The Oriente – Ecuador’s Amazonian region

The Amazon rainforest of Ecuador or “El Oriente” of Ecuador is the country’s largest region. Nothing is just ordinary in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Ecuador’s Amazonian jungle, one of the country’s most thrilling destinations. At first glance, the rain forest is a vast green wilderness. However, as one observes carefully, this ecosystem is full of surprises for its visitors.

This area has the highest biodiversity in Ecuador, with more than 800 species of birds, more than 2500 types of insects and more than 450 species of endemic flora.

No other Ecuadorian habitat overwhelms the senses like the tropical rainforest, with its cacophonous soundtrack of birds and insects, the rich smell of steaming foliage and teeming soil, the glimmer of fluorescent birds and butterflies in the understory, or the startling clamour of a troop of monkeys clattering through the canopy above.

To give you an idea just how great the Amazon is, there are islands in the Amazon River that are nearly as big as Switzerland. 

This is the Oriente’s star attraction, and what most visitors are here for – though the region, which occupies a massive area covering almost half the country, contains a good deal more besides. The alto (high) Oriente starts on the eastern Andean flank, where the high, windswept páramo steadily gives way to dripping montane forests, swathed in mist and draped with mosses and epiphytes, as the elevation decreases. Waterfalls plunge into broadening valleys, and temperatures rise the further you descend. Down in the foothills, poised between the sierra and the lowlands, lies a beguiling landscape of rippling hills and verdant, subtropical forests, home to a startling diversity of birds. Continuing east, the mountain ridges eventually taper away into the bajo (low) Oriente like talons sinking into the deep velvet of a vast emerald wilderness.

Population

One of three regions (the costa, the sierra and the oriente), the Oriente contains nearly half of the square footage of the country, but less than 5% of the 12.5 million population of Ecuador. Zamora – The City of Birds and Waterfalls If you’re looking for a destination in Ecuador with a difference, Zamora might just be what you had in mind. With only about 16,000 people living in the entire Zamora-Chinchipe province, this is one of the most sparsely populated parts of the country.

Southern Oriente

Ecuador’s southern Oriente is less developed than its northern counterpart in every way, with fewer roads, fewer towns, fewer tourists and less oil activity. The region’s two main population centres are Puyo, the provincial capital of Pastaza, and Macas, 129km further south, capital of the province of Morona-Santiago. Settlement by colonists is largely confined to a long, thin strip flanking the Troncal Amazónica (the Amazon highway), which runs from north to south through the region, in the selva alta, parallel with the eastern flank of the Andes. This road, mostly paved between Puyo and Limón, is virtually the only road in the southern Oriente, with access east into the heart of the tropical rainforest possible only by boat along the numerous rivers coiling through the forest, or by chartered light aircraft.

Climate

The climate in the low Oriente is what you’d expect from a rainforest – hot, humid and plenty of rain. The wettest months are April to July, but expect cloudbursts most days year round, usually in the early afternoon. Average daytime temperatures are around 25°C, though daily highs can be over 32°C. With such consistent conditions, the Oriente doesn’t have a high tourist season; at slow times of year, when there are few tourists in the country as a whole (Feb to mid-June & Sept–Nov), it’s worth asking for discounts.

History

Human settlements have existed in the Oriente since sometime around 2450 BC.  Early indigenous of the Oriente lived in a region rich in natural resources: rivers, plants, tropical fruits and of course–gold.

The Quijos region east of Coca was well known to the Incas, who ventured downhill to meet lowland tribes in peace and battle. It was also the first area east of the Andes to be penetrated by the Spanish. The anniversary of the European discovery of the Amazon River (February 12) is still celebrated in jungle cities with markets and fairs. Within a few centuries after European contact most of the region’s tens of thousands of inhabitants had fallen victim to smallpox and cholera.

Rumours of the jungle being el pais de canela (“the land of cinnamon”), a place of abundant fruits and spices, and the legend of El Dorado, the “Golden Man”, drew the early explorers here, suggesting to them a land of staggering natural riches.

