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Community-Led Initiatives and SDG15: Life on Land

Community-led initiatives often use ecologically regenerative methods that go beyond sustainable production and consumption and actually enhance the biotic and ecological richness of the spaces they inhabit, manage and use. In particular, permaculture is a design method based on working with and learning from nature, whose core principles are derived from observations of natural systems and understanding of the features that promote their sustainability and resilience.[1] This thinking not only informs approaches to agriculture, settlement design, land use and planning by CLIs, but is deeply integrated into social design as a way that embeds sustainability ethics as inseparable from human wellbeing.[2] Many CLIs thus operate on the basis of individual and shared conceptual models that challenge the perceived separation of humans and nature.[3][4] Practically, this promotes settlement designs, lifestyles and management practices that integrate natural processes and elements and supports more ecologically harmonious outcomes.[5][6]

Specific approaches include:

  • Promoting biodiversity and ecological integrity through maintenance and preservation of green open spaces. For example, Cloughjordan Ecovillage in Ireland limits construction to a third of its land, with a third dedicated to allotments and other green infrastructures and another third to reforestation dominated by native species.[7]
  • Preservation and revitalization of native habitats (wetlands, forests, etc.)[8] and wildlife.[9] In a survey of 29 showcase ecovillages conducted by Global Ecovillage Network, all but one reported that they actively work to restore degraded ecosystems, with 63 per cent saying they do it 'a lot'. 21 respondents gave figures for the areas of land they had reforested, with an average of 84 hectares per settlement and two, including Damanhur in Italy reporting over 200 hectares. Respondents also reported a range of other techniques to enhance or safeguard non-human life, including regenerative agriculture, afforestation, clean cookstoves, farmland restoration, water saving, composting, farmland irrigation nd production of biochar.[10]
  • Use of agroecological and agroforestry-based methods of food production rooted in local cultural and environmental conditions and able to mitigate climate change, increase biodiversity, increase soil quality and generate other socio-ecologic benefits.[11][12][13]
  • Promoting community gardens inspired by permaculture or organic/biodynamic agriculture, which can have significant benefits for food production knowledge and experience exchange, promote biodiversity, increase soil quality, improve food security and food sovereignty, build community, promote of social inclusion and gender and racial equity, supplementation of low pensions, and improve interactions and interdependences between people and nature.[14]


  1. Holmgren, D., 2009. Permaculture: Principles and pathways beyond sustainability. Melliodora: Holmgren Design Services.
  2. MacNamara, L., 2013. People and Permaculture. East Meon: Permanent Publications.
  3. Kasper, D.V.S., 2008. Redefining Community in the Ecovillage. Human Ecology Review 15, 13.
  4. Kirby, A., 2003. Redefining social and environmental relations at the ecovillage at Ithaca: A case study. Journal of Environmental Psychology 23, 323–332.
  5. Berry, Geoff, 2013/. “Irish Ruins Ancient and New: Ghost Estates, Megaliths and Human Relations with the Rest of Nature.” In Environmental Philosophy: The Art of Life in a World of Limits, edited by Liam Leonard, 13:175–195. Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing.
  6. Ergas, C., Clement, M.T., 2016. Ecovillages, Restitution, and the Political-Economic Opportunity Structure: An Urban Case Study in Mitigating the Metabolic Rift. Critical Sociology 42, 1195–1211.
  7. Winston, N., 2012. Chapter 5 Sustainable Housing: A Case Study of the Cloughjordan Eco-Village, Ireland, in: Davies, A. (Ed.), Advances in Ecopolitics. Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 85–103.
  8. Lánczi, Dániel Csaba. “Practice of Sustainability in an Eco Village: Ecological Footprint of Krishna Valley in Hungary.” Eötvös Lóránd University, Faculty of Science, Department of Environment and Land Geography, 2009.
  9. Palojärvi, Ansa, Jarkko Pyysiäinen, and Mia Saloranta, eds. Inspiring Stories from Ecovillages: Experiences with Ecological Technologies and Practices. Engl. Version. Ecovillages. Vilnius: BMK Leidykla, 2013.
  10. Kovasna, A., Mattos, T., 2017. GEN Ecovillage Impact Assessment Pilot Study. Initial Results of 29 Showcase Ecovillages. Global Ecovillage Network.
  11. Wartman, Paul, Rene Van Acker, and Ralph Martin. “Temperate Agroforestry: How Forest Garden Systems Combined with People-Based Ethics Can Transform Culture.” Sustainability 10, no. 7 (June 29, 2018): 2246.
  12. Mosquera-Losada, M.R., J.J. Santiago-Freijanes, M. Rois-Díaz, G. Moreno, M. den Herder, J.A. Aldrey-Vázquez, N. Ferreiro-Domínguez, A. Pantera, A. Pisanelli, and A. Rigueiro-Rodríguez. “Agroforestry in Europe: A Land Management Policy Tool to Combat Climate Change.” Land Use Policy 78 (November 2018): 603–13.
  13. Branca, Giacomo, Leslie Lipper, Nancy McCarthy, and Maria Christina Jolejole. “Food Security, Climate Change, and Sustainable Land Management. A Review.” Agronomy for Sustainable Development 33, no. 4 (October 2013): 635–50.
  14. Tornaghi, Chiara. “Critical Geography of Urban Agriculture.” Progress in Human Geography 38, no. 4 (August 2014): 551–67.