Ecovillages are intentional communities whose goal is to become more socially, economically and ecologically sustainable. Most range from a population of 50 to 150 individuals, although some are smaller, and larger ecovillages of up to 2,000 individuals exist as networks of smaller sub communities. Certain ecovillages have grown by the addition of individuals, families, or other small groups who not necessarily members are settling on the periphery of the ecovillage and effectively participating in the ecovillage community.

Ecovillagers are united by shared ecological, social-economic and cultural-spiritual values. Concretely, ecovillagers seek alternatives to ecologically destructive electrical, water, transportation, and waste-treatment systems, as well as the larger social systems that mirror and support them. Many see the breakdown of traditional forms of community, wasteful consumerist lifestyles and the destruction of natural habitat, urban sprawl, factory farming, and over-reliance on fossil fuels as trends that must be changed to avert ecological disaster and create richer and more fulfilling ways of life.

Ecovillages offer small-scale communities with minimal ecological impact or regenerative impacts as an alternative. However, such communities often cooperate with peer villages in networks of their own. This model of collective action is similar to that of Ten Thousand Villages, which supports the fair trade of goods worldwide.

Global Eco-Village Network (GEN):

Ecovillages are urban or rural communities of people who strive to integrate a supportive social environment with a low-impact way of life. To achieve this, they integrate various aspects of ecological design, permaculture, ecological building, green production, alternative energy, community building practices, and much more.

Ecovillages are living models of sustainability. They represent an effective, accessible way to combat the degradation of our social, ecological, and spiritual environments.

—GEN webpage

 “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 (which) can successfully be continued into the indefinite future.”

Eco-Villages and Sustainable Communities, a Report for Gaia Trust by Context Institute, Robert and Diane Gilman, 1991

Jonathan Dawson’s Five Principles of Ecovillages:

1.  Ecovillages are private citizens’ initiatives. They’re grassroots.

2.  Ecovillagers value community living.

3.  They are not overly dependent on government, corporate, or other centralized sources for water, food, shelter, power, and other basic necessities.

4.  Ecovillagers have a strong sense of shared values, often characterized in spiritual terms.

5.  They often serve as research and demonstration sites. Many offer educational experiences for others.

—Paraphrased from Ecovillages: New Frontiers for Sustainability, by Jonathan Dawson

(President of GEN, Co-Director of GEN-Europe), Chelsea Green Publishing, 2006.

753 villages meet criteria for eco-village scheme

Sarang Dastane, Times of India January 2013

PUNE: As many as 753 gram panchayats from Pune district have been able to meet the eligibility criteria for the eco-village scheme. The scheme introduced by the state government especially for the rural areas aims at conservation of environment and restrict its exploitation. This is third year of the scheme. The government has registered increasing response from the villages.

Officials from the district administration said, "In current year of the scheme, the government has come up with new set of rules and has introduced some changes in existing criteria. Those villages adopting use of solar power instead of biogas are now eligible for Eco-village status according to new rules".

The officials said, "It has been observed that because of changing pattern in lifestyle the villages located near big cities now hardly make use of biogas. Even the cattle population in these villages has decreased considerably. Hence, the government has added a clause about use of solar power".

According to the administration, many villages have taken up tree plantation and conservation of trees and forest ever since the scheme was introduced. The villages have been implementing various methods to restrict wastage of water as well as implement schemes to manage waste and drainage water.

Bio-resources to make villages prosper

Bagish K Jha, Times of India April 2014

INDORE: Villages in and around forest areas rich with bio-resources may not have to depend on state finances for their development. Some village panchayats may have more money in their kitty than any civic body. To make this possible, companies and organizations using bio-resources have been served with notices for profit sharing under biodiversity acts.

Companies, organizations and departments like South Eastern Coalfields Ltd, Madhya Pradeshforest department, MP forest development corporation, MP state minor forest produce (trade and development) federation, fisheries development and fisheries federation, distilleries of state, Shrinathji Edible Oil Products and Kareli Sugar Mills Pvt Ltd have been served with notices under Biological Diversity Act 2002 and MP Biological Diversity Rules 2004 by Madhya Pradesh State Biodiversity Board for profit sharing.