The first Europeans to venture here soon found this fabled earthly paradise had a nightmarish underside; their parties were plunged into an impenetrable green hell (“el infierno verde”), teeming with poisonous snakes and biting insects. A string of catastrophic expeditions in the early colonial period quickly discouraged the Spanish from colonizing the Oriente at all.

The name itself “El Oriente” has its origins from back in time. The great province of Oriente was created during the first government of Gabriel Garcia Moreno in 1861, under a character of Special District with capital in Archidona. The province consisted of two cantons, the Napo canton whose capital was Archidona and the Canelos canton whose capital was Canelos.1 The Oriente was dissolved on December 15, 1920 in the Napo Pastaza and Santiago Zamora provinces by the government that presided over the José Luis Tamayo .

In 1861, just thirty years after Ecuador had declared its independence from Gran Columbia, the territory called the Oriente was designated after Ecuador and Peru signed a treaty defining each other’s borders. In 1941, Peru grew ambitious and invaded Ecuador occupying more than half of its territory in the eastern Amazon basin in a 10 day war. A treaty was negotiated in favor of Peru a year later. The U.S., Brazil, Chile, and Argentina agreed to act as guarantors of the peace treaty. The U.S. Air Force completed mapping and marking most of the borders of the Oriente by 1947. But because of the hope of finding gold, uranium, and oil, there was no resolution in Ecuador’s mind and in 1995, war flared up again between the two countries. It was not until the 1998 that Ecuador finally acquiesced and allowed Peru to keep the territory–putting to end one of the longest territorial disputes in the western hemisphere.

Even until the 1960s, most people, save for a sprinkling of missionaries and pioneers, kept away, leaving the forests and its inhabitants well alone. This all changed in the late 1960s following the discovery of large oil and gas reserves, now the country’s most important source of wealth. The Oriente was divided into 200-square-kilometre bloques (blocks) and distributed between the companies, who proceeded to drill and blast in search of black gold. Roads were laid, towns sprouted virtually overnight and large areas of rainforest were cleared. The Oriente was transformed into a “productive” region and colonists streamed in on the new roads, looking for jobs and levelling still more land for farms.

But it was in the 1990’s that yet a new “gold” was discovered in the Oriente: whitewater rivers and the promise of tourism. Already a paradise in its untouched, cloud forest/rain forest setting, tourism in the Oriente still mainly consisted of adventurous souls looking to explore Ecuador’s Amazon area with trips to such jungle retreats as Cuyabeno. The majority of Ecuadorians still shuddered at the thought of traveling to the Oriente–for fear of wild indians, giant snakes and unpaved roads. But the discovery of Ecuador’s whitewater treasure brought a whole new type of traveler into the tourism mix: kayakers and rafters.

Zamora-Chinchipe

The southernmost province in El Oriente, Zamora Chinchipe is the mining centre of Ecuador, with gold mines at Nambija, Chinapinza, and Guayzimi. The provincial capital, Zamora is accessed by the road from Loja, and Podocarpus National Park in the cloud forest between Loja and Zamora is popular with hikers.

Valle de las Luciérnagas – Valley of Fireflies

The famous Yantzaza Valley or Valley of Fireflies (Spanish: Valle de Yantzaza o Valle de las Luciérnagas). The origin of its name comes from the word yanzatza in Shuar which means “valley of the fireflies,” due to the constant presence of fireflies in the area. Yantzaza is a town in that region, the Zamora Chinchipe province of Ecuador. Because of its proximity to the border with Peru, some travelers pass through the town on their journey to northern Peru.

Finca PermaTree

Now you know why we choose the amazon part of Ecuador for our project finca PermaTree.

Growing Plants from Seeds, with the right Soil

Soil types at PermaTree

In the beginning of PermaTree, we just used the soil we found around the plant nursery which has a reddish and claylike soil texture. Not ideal for the seeds to germinate, we found out. It makes them hard to thrive, because of the slow drainage rate and therefore the high water-holding capacity.

