Sandele Eco-Retreat and Learning Centre

LOCATION: South Gambia, West Africa

SUMMARY: Sandele Eco-Retreat and Leaning Centre is a unique eco-tourism project in the politically and logistically challenging environment of South Gambia in West Africa. It is exemplary not only in its passionate dedication to regeneration, sustainability, wildlife protection, renewable energy, the use of natural building materials, and local citizens’ education and personal development, but in its unusual commitment to transferring ownership to the local people: in 19 years, total ownership of Sandele Eco-Retreat will be gifted to the community. Meanwhile, a payment toward community development is made from every bed night sold, and the management works very closely with the local population, providing employment and offering technical expertise to help neighboring villages develop resilient infrastructure. Sandele is also raising standards of living through its spin-off construction company, which builds sustainable, attractive low-cost housing. They have introduced Ecovillage Design Education courses, and the graduates of those programs are now virally spreading knowledge to villages in the region. Sandele has been equally influential in its advocacy of conservation and sustainability at the national policy level as it works to develop a nationally protected coastal area, fueling local economies through eco-tourism. At the surface level, it may seem to be a hotel near beautiful beaches, but Sandele Eco-Retreat is an inspiring model of how tourism, one of the planet’s largest economic sectors and often ecologically and socio-culturally destructive, can be transformed into a vector for sustainability and an equitable society for all.

PROBLEM SPACE: Critical problems include: negative impacts of tourism on local communities; deforestation; unaffordability of housing; lack of access to markets for local produce; low levels of employment and high levels of poverty; ignorance of the impact of present bahaviours on nature and wildlife; all of these in this area (the South Gambia coastal villages). All need innovative solutions.

SOLUTION: Sandele Eco-Retreat and Learning Centre is a beach side resort in South Gambia. It is a hotel with a big heart!! It has a passion for regeneration, sustainability, wildlife protection, ecovillage transition, renewable energy and local citizens’ education and personal development. Believing as we do in community ownership in 19 years time Sandele will be gifted to the local community. Presently a payment towards village development is made for every bed night sold. Sandele incorporates all the recognised “eco green” features – and several more besides. Other resource saving techniques have lead to the introduction of low cost housing techniques and many iconic buildings in the wider community. Having introduced the Ecovillage Design Education (EDE) course into Kartong, the partner local community, the EDE philosophy and practices are now being extended to eight other villages and a turtle conservation project initiated at Sandele is a key project that links the villages together. Alumni from the first EDE are acting as facilitators in the subsequent EDE programmes and the progress being made by the alumni is wonderful to see. Kartong is “the village that is going places” and this image will spread as the number of people trained increases.

CONTACT: [email protected]