HistoryArterra Bizimodu is a co-living project which was born in 2013 when around 20 persons decided to create a community in a former rural hotel in the village of Artieda in Navarre. In 2014, almost 50 persons started to live in this building which had a singular history: in 1930, a boarding school was built from the already existing buildings (including a train station) by a religious community. Several decades after, the building was bought by a private owner who converted it into a rural hotel with 70 apartments and all the needed commodities (racketball courts, squash courts, spa and swimming pool) opened until 2007.
The building of 8.000 m2 with already existing apartments was a big opportunity for the community as it was a way to give inhabitants a place to live and a place to host their activities.
Since the creation of the community in 2014, the number of inhabitants is quite fluctuating but today around 50 persons live in the community including 10 volunteers who come each year during 8 months to help and participate to the community.
Regenerative agricultureFrom the beginning of Arterra Bizimodu history, working towards the community's self-sufficiency was identified as an important objective.
The production of vegetables for the community has therefore been launched by 2 community members who grow many different species (more than 50 different every year) by using only organic and agroecologic methods.
As the community members normally have lunch together, the produced vegetables are used to prepare the meals in the community kitchen.
A Community-supported agriculture system (in return of a yearly subscription, consumers receive a weekly box of vegetables) has also been launched: thus, each member pay a subscription for the whole year (with the possibility to pay less if one comes directly on site to harvest the vegetables) and the weekly harvest is then divided between all the members. This system is useful for the community members as it's a good way to provide the vegetables they need to prepare their dinners. Vegetables boxes are also distributed to the consumers of the 2 biggest towns around the ecovillage (Pamplona and San Sebastian).
Each community members has also the possibility to take the responsibility of his own area in the garden and can therefore grow its own food.
As a result, the community garden enables the community to be completely self-sufficient in vegetables during 8 months each year.
Reduction and reuse of wasteA pilot project proposed by the conurbation authority in order to encourage people to reduce their waste has been won by Arterra Bizimodu: a hernhouse has therefore been constructed and 16 chickens have been placed inside. The neighbours have the possibility to bring their organic waste in exchange with fresh eggs, which enables to reduce their waste.
Renewable EnergyThe community's energy supply mainly comes from 3 energy sources:
- Solar: the building roofs facing south are equipped with photovoltaic solar panels with a total capacity of 10 kWc. These panels enables the community to cover its ordinary needs in electricity. Nevertheless, when the community hosts trainings, the photovoltaic panels are not sufficient anymore and it is planned to add more solar panels to reach a total capacity of 30 kW.
- Wood: a heating plant fuelled with processed olive stones has been installed in order to provide heat and hot water to the apartments occupied by permanent members.
- Biogas: a biogas digester was built in order to produce biogas which can be used for cooking. The biogas is produced from the fermentation of organic waste (waste produced during the production of beers for example) and stored in reused tires before being used in the kitchen! The biogas digester also produces fertilizer, particularly useful in the community gardens.
Involvement to protect communities and natureAfter having noticed that most of the community projects were failing several months/years after being launched, several Arterra Bizimodu's members participated, with the national network of ecovillages (RIE), in the creation of a community projects incubator. This incubator, very useful for communities which are in process of creation, consists in a personalized support provided by several specialists. Based on a first and complete assessment of the community conditions in all its dimensions (ecological, cultural, social and economic), the incubator is then able to provide the necessary help to create and secure a new community.
This incubator is now part of a European program called CLIPS.
One of Arterra Bizimodu's intensions is "to collaborate in the wider process of creating full, supportive societies capable of generating community and social well-being".
Many trainings (in permaculture, biogas, sociocracy, group facilitation, green construction...) and meetings (annual European and national network events) are organised in Arterra Bizimodu, which definitely support the mission of creation of more sustainable societies.
In 2019, more than 500 persons have been received in Arterra Bizimodu for trainings, meetings or visits. Each visit is a way to spread the model of sustainable society that Arterra Bizimodu members want.
Arterra Bizimodu community also hosts every year 10 young volunteers for a period of 8 months through the ESC program.
The ESC program (European Solidarity Corps) is an European Union initiative which creates opportunities for young people (from 18 to 30-years old) to volunteer or work in projects in their own country or abroad that benefit communities and people around Europe.
