The land-plan that will become the base for the Community Design, the stream crossing and access road design, research that will allow us to participate in reforestation projects and develop an educational institute with formal accreditation, and establishment of the Panama branch of the Gaia Tasiri Association are currently in process… As you can see, we have many balls in the air and are keeping busy!
During the initial phase, people who join us will live at the Guest House while a comprehensive study of the land is done and the integral design for the EcoVillage is proposed. Of course there will be people who want to stay on the land for a spell and that will be important for the observation and study of the land needed for the EcoVillage design. A campsite and some temporary structures can be set up to be used for this.
The Initiative has an operations center at the Guest House and a 21 Hectare Finca in it’s natural state – in the last century (perhaps longer), this land has not been inhabited and has only been farmed sporadically and only in small sections.
Formal purchase and title-transfer process – of course these things always take longer than expected, but it’s done, we have title.
We found the land in Las Guabas Arriba, went through a decision-making process, and made the decision to buy.
2012 – 2014
We acquired the house, designed and started-up the Guest House and continued searching for a property to develop the Eco Community.
The idea of the EcoCommunity has been percolating since 2005 when Rebecca came to Panama for the first time to do some consulting work in the Darien Province. Working with the municipalities and the local people she realized that the solutions to most of the problems confronting the world today can be resolved with local solutions.
Over the next few years she kept working with local communities in Panama, studied sustainable development, permaculture and many other topics and she joined an international consulting firm where she was lucky enough to work with local communities around the world. All this time she was figuring out how to get the land for an Ecological Work-Life Initiative that, in addition to being a healthy place to live and create community, would become a model to replicate and a laboratory for ideas to ease the acceptance of new practices and techniques by the people living nearby.
She also realized that there are many people who also want to take the step of moving to a simpler rural lifestyle, but who don’t have the resources, support, information or contacts to do it successfully on their own. She heard about lots of people and families who took the leap only to end up returning to the city several years later having lost a bunch of money, energy an enthusiasm.
She heard of many others (and even met a few of them) spending years and decades traveling around the world, looking for the perfect project, place or community to settle down in, or hoping to accumulate enough inspiration & experience in order to ‘start their own project’, but that never happened. Huge amounts of money are being spent on such ‘eco-tourism’ which effectively sucks resources away from permaculture projects & toward the transport multinationals: PLEASE re-think what you actually want to subsidize.
Rebecca didn’t want to end up being one of these cases. In 2011 she began to look for land and had already enrolled in the Integral Permaculture Academy and started to formalize her knowledge and practice of permaculture. It was a long search and at the time she didn’t find land apt for the Initiative, but instead in 2012 she found a property that would be ideal for the Community Guest House in a rural town. Work began almost immediately to convert the house (it was pretty run down) into a Guest House while she continued looking for the land (and working as a consultant in order to afford the house and repairs).
In 2015 Villa Astoria Guest House opened its doors and Rebecca began to learn the world of rural tourism, running the Guest House while working as a consultant and of course, still looking for the land. In May of 2016 a piece of land strongly called her attention because of its price and location – now it’s our Finca.
With this project, she hopes to help turn the big resource drain that is tourism, whether traditional, rural, green, ecological, adventure, ‘digital nomads’, etc., into something positive, creative & constructive, instead of another form of consumerism.
This means finding the most effective ways to accelerate the action-learning necessary to make such big changes in one’s life, for people who are ‘civilized’ into many patterns which are very counter-productive to living sustainably or rationally.
Many experiences in forming community and in action-learning programs have informed the curriculum of the PDC+++ Course. It is now available online in two languages to help people design their own communities, without the need to travel quite so much. The 8thLife Panama Initiative is taking advantage of this valuable resource.
It’s becoming obvious that these small eco-communities are very needed as ‘seeds’ for changing local economies, that we need many more of them and that we need to document well their progress, so that we can help others not repeat the same mistakes.