Member secretary of MP State Biodiversity Board, Ram Gopal Soni said that any person, organization, department, private company etc using bio-resources from the state for commercial use are required to share benefits arising out of commercial use, which shall be deposited in the Biodiversity Fund. Amount collected will be used for promoting biodiversity conservation in the state. This fund shall be used for biodiversity conservation at local levels, for rural development; for reducing dependence on forests, afforestation and promoting bio-resource based livelihood.

Soni said that as per the rules, any companies, industries and department using bio-resources have to give 2% of their total turnover.

Changes the move can bring in rural areas can be understood from the fact that budget of the board will shoot up to Rs 1,000 crore per annum from existing Rs 2.5 crore. "There will be enough money for development of villages and overall conservation of biodiversity in the state," Soni said adding that it is for the first time when notices have been served to companies and department for profit sharing. After MP, Karnataka too has started serving notices for using bio-resources.

Soni said that bio-resources are not just forest as section 2(C) of the Biological Diversity Act describes 'biological resources' as plants, animals and micro-organisms or parts thereof, their genetic  material and by products excluding value added products, with actual or potential use or value, but does not include human genetic material.

Commercial utilization of bio-resources has also been explained under section 2(F) of the Act. It describes commercial utilization as end uses of biological resources for commercial utilization such as drugs, industrial enzymes, food flavours, fragrance, cosmetics, emulsifiers, oleoresins, colours, extracts and genes used for improving crops and livestock through genetic intervention, but does not include conventional breeding or traditional practices in use in any agriculture, horticulture, poultry, dairy farming, animal husbandry or bee keeping.

If any company failed to share benefit then it has to face three years imprisonment and penalty up to Rs 5 lakh or both. As per the rule, such companies and departments will be first sent one month notice, following which their representatives are called for hearing and then finally notices are served.

The Board has signed first memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Gram Mulige Company Ltd of Jabalpur for access benefit sharing. The company has been using bio-resources in different parts of the state for providing medicinal plants to Ayurvedic and herbal companies. 


RURAL DEVELOPMENT - A human-centric concept 

The National Network on Biovillages and Community Banking launched by the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation is a major initiative to replicate successful examples of poverty alleviation and natural resource conservation across India.


"INDIA needs a new culture of working with the poor, one of providing them human dignity and not subsidies," according to Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, whose brainchild, the National Network on Biovillages and Community Banking, was inaugurated at a function hel d at the Chennai-based M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation on February 18.

The biovillage concept, introduced by the MSSRF a few years ago in 19 villages in the Union Territory of Pondicherry with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), has been a big success. A biovillage not only provides livelihood sy stems that include technical knowledge and skills, a self-perpetuating system of micro-credit within the community and access to the market, but also makes the villages self-sufficient and human-centric. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh, who inaugurated the Network, put the new approach in the right perspective when he said that Òit is time we looked at people as solutions rather than as problems".


Dr. M.S. Swaminathan with two women being trained in mushroom cultivation at a demonstration project at one of the bio-centres set up and run by the MSSRF in Pondicherry as part of the biovillage project.

The Network should offer hope for the people of countries that have adopted the policy of liberalisation and the free market economy but where the ills of inequality have been accentuated, life support systems have been damaged and unemployment levels ha ve risen. It aims to reorient the development process.

Swaminathan said: “The development path pursued by India over the last 50 years has been proved wrong as all poverty- alleviation programmes focussed on the 'target groups' approach and did not spread the message of asset building or community and human development". The New Economic Policy, according to him, is not designed to protect small enterprises. Hence, there is a need to build the assets, knowledge and skills of rural entrepreneurs and also help them with off-farm - not just on-farm - activiti es for value addition.

Guy Sorman, Professor at the Institute of Political Sciences, Paris University, said that IndiaÕs poverty alleviation programmes failed primarily because since Independence it spent all its resources on developing a powerful state instead of making its d evelopment strategies people-centric.