It is a way to give opportunity for volunteers interested in ecovillages and sustainable living to gain experience in regenerative farming activities and participate in community life.
Respect of cultural traditionsA "community day" is normally organised every month in the villages surrounding Arterra Bizimodu: the community decided to copy this tradition and now organises its own community day. The whole community therefore gathers one Sunday every month and first performs common tasks (cleaning, tidying, etc), then eat lunch together and finally gather for a community meeting, to discuss the community topics.
Social entrepreneurshipOne of the main objective of the community is to support the development of a range of entrepreneurial activities, which is permitted thanks to the many spaces available in the building.
Several activities have already been developed in Arterra Bizimodu:
- Artebirra: This project, led by 2 community members, consists in the production of home-made beers. It enables the community to drink local beers when its members meet in the "Taberna" or when the community hosts special events or meetings.
- Ogi Bidea consists is the production of bread directly on site in a wood-fired oven built by the community. The breadmaking is done using traditional process (the only ingredients used are flour, water, salt and sourdough). The flour is produced locally with a traditional flour mill machine.
- Baratzan Blai is the name of the project which holds all the activities carried out in the community garden: 2 persons are responsible for this project and are helped, every year, by several volunteers (for more information, please refer to the paragraph "Regenerative agriculture" in the Ecology part)
- Contenedor de Ruido is a project supported by a community member: a professional eco-built recording studio was built in Arterra Bizimodu.
- Maiterra: a member produces organic and natural cleaning products (soap, toothpaste, deodorant, ...) and creams which are sold to the community and visitors
- Ecohabitar is a company created in 1999, which then moved to Arterra Bizimidu. The projects held by Ecohabitar are numerous: from 2004, Ecohabitar started to publish a three-monthly journal related to green construction, sustainable life and permaculture and has around 2500 subscribers. By requiring to the printer companies to use recycle and FSC-certified paper, Ecohabitar has boosted the use of certified paper in Spain. By using the network necessary for the edition of such a journal, Ecohabitar also lead others projects: creation of a training institute in ecobuilding, lobbying to integrate new EU building standards in national laws, etc.
The community has also the chance to host the offices of the European branch of the GEN (Global Ecovillage Network), which also enables several members to have a permanent job on site.
Responsible production, consumption and tradeArterra Bizimodu increases its positive impact on production, consumption and trade, through several initiatives:
- as presented previously, several products are made directly on site (bread, beer, vegetables and natural products)
- a local "convenience store" has been installed in the community: every community member has the possibility to take the first convenience products when needed (eggs, tomato sauce, rice, ...). At the end of the month, each member pays for the food retrieved from the store.
- Every 2 weeks, a collective purchase order is organised in the community: each member has the possibility to buy food from an organic retailer and gets its order the following day.
Wealth creation through sharing and collaborationIn order to equally share the community tasks between all the members, a system called "Terrones" has been implemented in the community. This system intends to convert hours of community work into a fictive currency, that could be used within the community but also outside from the community (by converting the hours in Iratis, the local currency used in the region, for example).
Thus, community members who would have an under-average activity in the community should pay the community in order to compensate the services they got for free from the community. Conversely, the members who are really involved in the community activities should receive a monetary compensation for the services they've provided to the community.
This system is difficult to implement as it implies that all community members have a complete trust in the system and in the way the community hours are counted.
At the moment, Arterra Bizimodu's community runs the fourth version of the Terrones system. The community has quantified the number of hours needed to maintain the building every year: in total, 9000 hours are required and this amount of hours should be divided between all members. Therefore, the following rule has been decided: each member should spend every month 30 hours for the community tasks (cleaning, kitchen, administration tasks,...). Every hour spent for the community is equivalent to 8 Terrones (indeed, supposing that 1 Terrones = 1 €, a hourly rate of 8€/hour would be fair, in comparison with the national hourly rate). However, the Terrones are currently not converted into any valuable rate.
Embrace diversity and build community cohesion
Community intentions and missionsArterra Bizimodu has the following intentions:
- support the development of societies capable of generating community collaboration and social well-being
- take care of ecological sustainability to protect the planet
- engage in the transformation of current global economies towards local economies capable of preserving individual and community interest
- participate in the transition of the culture towards sustainable societies
In order to get these intentions real, the community has defined 4 different concrete missions:
- Develop a co-living space: some of the apartments of the building are dedicated to the installation of people and families. To live in the community, members have to pay a rent and have to participate actively to the community activities (around 30 hours per month have to be spent for the community - for more information, see paragraph related to Economy). Other apartments are also available for temporary inhabitants (people participating to trainings, doing rural tourism, etc).