The main soil we have at the Finca, is a claylike, reddish soil.

So, we were thinking it might be best to mix this claylike soil with compost to become a smoother structure to thrive the seeds an easier way to spread. But at that time we did not had our proper compost soil, so we had to find a vendor – which was only possible by asking around.

We just bumped in to a new raised project in the city of Yantzata where they produce, from organic waste of the garbage dump, compost soil. We were happy to finally find someone who is producing compost soil in big amounts and we liked the idea of the project because people usually do not reuse organic waste. All goes in to the same trash. So we bought a few bags of this compost and gave it a try.

The result was, the compost contained to much nutrition and for the little plants, there roots, got burned and finally they died. Also the compost had a nasty sticky structure. The surface dried out very fast and it got very hard. Inside it was so wet that the soil got moody and by turning the pot over you could smell the moodiness. Even for bigger Plants this compost soil failed in all cases. Plants firmly died by looking at them!

Soil condition in dry state of the compost, humus, fertilizer from Yantzaza.

So finally we had to drop the idea of using this compost soil, nice project, but something was not acting well.

Then we tried a other mixture with sand, which we bought by the river bank nearby and an almost black soil which we discovered near our workers house. A nice and smooth soil. Who thrived pretty well and now, after several times, throwing pots away and start from scratch, we had our first success! YEY!

So, best mixture is 80% Sand and 20% Compost or black soil.

Humus, soil near the workers house.

Sand texture from the river bank.

But there are different sand textures as well. Sometimes the sand is so fine that it sticks together like clay. Therefore, better sand with tiny, tiny stones in it, to keep a loose soil for good drainage so the water can flow through and does not stay to long in the pot, to avoid putrefaction.

With the time we had been talking to all kinds of people about soil and where to buy best, how to make our own fertilizer and by that, we received many, many answers and various techniques, how to make compost soil. Which was also a bit confusing for us and the question was, where to start best?

Our first idea was just throwing all organic matter from the kitchen into an earth hole. But soon we had company from ugly worms and the compost was very watery. Crops and dry components where definitely missing. And probably the hole thing wasn’t helping. So we actually didn’t know how to make a proper compost in a tropical climate like we are in.

Our first contact was a visit at the Japanese community TAKAKURA nearby. They make a soil with fermented crops, and finally the microorganisms break all the organic matter down to a black compost soil. A tradition Japanese recipe like they use it to make compost soil. There are two fermented solutions needed which can be read in a detailed manual they gave us. But still it is kind a tricky if you never got hands on it. We were just missing the insiders. When do I have to mix it how and how long and how does the soil look like, when do we have to add more from them and that? So we were kind a in the situation of not dared to venture.

There was another community near Yantzaza which also restores compost soil. They call it Bukatchi. Also a fermented process a fantastic soil for seeds! But we found it very complicated to produce. The recipe is long! You need lots of ingredients and fermented elements to produce Bukatchi according to their recipe and their stock is very little. You have to cut organic matter in tiny peace which is a time consuming process by hand.

Time passed and we came across with a completely different project the Guanabanas, Soursop a super food fruit which kills cancer cells hundred times more than chemotherapy. This all organic project made us very confident to produce them over large scale. So they told us, when the plant is placed in to the hole, fertilizer must be added to give them a good growing start. Over a other person we found a seller from Cuenca. A very good soil! Two bags we had to mix, one was a compost from leaves and the other was compost with cow dough. But this soil is really only for plants which are higher than 20 cm. Otherwise again, it’s too much nutrition and therefore not for seedlings!

Compost, humus, fertilizer soil from Cuenca.

For seedlings we used only like 10% of this fertilizer and the rest 60% with sand and 20% rice husks until the soil gets very smooth and light. Instead of compost soil we are using now goat dug which works well too. But as I mentioned, just very little because it is high in nutrition!

Goat dug fertilizer.

Dry rice husks, shells.

Why not chicken dug? Because it is very strong and the chicken dug is most likely coming from chickens which are treated with antibiotics, which is anyway bad for the soil. Better use Guinea pig dug or like mention above.

