In a country where recycling hasn’t quite started yet, where Reusing, Re-purposing and Re-furbishing is the core of sustainability. This is my story of locals and volunteers from all over the world come together to create something new and sustainable.
By early November when the cold weather settles in over the northern United States I get the urge to head for warmer climates.
For the past four decades I have sought out destinations, which provided eco or sustainable tourism. As a result I have had tremendously rewarding travel experiences in places that support the responsible use and preservation of natural resources. We know that sustainable tourism involves practices which include slogans such as „reduce, reuse, recycle“ but it also has additional meaning.
It also means sustaining the people who call theses places home. It means respecting their customs and supporting their businesses. To find a place in both respects can be a little daunting.
When I found the Jardin D’Eden Jamaica on AirBnB and also on a site called workaway, it put a smile on my face. (Workaway is an international site for travellers who work five to six hours a day, five days a week in exchange for room and board with two days a week off for travel.)
I contacted Jardin D’Eden Jamaica, located in the district of Eden in the hills of St. James parish, wanting to work with them and they welcomed me with open arms and generous hearts. As I write this I have been in Eden a little over a month and I am so excited about what they are doing. The Jardin D’Eden Jamica is a project inspired by Melissa Dauphin from Canada who came to Jamica over four Years ago. Gregory McLennon, a local from Eden and two former volunteers from Germany and Switzerland joined her along the way because they believe in Melissa’s vision and passion for the project.
Their passion is to build a local tourist business that sustains the people who visit, the people who live here and the land. And their vision is to share this experience and this beautiful country with people who find a healthy, sustainable Oasis away from the
environment of the sterile foreign owned resorts.
They found the still Jamaican rural land in the lush hillside of Eden, located in St. James Parish, not far from Montego Bay.
The plan came together and the project is taking shape. There are between 10 to 14 volunteers from all over the world as well as local workers ,who have built a village of tepees to live in while they work on the actual project which is the construction of Earth
bag houses – to be guest cabins for travellers in the future.
Earth bag houses are just as the name implies. They are built from earth. The foundation is marl (limestone rock) for adequate drainage with a sub floor of sifted, battered marl. The walls are made of bags (old polypropylene bags which are purchased for a small
price and repurposed for this project) filled with dirt from the land and marl. Once the walls are constructed and the windows in place, a cob plaster will be made out of clay found on the site to cover the earth bags. Bamboo, thatch and other natural materials
will be used in support structures as well as for the roof.
Each structure will have a central circular space (bedroom) with two semi-circles off each end, which will have a kitchen and a bathroom (each on one side). The guest cabins will have electricity and running water.
All materials used in the building process are gathered from the land, our purchased locally and recycled.
Also the Jardin D’Eden has their own garden where they harvest fresh food. A chicken coop is in progress for fresh eggs every morning and every day they serve fresh food cooked over the wood fire, which they grew or gathered themselves or purchased from local farmers.
You can enjoy the outdoor shower while watching the sky, chill out in a hammock or go on a rafting trip down the great river with one of the local rafters. A bird sanctuary is near by, the local farmers love to take you up to their farms and in no time you are in downtown Montego Bay or at the beach. There is so much to explore and see.
The first house is well on it’s way. You can check and watch the progress on their Facebook page. Also they are always looking for volunteers (check out workaway.org or helpX.net) or investors, for that check out their fundraising
The sustainable earth bag houses can be purchased by locals or foreigners. Owners can reside in them or rent them semi times.
This modest development will provide a community of truly sustainable houses set in a beautiful, natural and safe setting.
This has been such an exciting and inspirational project for me to be involved in. An unexpected benefit is the opportunity to work and hang out with volunteers, mostly young people, from all around the world who gain a better understanding of Jamaican nature and ways everyday from the local residents and workers. They came to be very grateful for the small things in life like running water or electricity; things they have taken for granted. The locals on the other hand are learning about the importance and ways of sustainable tourism and living.
Together with locals these young people are planting gardens, replanting fruit tree and developing environmentally friendly soaps and cleaning products. Everyone doesn’t just seem to be learning but instead to be actually taking these values
into their lives.
I believe, as Realjamaica.org emphasises, these people are offering a way for tourists to travel and volunteers to work in a country while giving back to it’s people.
Everyone working on this project is so excited and enthusiastic. Even the AirBnB guests they are receiving in the little bamboo cabin can’t sit still and start helping doing dishes but still enjoy themselves tremendously. Because life here is like in a family – a home
away from home.
I know they would love to receive you as a guest, have you just stop by for a visit, hear from you or have you volunteer.
As a guest you can rent tent space, stay in one of the self made Tipi made from old bags from a local cement factory or rent the little bamboo cabin build completely out of bamboo from the surrounding bush.
Sustainability is alive and real at Jardin D’Eden Jamaica. And you will experience the real Jamaica, eat the delicious home cooked meals and have an absolute blast with volunteers, other guests and locals alike.