Rebuilding ‘earthquake-proof’ homes in Chile using sustainable materials and permaculture principles.

Ecoescuela El Manzano is a small community in the Biobío region of Chile: a learning community, self-organising for resilience, practicing sustainable living. Ecoescuela is overwhelmed with gratitude to receive funding from Artists Project Earth to reconstruct homes in the village of El Manzano that were destroyed by the recent earthquake in Chile. This donation will be used to develop earthquake-proof housing, setting a precedent that can be replicated throughout the affected regions of Chile, hopefully promoting a change in policy and practice for earthquake reconstruction through local and regional government.  

Funding from APE will be initially invested in the construction of a new, 50 square metre home for Don Oscar and his family. Oscar has lived in a small shack with his wife, daughter and two grandchildren for nearly 15 years, having constructed his home with recycled materials from a demolition site. The house is very simple and uninsulated. During the earthquake of 27th February 2010, the house was all but destroyed. ´´All the posts snapped off at ground level´´ said Oscar, ´´I am afraid it will fall down completely.

The programme of design and construction will be carried out in the months of April and May 2010 for planned completion before the coldest months of winter. This will be done in collaboration with the whole community of El Manzano as a hands-on learning experience, building skills and knowledge extending the programme into surrounding communities. Team El Manzano will simultaneously install systems for the capture, storage, use and treatment of rainwater, a solar hot water heater, dry toilets, and permaculture gardens in this new family home as a model of local resilience. 

“Buena! Everything is happening. Good things are coming to us´´ said Jorge Carrión, president of the neighbourhood group in response to the news of the APE donation. Jorge has been working with the El Manzano community since 2005, teaching the locals organic management and mobilising them to participate in the design of their own sustainable community. In 2009 the local community group managed to secure some initial funding from the Ministry for the Environment to install appropriate sustainable technology in a demonstration home. The hard work has paid off, and in 2010 a second agreement was made to extend the installation of these technologies to every house in the village of El Manzano as a model of a village in Transition. Now that the community is also developing earthquake-proof housing, El Manzano is a living example of a community fronting up to the challenges of climate change, energy disruptions and economic crises by meeting its own needs from as close to home as possible.

The community is the first official Transition Initiative in Latin America, and home to Gaia University Chile. The community is currently organising to turn the crisis of the recent mega earthquake in Chile into an opportunity for transition to a more sustainable future and to share its experiences with other affected communities.  

You can support this innovative and entrepreneurial effort by making a donation to the Permaculture Research Institute here.  


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