The ‘Green Road’ network of ecovillages and permaculture centres has helped relocate at least 3,000 displaced Ukrainians in 40 ecovillages throughout Ukraine and over 300 ecovillages in Europe since the Russian invasion began. While doing so, it has developed into a beautiful project that is an example of sustainable development, says one of its founders, Anastasiya Volkova.
It also has become a testament to the power of international friendships, networks and informal support in times of crisis, says The World. With aid from the Danish ecovillages network, a group of Ukrainian organizations – Global Ecovillage Network Ukraine, Permaculture Network Ukraine, Global Village Institute, Gaia University and Ecosystem Restoration Camps – began mobilizing their ecovillages and permaculture farms to host displaced people and grow extra provisions to share.
The idea grew out of conversations between Iryna Kazakova, currently based at Hallingelille ecovillage in rural Denmark, Volkova, founder of Permaculture in Ukraine, and Maksym Zalevskyi, president of Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) Ukraine. A map began circulating online along with a Google sheet and volunteer contact information for every ecovillage willing to host within Ukraine and across Europe. Three “green roads” were created from east to west for evacuation: a northern road, a road through the cities, and a southern road. The Green Road also created instructions for travelling, getting through or around checkpoints, and advice for crossing borders.
Being located mainly in the countryside, “we are in a position to shelter families either on a long-term basis or temporarily, as people wait for the best moments to cross the border to a safer place, or to return to their homes if that becomes possible,” said the Global Village Institute for Appropriate Technology.
Early on, the Ukrainians got help from the Danish ecovillages, who sent two trucks with mattresses, clothes, food, household appliances, tents and sleeping bags. One Danish charity organisation provided more than 60 used laptops for online schooling of children and remote work of displaced adults. Denmark’s Civil Society and Development organization granted about $90,000 to the project through an emergency fund — and gave them an Initiative Prize in April. Several other donors and organizations also raised funds and materials for the project.
Before the war, about 600 people lived in 40 simple, modest ecovillages across Ukraine, says Kazakova. That doubled when about 600 internally displaced people arrived hoping to survive the harsh winter. “In the very beginning, we really needed just very simple things because people arrived in the ecovillages without anything. So, we bought food, clothes, some medicines and very, very simple things because there was nothing,” Kazakova said.
When the first basic needs for hosting people were covered, the priorities became food security, improving infrastructure, and entrepreneurship.
Many old village houses were renovated to accommodate new arrivals, with insulation, new windows, running water and sewage systems. The Green Road sent stoves, refrigerators, kitchen gear, washing machines, beds and mattresses as well as building materials. Donations helped buy wood to heat the houses during the winter, as well as chainsaws for cutting wood, tools for repairing houses and making furniture, and water pumps for the more than 30 wells that were cleaned and are being used now.
Within the first six months, Green Road coordinators delivered 35 greenhouses, 10 two-wheel tractors, gardening tools, tanks for harvesting rainwater, food dehydrators and equipment for milking animals. GEN Ukraine priorizes common use, like one cement mixer for the whole ecovillage or one grass mower for several neighboring houses.
By the fall of 2022, a priority became building common houses, common kitchens and playgrounds for children in the communities because they are places where ecovillage people and refugees can spend time together. Several summer camps were organized for children from displaced families and several locations organized rehabilitation weekends for displaced families and volunteers to spend time in the countryside gardening or making some crafts.
To aid transportation within and between villages, GEN Ukraine began collecting used bicycles in Denmark and the Netherlands and created a repair shop in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv where representatives of several ecovillages learned how to repair bicycles. Then they learned how to transform an ordinary bike into an electric bicycle rather cheaply.
While the Russian attacks continue into a second year, the Ukrainian ecovillage organizers say the ecovillages and permaculture centres are becoming examples of resilience and sustainable solutions such as growing and processing organic food, natural building, green energy, recycling and sharing that will help in rebuilding Ukraine as a greener society once peace returns.
Green Road of Ecovillages, Six Months into War. Resilience, Oct. 4, 2022
Ukraine | the Green Road of Ecovillages – Communities that Protect. ARC, May 23, 2022
Cover image and other images: ARC