- Develop a training space: one of the community objective is to develop a "University for the transition" in Arterra. Specific trainings are therefore organised in Arterra Bizimodu on different topics (permaculture, biogas, sociocracy, group facilitation...)
- Develop a space for local production: from organic farming in the community garden to others local productions (beekeeping, bread etc), the community is engaged in the development of a local food production. It is also true with the development of local expertises (in renewable energy, handcraft or carpentry for example) or immaterial production (arts, yoga, etc).
- Develop an internal organisational structure capable of maintaining the direction of the community project, enabling true communication between the community members and manage conflict situations.
Inclusion and exit processesIn order to protect these community intentions and make sure that new community members are also working in the same directions than the community itself, an inclusion process has been settled for every person willing to joining the community on the long-term. This process normally takes 1 year in total until the complete integration in community. The different steps of the inclusion process are:
- the interested individual/family first comes to visit the community for 2 to 4 weeks
- before having the opportunity to apply for starting the inclusion process, it is asked that the interested person comes back to his everyday life and assessed if he's ready to live with the community: this step enables the interested person to get things into perspective and reduce the risk to take a hasty decision, while still being in the community
- after having applied for entering into the community, the interested person is invited to spend 3-month in the community for the "getting to know us" step: during this step, the interested person/family will participate to the community daily tasks (but will not be untitled to take important decisions, in order to protect the community and its intentions). This step will enable the existing group and the interested person to assess if living together is possible on the long term.
- after these 3 months, if both parties are in agreement to follow the inclusion process, the possibility to start the integration process is opened: the integration process normally lasts 9 months and greater responsibilities and commitment are then asked to the interested person. During all the integration process, a person from the community is designated to assist the interested person and handle any problem that the person could have.
- if no objection from any community member is raised until the end of the integration process, the interested person is then fully integrated in the community.
An exit process is also foreseen by the community when somebody wants to leave the group: 3 months before his real departure, the concerned person should indicate to the community his decision to leave. During these 3 months, somebody from the community is designated to assist the leaving person and make sure that any stress relating to the leaving can be handled and solved quickly: this enables to protect the group cohesion.
Participatory leadership and governanceThe community is one of the most advanced community in Spain in term of integration of the Sociocracy model in all its decision-making process.
For more information about how sociocracy works in general, click here.
Decision-making by consentAll important decisions in Arterra Bizimodu are made by consent.
Circle organisationIn Arterra Bizimodu, 3 circles have been created:
- the "Common life" circle is responsible for all the common life activities (garden, kitchen, general cleaning, etc)
- the "Economy & Projects" circle is responsible for the community budget and entrepreneurial projects
- the "Building" circle is responsible for all topics related to the building
The creation of a fourth circle is currently considered by the community: the circle "Intention" would be responsible for the definition of the community intentions and objectives. It would also guarantee that the community always keep in mind these intentions when taking its decision.
Double linkingIn Arterra Bizimodu, the general circle is led and organised by a coordinator, elected by consent for a 2-years mandate.
The general organisation in circles of the community could therefore be summed-up with the following scheme:
Elections without candidateAs soon as there are completely integrated in the community, all members of Arterra Bizimodu are elected to roles and responsibilities by consent and without candidate.
Use of communication skills, conflict facilitationSeveral members of the community are trained to group facilitation, which enables the group to have the tools and solutions in order to find the solutions and solve a conflict.
There are several ways to visit Arterra Bizimodu:
- several open days are organized every year, where it's possible to discover and meet the community
- it's possible to spend some time in the community by doing eco-visits: in exchange for a participation to the community expenses, you'll be able to stay in the community, discover its particularities and participate to the daily tasks
- you can also come to Arterra Bizimodu as a volunteer: the accommodation and lunch will be provided by the community in exchange for the work performed (generally from 9:30 to 13:30)
- if you're a European citizen under 30 years old, Arterra Bizimodu participate to the ESC (European Solidarity Corps) program and hosts every year around 10 young volunteers for a period of 8 months. This is a great opportunity if you're interested in ecovillages and sustainable living.