The first EDE in the state of Bahia!

The first EDE in the state of Bahia took place between April and June, in the ‘Cocoa coast’, near the sea-side town of Itacaré, at a holistic center, Pedra do Sabiá, located in the midst of beautiful nature.

One unique feature of our program was the cultural richness and great diversity of the participants, five of whom were native, afro-descendants, two connected to a nearby “kilombola” (slave descendants community), as well as Brazilians from states as far as the Amazon state of Pará, two Argentinians and representatives from North America and Europe.

Some of the participants were linked to our partner Mecenas da Vida, a carbon-neutralization NGO who supports local farmers with a strong vision for the ecological and social transformation of the region, and whom retributed the bursaries by supplying locally grown organic food for our program.

The first module, which centered around world-view and ecology, had a strong focus on ecovillage design.  One of the most exciting features –and among the core reasons for choosing our program location- was that participants had the chance to practically work on the design of two real emerging intentional communities over the course of a week: the place that was hosting us, and ‘Aldeia’, just a boat ride across the river. Both of these represented a clean slate on which to explore their newly acquired skills in direct relation with the existing communities.

Both groups had the chance to present their designs to the respective stakeholders, get direct feed-back and have the extra buzz of knowing that their designs may be used in the development of these ecovillages.

This module also had a strong permaculture focus, and integrated a PDC as part of the curriculum.

One of the bonuses of the first edition of the EDE South of Bahia, was the privileged location of the program, as we were blessedly located in the middle of an environmentally preserved area, surrounded by lush Atlantic rainforest. Participants had the chance to soak in the lushness during walks to the nearby waterfall and lake, ceremonies held at the ancient jack-fruit trees and boat-rides across the river to do practicals at the ‘Aldeia’ community.

The second module, Co-Creating a New Culture, centered around the socio-economic dimensions, and had a strong focus on conscious communication and inner growth/observation. This meant we took opportunities to explore some practical tools to transform conflicts whilst diving deeper, using issues that were ‘alive’ and reflected the inter-personal dynamics of the group. We had particularly powerful sharings and healings during forum, men and women’s circles/fishbowl, closing with o’ oponopono, and a beautiful feed-back session. These, together with the dance, creativity and round the fire ceremonial moments, weaved a special connection of intimacy and sacredness between us.

One of the course’s special highlights included an evening spent at the nearby community and celebratory gathering ‘Sarau’, where locally produced crafts merged with talent shows, and we were able to practically explore issues relating to bio-regionalism and solidarity economy.

Another highlight was our end-of-course especially co-created St. John party, a traditional Brazilian festivity, were participants formed teams to work on the food, decoration, and evening program, including a choreographed dance and teather act. It was a blast! And we were taken aback by the level of commitment, creativity and collegiality of our teams in action.

Lessons learned for future EDES? One is we need be more disciplined about not opening up to participants the stuff we really wanted to cover but felt we had to leave out or do at a later moment…which apparently left them feeling like they were missing out on yet more juicy bits! Another is to perhaps offer more free spaces to allow time to reflect and assimilate the content.

Special guests of our program included indigenous representatives from the Tupinambá nation -who held our opening land blessing – and a special dance show from a local NGO who help afro-brazilian youth find their identity through art and culture, the Casa do Boneco, and who was represented throughout the program by a young woman.

In the spirit of continuing to integrate our future courses into emerging communities, recognizing this as a mutual symbiotic relationship, the next EDE, planned for January and March of 2013, will be partly based at the Kilombo d’Oiti, where this local NGO, Casa do Boneco, is working to develop their own afro-brazilian rooted community.