From our correspondent
This January morning, access to the hamlet of Bel-Air is blocked. Driven by storm Gérard, a chestnut tree fell on the road, taking the telephone line with it. Armed with a chainsaw, Arnaud, noise-canceling headphones on his ears, limbs the tree alongside the municipal employee. Anaïs, Antoine and Timothée, dressed in oilskins, arrange the cut wood on the side aisles. Branches with a good section will become heating logs.
All in their thirties, they joined the collective (1) created in 2018 by six friends in Priziac, 40 kilometers north of Lorient, in Morbihan. Their motivation? Live differently. “We wanted to create a place where we share a little more with our neighbors than in the usual societyexplains Timothée, 39, one of the founders. We try to live in harmony with nature, and to set up common sense projects based on mutualisation, working together. »
Their eco-place, on the shores of Lake Priziac, is located on the ruins of a 16th century castle.e century. The forest covers two thirds of the 15 hectares of the property. A stone farmhouse houses a kitchen, toilets and offices in the attic. It is the common house where meals, meetings and training are shared. A vegetable garden and a greenhouse of 100 m2 provide some of the fruits and vegetables consumed by the inhabitants.
The eleven adults, single or in couple – without forgetting two children and a baby – have a light personal habitat: caravan, yurt, dome or cabin, scattered in the surrounding meadows. Six of the inhabitants are associated within the Civil Real Estate Company (SCI) of the village of Bel-Air, owner of the site. To join, you must live there for one year.
A legal person joined them in March 2021: the Oasis Cooperative, resulting from the movement initiated in 1997 by Pierre Rabhi, a pioneer in agroecology. It brings its expertise in eco-places, and lends the village €200,000 over ten years, to finance renovation work and the first individual homes. Two associations complete the legal structure: one dedicated to housing management, the other to economic activities. The first collects the rent of the inhabitants. The second manages the activities. The two structures pay a fee to the SCI, responsible for repaying the loans.
“The rent is free, except for tenants receiving housing benefit who have a fixed-price lease. We want to be consistent and in the nails of the law, it is important for us to remain integrated”, details Timothy. Everyone agrees on the need for a “reliable, legal, inter-generational and open to the world project”.
The economic balance of the village is based on the rents and the services offered to the public: immersion stays, to experience this alternative way of life; discovery days, to visit the site and share “talking time” ; training, devoted to the creation of an eco-place.
Florence, 54, has just decided to settle in Bel-Air after an immersion stay. “Here, I feel alive”, said this former nurse, who since 2013 felt “out of town life”.
Dominique Le Niniven, the mayor, regularly meets these citizens. “These are young people with a clear mind, who have another vision of society. They deserve attentionhe points out. We are preparing with them a project for a municipal health center, near the town, with contracted doctors and practitioners of alternative medicine, including some inhabitants of Bel-Air. The objective is to integrate this project into our local intermunicipal urban plan (Rain). »
Among the professions represented in the eco-village, there is a PE teacher, a psychiatrist, a theater artist, the director of a resource centre, two team leaders (including a former aerospace technician) , a naturalist, a personal and professional coach, a specialist in mindfulness meditation.
Anaïs, 30, moved in a year and a half ago. This former history and geography teacher at the French high school in Alexandria, Egypt, first worked at the Fresque du climat, an association for public awareness of global warming, before resigning. “I was teleworking a lot, away from the rest of the team in Paris. I felt like I was above ground. I wanted to get involved locally,” she summarizes. Thanks to her unemployment rights, she was able to get involved in the organization of stays in the village, and launched “Pleinphare sur la COP27”, a citizen mobilization to put art at the service of the climate.
Relations with the neighborhood are good. Open houses are organised. Recently, a belote and karaoke evening has been organized once a month in a café in the village. “In July, we were a few to give a hand for the organization of the pardon of the Madeleine, in a hamlet of Priziac. This allowed us to meet old people. The contact went very well, says Timothy. There is a certain spirituality in our values, which is experienced differently in each of us.. Our common point is our allergy to dogma and to everything that encloses or separates. »