Sorman, who participated in the programme as a resource person, said it was necessary to push the biovillage concept as it would revolutionize India the same way the Green Revolution did. The Network has an in-built mechanism of economic incentives capab le of solving the problem of politically-motivated poverty alleviation programmes.

Swaminathan said: “Bio village denotes a village where human development occupies the pride of place. It is thus a term for human-centred development". In a biovillage, the people take decisions. Its activities are market-driven. The concept is sustainab le and replicable. He said: " For this concept to be successful, asset creation is important. Community banking is crucial, as is demonstrated by the MSSRF Pondicherry project".

Commercial banking entails very high costs, and it is not affordable to residents of the villages. Community banking is built on trust and builds peoples self-esteem. It revolves around an activity, has a user-controlled revolving fund, low transaction cost, high repayment record, timely and effective availability of credit and, most important, is accompanied by appropriate services to sustain small enterprises.

The Network is the first major non-governmental organisation (NGO) initiative to replicate successful examples of poverty alleviation and natural resource conservation across the country. Economically viable micro-enterprises would be supported by micro- credit as well as technical and marketing knowledge.

According to Swaminathan, "the aim of the Network is to address the twin challenges of poverty eradication and natural resource conservation." The MSSRF is the nodal agency, with the Madurai-based DHAN Foundation, the Pune-based Bharatiya Agro Industries Foundation and the Delhi-based Society for the Promotion of Wasteland Development as initial alliance members. The programme will initially cover Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Karnataka, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. Priority is to be given to villages on the f ringes of biosphere reserves and national parks as it would take care of the twin objectives of strengthening livelihood opportunities and conservation.

The biocentre is the hub and is responsible for providing various services needed for decentralised production and marketing. It is the headquarters of the biovillage society which facilitates training programmes for local leaders and entrepreneurs. It a lso has a computer with Internet facility. Only economically viable enterprises are taken up under the biovillage project.


Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh, who inaugurated the National Network on Biovillages and Community Banking at the MSSRF in Chennai.

The Network initiates a new management system for bioreserves. A trust has been formed with people depending on natural resources for their livelihood Ð such as fishermen and the landless poor Ð as its major stakeholders. The first such trust was formed in Tamil NaduÕs Gulf of Mannar area. The project, which has just begun, has received $30 million from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Government of India and the UNDP. The GEF has provided $8 million for the project.

Other livelihood generation projects that would be initiated are in the cyclone-affected areas of Orissa and the Similipal area (Project Tiger and Project Elephant) of that State; the tribal areas of Madhya Pradesh; and some places in the drought- and hu nger-prone areas of Tamil Nadu.

Karnataka Minister for Agriculture T.B. Jayachandran praised the biovillage project as an excellent idea. During a panel discussion on” Fighting the Famine of Rural LivelihoodsS, conducted by The Hindu Media Resource Centre at the MSSRF, he said: “The farming community, which comprises over 70 per cent of IndiaUs population, has been sustaining the country and hence more opportunities should be created for them".

ACCORDING to Guy Sorman, the definition of development needs to change from the Western concept of income per capita. For this to happen, notions of poverty and development need to be redefined, he said. Sorman described poverty as deprivation of access to knowledge, opportunity and dignity. The Biovillage Network, it is hoped, would change the basic tenets of development; its emphasis is on a “bottom up" approach, rather than a " top-down" approach, to development.


Karnataka Agriculture Minister
T.B. Jayachandran.

This new thinking is already happening. As Swaminathan said: " Even the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the World Bank, which have been pushing for globalisation and free market, have started talking about developing 'a human face of liberalisation '. The recently concluded UNCTAD meeting in Bangkok discussed the real issues, and the need for Tputting a social pillar to globalisation'."

Digvijay Singh said: “Until assets are made available to the community, livelihoods cannot be created". This is the basis of all developmental activity, such as watershed management, integrated crop management or sale of agricultural produce in Madhya P radesh. Keeping villages as the basic units of development, the State has formulated a micro-level planning programme for more than 370 hunger-prone villages. The gram sabhas manage the programmes. Tangible results have been visible in a short period with a more than four-fold increase in the incomes of the rural poor. This is precisely what the Biovillage Network hopes to achieve.