nam Dinh province, 27 households were taught how to integrate fish breeding in ponds with vegetable gardens and fruit-tree orchards — again, with more and better food for the residents.

There are from 19 ecovillage projects total in Vietnam.

Visiting Thon Tong Chu Ecovillage. Professor Ogata at right.
GEN describes three kinds of ecovillages — intentional community-style ecovillages, sustainability educational centers, and traditional indigenous villages which become ecovillages. The Vietnamese projects may be a new, fourth kind of ecovillage. First, they are community-participation projects in partnership with government agencies and overseas nonprofits to train people in already-existing settlements to restore ecological balance and improve their economic situation, and second, doing this with Vietnam’s unique integrated garden/forest/fishpond/forest (VACR) mixed farming system.

Vietnamese ecovillage projects were celebrated at an international symposium, “Green Economic Corridor and Ecovillage Development,” hosted in August, 2010 by National Economics University (NEU) in Hanoi and sponsored by Global Environment Project in Asia (GEPA). GEPA is a project of the Institute of Economic Research at Chuo University in Tokyo.

Professor Ogata on his rooftop garden, Kamakura, Japan.
Learning about Vietnamese ecovillages has been quite moving for me personally. There’s a special place in my heart for Vietnam, as I was one of thousands of Americans who was against the Vietnam War back in the 1970s. I felt so badly that it went on for so long and we couldn’t stop it, and for the resulting horrible destruction in Vietnam (and, I think, damage to the collective soul of my whole generation). I first learned about Vietnamese ecovillage projects in 2007 from Professor Toshio Ogata of Chuo University’s Institute of Economic Research and founder/director of GEPA. I was visiting him on his rooftop garden in Kamakura after I’d spoken at the second Japanese Ecovillage Conference. He told me how he organizes groups of students from Chuo University and and Laos University to visit Vietnamese ecovillages and help plant “Friendship Forests” in areas along the former Ho Chi Minh Trail damaged by the US military’s defoliation tactics. When he told me about this project I broke down and cried.

So it was a great honor when Professor Ogata asked me to present a paper at the August 2010 International Symposium on Vietnamese ecovillages. While I couldn’t attend the Symposium because of a schedule conflict, my paper (on how people start intentional community-style ecovillages in the Industrialized North) will still be included in the book about Vietnamese ecovillages that Professor Ogata is compiling and editing from Symposium papers. It will be published in English by Chuo University Press in August, 2011. For information on how to order the book, email Professor Ogata at ogata~at~tamacc.chuo-u.ac.jp or see his website.

Diana Leafe Christian publisher of this newsletter, is an ecovillage activist and author who lives at Earthaven Ecovillage in the US.

Related articles:

Ecovillages in Scandinavia, Part I — July/August '10
Ecovillages in Scandinavia, Part II — November/December '10
From Russia with Love — Nov-Dec '09
Forming Our French Network of "Grouped Habitats" — May '09

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To encourage and inspire new and existing ecovillage projects with news about ecovillages and related projects worldwide.

Advisory Board

  • Lois Arkin,
    CRSP; ENA; Urban Ecovillage Network; Los Angeles Eco-Village, US
  • Peter Bane,
    Permaculture designer; publisher, Permaculture Activist, US
  • Albert Bates,
    Co-founder, GEN; Post-Petroleum Survival Guide; Director, Ecovillage Training Center at The Farm, US
  • Tree Bressen,
    Consensus & Facilitation Trainer; Cofounder, Walnut St. Co-op, US
  • Ernest Callenbach,
    Ecotopia, Ecotopia Emerging; US
  • Giovanni Ciarlo,
    GEN; ENA; Huehyecoyotl Ecovillage, Mexico
  • Raines Cohen,
    Cohousing Association of the US; Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC); Berkeley Cohousing, US
  • Leila Dregger,
    Peace journalist & writer, Peace Research Center & Ecovillage, Tamera, Portugal
  • Chuck Durrett,
    Cohousing; Senior Cohousing; Architect, The Cohousing Company; Nevada City Cohousing, US
  • Jonathan Dawson,
    Ecovillages; Findhorn Foundation, Scotland
  • Robert Gilman,
    Co-founder, GEN; Ecovillages & Sustainable Communities; City Council Member, Langley, Washington, US
  • Michael Hale,
    Yarrow Ecovillage, Canada
  • Jeff Grossberg,
    Guidestone Consulting Group, US
  • Martha Harris,
    Earthaven Ecovillage, US
  • Scott Horton,
    Editor, Permaculture Activist, US
  • Hildur Jackson,
    Co-founder, Gaia Trust; cofounder, GEN; Ecovillage Living, Denmark
  • Kosha Joubert,
    Editor, Beyond You and Me, GEN's EDE Program; Ecovillage Sieben Linden, Germany
  • Elana Kann & Bill Flemming,
    Co-developers, Westwood Cohousing, US
  • Joseph F. Kennedy,
    Designer/educator; The Art of Natural Building, US
  • Fred & Nancy Lanphear,
    Northwest Intentional Communities Association (NICA); Songaia Cohousing, US
  • Mark Lakeman,
    Founder, Portland City Repair & Village Building Convergence, US
  • Max Lindegger,
    Cofounder, GEN; Director, GEN-Oceania/Asia; Crystal Waters Ecovillage, Australia
  • Chris Mare,
    GEN's EDE Program; Village Design Institute, US
  • Ronaye Matthew,
    Canadian Cohousing Network; Cranberry Commons Cohousing, Canada
  • Kathryn McCamant,
    Architect/Developer, Cohousing Partners, Inc.; Co-author, Cohousing; Nevada City Cohousing, US
  • Dr. Bill Metcalf,
    Findhorn Book of Community Living; Professor, Environmental Sociology, Griffith University, Australia
  • Ina Meyer-Stoll,
    Co-director, GEN-Europe; ZEGG, Germany
  • Tim Miller,
    The 60s Communes; Professor of Religion, University of Kansas, US
  • Hank Obermayer,
    Mariposa Grove Cohousing, US
  • Toshio Ogata,
    Professor of Economics, Chuo University; GEPA (Global Environment Project in Asia), Japan
  • Craig Ragland,
    Executive Director, Cohousing Association of the US; Songaia Cohousing; New Earth Song Cohousing, US
  • Penelope Reyes,
    President, GEN-Oceania/Asia; Tuwâ - The Laughing Fish, Cabiao, Philippines
  • Michael Rios,
    Network for a New Culture Summer Camp East; Chrysalis, Washington DC, US
  • Jim Shenck,
    Enright Ridge Ecovillage, US
  • Nicola Shirley,
    The Source Farm Ecovillage, Jamaica
  • Tony Sirna,
    Communities Directory; Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, US
  • Jan Steinman,
    EcoReality Co-op, Canada
  • Liz Walker,
    GEN's EDE Program; Ecovillage at Ithaca; EcoVillage at Ithaca, US