My group spent our first week in South Africa living in Lynedoch ecovillage, just outside of Stellenbosch. During this week, we learned about the mission and efforts behind the village as well as the sustainable construction of all of the homes and other buildings.Written and Photographed by Alexandria Polanosky, Multimedia Editor
The village began with the previous owner’s creation of a hotel, which is now the guesthouse that I lived in with my group during our time there, to allow visitors to enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the more rural areas of Stellenbosch. After a change in ownership, the idea for an intentional living space with the goals of sustainability and community arose.
Lynedoch is the first class and racially mixed living community in South Africa. After an application process an agreement to live there for a certain period of time before deciding whether it is right for them or not is made and all residents participate in the Home Owners Association. All of the homes in the village are built out of locally sourced materials that are otherwise not approved for home loans. Many of these materials are far more efficient and easier to obtain than materials that home owners are forced to use outside of the village. One house in the village was built to mimic the efforts of government housing. The home did not exceed the cost of an average government provided home, and it is larger and entirely off the grid thanks to solar power and resourced methane for gas power. It is also sturdier and requires less maintenance than government homes.
You will not find air conditioning in Lynedoch, but systems such as underground rock beds that trap cold air and release it into the buildings keep the inside of every structure at a comfortable temperature most of the time. There is also a large community garden within the grounds of the village. Residents practice recycling and composting of any food waste in order to leave the smallest footprint on the land they are using.
The village is built around the Lynedoch primary school, where many students in my group are helping teach and organize lessons during this semester. The school serves the needs of many surrounding families living in farms or other rural areas. A Montessori school is also located in the village.
Since moving onto campus, we have been back to the village on a weekly basis either for a lesson related to our class or to garden in a plot of land our group was given inside the community garden. We have just begun the process of growing and harvesting various vegetables such as beets, beans, carrots and squash.
For one lesson, we gathered vegetables and herbs from a nearby farm and prepared a meal for our instructors and ourselves after learning about the green efforts of the small farm. A meal seems to taste even better when you have gathered and cooked the ingredients yourself!
Living in Lynedoch for the first week of the program was the best way to ease into living in another country, and learning about its culture and history through hands on techniques prepared us for the five months ahead here. Witnessing the motivation and efforts of residents in the village was very inspiring, and though we were very busy for that first week, spending time there was incredibly relaxing. I look forward to returning each week!