Eco Village Development concept involves the implementation of appropriate, inexpensive, renewable energy technology and capacity building activities for climate change adaptation and mitigation in villages. Rather than merely implementing a basket of clean and renewable energy technologies in villages, the project takes on a 360 degree, collaborative approach by deeply involving community members in the planning and implementation stages while also giving them the tools to be climate resilient.  EVD is an integrated approach of creating development focused, low-carbon communities of practice in existing villages. The bundle of practices include mitigation technologies like small household size biogas plants; smokeless stoves; solar energy technology; improved water mill for electrification and stand alone system like pico/mini/micro hydro power for rural electrification; and power solar drying units. It also includes adaptation technologies like improved, organic farming; roof-water harvesting; water lifting technologies like hydraulic ram pump and others.
WAFD’s activities in particular support the beneficiary communities (especially women) in implementing climate related coping mechanisms, adaptation strategies and simple, low-cost technologies. The mitigation technologies include household biogas, wind energy, solar heating and improved cook stove technology.The rationale of choosing villages as the focal point of this model is that these rural settlements are not only home to some of the poorest people in the South Asian region but also to the majority of the population. Furthermore, some of these people are also the most vulnerable to climate mediated risks due to a combination of geographical location and endemic economic, informational and social deprivation. Usually at the fringes of policy-making by national and sub-regional governments, villages are ill-equipped to cope with the rapidly evolving but little understood impacts of climate change on their land and livelihoods. Village communities are also ideal for illustrating the concept of contextually appropriate, small scale innovations for adaptation and mitigation.

The adaptation technologies are geared towards giving the project’s communities the means to cope with their changing environment. These technologies include rooftop rainwater harvesting (to utilize rainwater for household activities in regions that are becoming increasingly drought prone), organic gardening and kitchen gardening (to teach communities improved and environmentally sensitive farming methods, low-cost greenhouses (to grow produce in off-seasons and protect them from wild animals) and so on. Importantly, our project also has includes technology co-benefits which include constant follow up trainings, workshops and trainings on income generation related to the technologies, and the organization of self help groups to organize the villagers into purpose-driven communities of green practice.

The immediate outcomes of this project is low-carbon, inexpensive energy access, increased access to food, and income generation training. In the medium to long term, we will share the concept of the eco-village with policy makers so that funds can be mobilized into projects such as this one that prove a community led approach to climate resilience can have important sustainable development impacts. Importantly, we hope to evolve this project into an enduring model of green development that can be replicated in different contexts and scaled up substantially.

The project is currently in a location in the sub-Himalayan region of Uttarakhand that is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Large scale migration of the men-folk is already taking place as they have to look for employment opportunities due to the loss of their traditional livelihoods as farmers (agricultural productivity has fallen considerably due to falling rains, changes in climate patterns, the degradation of soil). Poverty is widespread but awareness about alternative means of livelihood and coping are very low. Since the target region is in the mountains, many of the villages here are underserved by government infrastructure or public services. In fact, the households either do not have electricity or have very very erratic power supply. Water scarcity adds to the drudgery of local women, some of whom have to spend up to 6 hours a day walking back and forth to get water for their home. Thus, the problems of this region are manifold and encompass climate sensitive energy access, livelihoods training and support. Women in particular are the targets for our interventions and trainings given their special vulnerability and their low-socio economic status. We have also found that women are much more receptive to implementing and maintaining the use of methods and technologies that can improve the quality of their and their family’s lives.

Our planning and implementation process are deeply consultative with the actual beneficiaries. We conduct many meetings with community members and seek the help of community elders and leaders. We also create self help groups and women’s groups to create a safe place for women to comfortably share their problems and express their needs. We include them in village mapping and baseline processes to get a more accurate idea of their needs. This increases uptake and the sense of responsibility and ownership amongst the beneficiaries. Also, by including the beneficiaries in the construction and upkeep and related trainings, we keep them more interested and invested.  Other than volunteers who are chosen from the villages, we also enlist the help of women “motivators” who can teach others about our project and how it can benefit them. This leads to a greater feeling of legitimacy for other community members who are then easier to convince.