La Bolina, a model for supporting refugees and migrant

By Habiba Youssef Abdel Aal

La Bolina uses the term ‘forced migrants’ interchangeably with stateless or internally displaced peoples (IDPs), asylum seekers and refugees.

La Bolina is an ecological, land regeneration, educational, and intercultural association based in El Valle.
The project started in 2017 when a group of people from Europe, Africa and the Middle East moved to El Valle in Granada, Spain, and began to create what would become an organic, ever-evolving, multidisciplinary initiative.

The initial idea was to apply an important permaculture concept: “The problem is the solution.”
Andalusia, in particular, and Europe, in general, were experiencing a flow of people migrating from Asia and Africa for a wide variety of reasons. At the same time, rural areas were being depopulated for years as a result of the migration of youth and elder populations to cities.
Our solution was to involve forced migrants to participate in slowing down the depopulation of the rural area “El Valle” by creating a social network, employment opportunities, training and simultaneously reviving and revitalizing the area.

La Bolina has been offering a non-institutionalized response to welcoming forced migrants. Its aim has been to break the hierarchy determined by residency papers or legal statuses and offer people a fair opportunity to establish themselves in the area.

Since its inception, it has been a vehicle for principles of agroecology and permaculture, sharing daily living experiences, and exchanging knowledge, perspectives, and collective intelligence.

Approximately 25 people from all over the world directly influenced everything that happened at La Bolina and helped shape the initiative.

It is a place for people from different backgrounds, needs, expectations and abilities to come together and try to develop a way to interact, work, have fun and be productive, without any set boundaries, except for lack of funding and the collective imagination of the people in the group.
It is an attempt to create a different way of functioning as a collective.

Similar to other initiatives, La Bolina is important as it offers a platform for people from different cultural and economic backgrounds yet with a similar desire or need to create a different, inclusive lifestyle/initiative that dares to challenge mainstream, institutional responses to forced migration and the conventional agri-food system with a sustainable and regenerative rural development as well as connecting, learning from and inspiring other similar initiatives through training and residencies.

It is important because forced migrants are very vulnerable when they arrive into a new country and need support – legal, social, cultural, emotional, and economic – to find a way to thrive on their journey.

Moreover, the people in the receiving community benefit from the opportunity to share a space with the new arrivals and to get to know people and cultures they otherwise might never have known.

Some of the forced migrants who initially formed part of the La Bolina or joined later have settled in the area. They have formed their own social networks and revenue generating activities. Some of them are still collaborating with La Bolina as it continues to evolve and adapt to life.

The members of La Bolina are currently reflecting on the future of the association and how it will be shaped in the coming years. For more information, visit our website:
Facebook: @proyectolabolina
Instagram: @labolina_rpg

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