Model Sustainable Village

Duayee Vocational School

Ecosa Institute was asked by Peter Gbelia, the Executive Director of the Empowerment Society, to create a master plan for a sustainable intervention in the village of Duayee in Liberia, Africa. This plan was intended to develop a model approach to sustaining the culture,
environment, and economy of the Liberian people. The village we worked with was Duayee located near the Yah river. The goal was to create Local Economic Development (LED) by designing a system where more food is produced (improved agro-techniques, seeds, irrigation, fertilizers, fish farm, swamp rice), the surplus can be sold at market creating economic growth, and revenue invested back into human capital and community infrastructure.

liberia mapThis was a challenging project in as much as it was based in a non-western culture and needs to respond to needs that are very different to US expectations. Prior to the start of this design, each participant was required to read the report and proposal provided by the Empowerment Project and the Millennium Development Report. The goal of this project was to research alternative development patterns, materials, social and economic systems to create an integrated design that includes all elements of sustainability from materials to permaculture, energy to food supplies. Ecosa Institute proposed a vocational school as the best way to illustrate, educate about, and build a truly sustainable village. Through the vocational school, Duayee will be able to educate its population and create a skilled work force by allowing every project in the village to be a learning experience that will expand upon the village’s knowledge and skill sets. Download the final Duayee Vocational School Proposal, and download the preliminary Research Presentation on Liberia.

Vocational school programs will include:


The construction and remodeling that take place in the village are used as hands-on training projects for vocational classes. Buildings are built and retrofit to provide the occupants and village the required comfort, sanitation and nutrition through taking into account climactic, environmental, and social factors that affect the site.

Appropriate Technology

appropriatetechnologyIn ‘Appropriate Technology’ students will learn by working with local knowledge and materials how to produce energy, run machines, and create marketable products. It is extremely economically beneficial for the village to pursue Appropriate Technology to power the improvements that the community wants because of the cost savings of using local materials, and training multiple people in the buildings, installation and maintenance of the energy sources.

Rainwater Harvesting System

bamboo roofingRetrofits to existing buildings and incorporation of rainwater catchment systems in new buildings are used as training tools to build up the knowledge base needed to start industries around each component of the system, including roofing, gutter systems, and rain tanks. This will provide the residents of the village with educational opportunities, increased resource security and water quality, as well as a more resilient local economy.


The land throughout the village can be used as an asset forthe community. With small alterations of the topography, working with the natural slope and learning some of the processes of nature, pieces of the land can be made into productive food crops and water needs can be met while maintaining the natural balance and biodiversity of the surrounding ecosystem.

Earthworks for Rainwater Catchment

Rain is one of the largest sources for fresh water that almost any region has available to it. Many times, rainwater is free of contaminates that are in the well and ground water which make people sick regularly. Capturing this free water to use for irrigation is one of the easiest things to do, if using earthworks to achieve this irrigation.

Foduayee vs food forest diagramod Forests and Polyculture

The rainforests of Nimba County hold some of the most biologically diverse vegetation and wildlife in the world, therefore also an incredible source of economic value for the local community. The devastating effect of slash-and-burn agriculture could potentially not only create a loss of agricultural subsistence, economic revenue, and education for the people of Duayee but could be even more catastrophic by wiping out a valuable biodiversity hotspot of the world’s ecosystem. Through this class, students will learn to use practices of permaculture as a way of maintaining nutrient-rich land for growing crops. They will learn how to imitate nature’s systems of creating inter-relating, self sustaining, multilayered ecosystems through food forest gardening as well as how trees, shrubs, plants, insects and geography work together to produce food. The benefits of polyculture as opposed to monoculture gardening will be demonstrated and hands on experience in designing, creating and maintaining these systems will be throughout the class.

Composting, Humanure, and Methane Harvesting

Proper handling of waste is important for the health of a community. Garbage and human waste can be valuable resources when properly collected and processed, but can also be detrimental if left untreated as human waste can be the source of numerous diseases such as hepatitis and e-coli. Proper collection of human waste can be as easy as digging a hole, but with a little planning, this waste can be converted into fertile soil that is clean and beneficial.


Some vocations that can be taught don’t necessarily rely on buildings systems but provide needed materials to the village and community through creative means.

Paper Making

The process of using waste plant materials, waste clothing and waste paper then breaking these materials down into fibers with water and force, reforming, pressing and drying them into sheets that can be used to record information and share this information with other people. Adopting the art of making paper will help to provide a needed supply of materials to teach writing, reading and a craft which can be marketed to the surrounding villages and cities.

Print Making and Publishing

The students can learn how to catalog their local resources, learn basic bookkeeping skills, and be able to keep logs of what they’ve learned so that the information can be passed on and replicated.

LEARNING FROM DUAYEE : Researcher in Residency Program

Duayee has a wealth of ecological information at its doorstep, along with the information in the community and that gained through the other vocational program. Opening up the village to a few researchers to study the ecology of the region would bring in money to the local economy through their purchase of daily needs, as well as provide a source of information that could be taught to school children or mgoing into the field of science.

In conclusion, Ecosa Institute has determined that a vocational school, through its building and use of space, could be a vital training opportunity for villagers, as well as the kick start to multiple industries and businesses that could bring the village much needed economic support, as well as provide funding to the school. Through the inclusion of tradition in the classes, inspired learning and creativity will take place, as well as building in the respect that these traditions deserve. When the learning process is integrated with physical projects for the community, whose difference the villagers and students can see, the lessons stay in place and inspire even more solutions, based on local knowledge. The local industries and jobs that are created from this model will be more stable than the international industries that are the main job providers now. These local industries will enable their employees, with knowledge due to the school, to remain locally precisely because of the regenerated opportunity and income that the school provides.

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