Ca La Fou is an ambitious ‘eco-industrial postcapitalist colony’, a day’s cycle outside barcelona. The group first visited this site in october 2010, and only moved here in july 2011. The enormous space was bought as a housing cooperative by the group with a loan from an ecological bank and support from a wider network.
It was originally a ‘colonia,’ a factory workhouse dating back to the 13th century. The river running through provided energy for various mills, including a paper mill and a textile mill. this was replaced by a powerful hydroelectric plant after the site was abandoned for a few years in 1975.
The site was a self contained colony with a school, a church and a shop. Only four person families were permitted to come and live and work on the site and those families were thoroughly exploited. They could be paid in vouchers for the shop instead of money and rape, even of pregnant women, by the bosses was not unheard of. The colonia was cut off from the rest of the world and contact with the local village was limited. Things are a little different now!
The thirty permanent collective members work at a slow pace but have achieved a great deal by making the space livible and have already built a number of functioning workshops. These include:
- An impressive hacklab where broken computers are recycled into new ones
- A collaborative car workshop where engines are fixed to run with vegetable oil
- A Ukelele workshop
- A chemistry lab where soap is made from recycled vegetable oil mixed with caustic soda, (and sometimes recycled animal fat)
- A chicken-run and chick creche.
The Chickens house
The chickens are allowed to roam free, but always come back to the chicken house thanks to a few little tricks. First of all they know that the chicken coop is a safe quiet place for eggs. The residents never take all of their eggs and some are allowed to hatch. If they still keep laying out of the coop, they “kidnap the chickens” for a few days and keep them in the coop!
Unfortunately, they can’t grow much food here because the river which flows through the land is now the fourth most polluted in the european union. They are downstream from a leather treatment plant and other industries. For water they have had to pay for a connection to the town water supply. This was an expensive process involving 300m of piping. They also qualify as a industrial property – this means water rates are very expensive!
Other difficulties with their situation include flooding problems which cut off access to the site. The council came to build a road, but it is often too dangerous to use during flooding season. There is also a high fire risk in the area, so they cannot make fires in certain months.
However, they were lucky enough to inherit a grey water system originally plumbed into the housing quarters. The system catches water from the roof for body washing, then washing clothes, then goes to the garden in front. Not so newfangled after all this permaculture thing! They’ve also experimented with a compost water heating system, but unfortunately it still doesnt work.
Many of them are new to equal ways of making decisions in big groups. They try to use consensus and have one meeting a week. They also use an internal mailing list and are connected to Cooperativa Integral Catalunya and are hoping to build an exciting space which challenges capatalism and provides a space for community development.