So this whole process took us one-year experimentation to find out what’s the best soil condition for our seedlings. We also found out that Papaya needs a lot of nutrition and Carrot grow best in sandy soil.

Compost soil is still an open project which we are working on it and hoping that hope one day to keep it up and ideally have a Volunteer on board who can support on showing us exactly how to produce smooth and nice black soil!

Plant Nursery, picture from today, 18. April 2017

Young chilli peper plant.

young Noni plant

Young Tomato plant.

Good fertilizer for Tomato, wooden ash!

Young Rambutan, plant

Young Pitahaya, Dragon Fruit plant.

 

 

Bamboo Volunteer Cabin

The latest PermaTree micro project is to build a bamboo house mainly for volunteers with an amazing view of the Rio Zamora and the Valle de las Luciernagas. The size will be 6 x 3 meters and there will be a fix hammock on the panoramic view side of the house.

This is another so called ecological or natural building we are finalizing here. Actually in this remote region of Ecuador most local people who can,  build concrete and steel just because they believe its better… so once a while we get visitors at our place its always interesting to see their reactions 🙂 Most important is that we can use sustainable materials such as fast growing bamboo and some wood elements which are needed. The wood is going to be a real issue long term in Ecuador and most of Latin America. There is no real serious existing timber tree replanting policy in most countries. So once the trees are cut. There are no more trees. And some take over 200 year to grow. So we believe thinking long term bamboo and giant bamboo is a real good alternative because it can theoretically grow 90 cm / 35 in which is more than just amazing because it has literally 100s of additional beneficial factors.

Photos of the development of the volunteer bamboo house at PermaTree 

New Natural Building Volunteer Structure

After having almost 95% finished the construction of our current PermaTree HQ bamboo house, we started with the next natural building project. Within 3 month we started living in our bamboo house so we improved step by step the construction. The first few month where a bit rough because we had almost no walls within the house and the roof had some issues with the rain 🙂 Now all got fixed.

The new PermaTree volunteer structure

Development Status (9th March 2017) of the base for the new natural structure for our volunteers at PermaTree in Ecuador. Construction material are local wood for the base structure. Top structure / walls and roof structure will be all in bamboo mostly guadua type bamboo which we have been drying here for the last 6 month. Some material need to be organized but most of it is ready and on location.

Also see inspiration for the color of the roof (blue), the roof design (tropical – lots of rain), first sketch of the structure on the white board and last but not least the floating hammock 🙂 Rock n Roll

As you know we have a new volunteer program at PermaTree because we deeply believe in collaboration. We do what we believe. Participation is experiential education; you are learning about permaculture and community by living in it. The most helpful, effective, and happy participants are self-motivated, interested, responsible, and accountable. Here we fully stress collaboration. We are about mutual enrichment and working together. There is no room for people who think they know everything.

Since things like finishing the new volunteer structure take time, ideally you will be able to commit to a 1 month or longer working alongside the PermaTree Volunteer Program. Our goal is to finish this structure before the end of 2017.

Here we see the volunteer structure with the additional parts for earth quake resistance!

Here we see the volunteer structure with the additional parts for earth quake resistance!

Btina standing in front of the bottom structure – better see the size.

Before and after photo of the volunteer structure base

Before and after photo. The main idea was to not change the landscape at all and “just” build on top of it.

Here is part of our inspiration for this project:

Inspiration: First sketch on the white board / idea Inspiration: Blue Roof Inspiration: Tropical Roof Design Inspiration: Floating Hammock with view

Long-term volunteer positions PermaTree

2017 long-term Permaculture volunteering positions available at the PermaTree Project in southern Ecuador.

Spend 3 or 6 months to a year at the PermaTree Project, in Ecuador. Current open volunteer positions are:

  • All-round volunteer
  • Talented Paint/Artist volunteer
  • Talented Author/Blogger volunteer
  • Experienced Compost volunteer
  • Talented Carpenter volunteer
  • Talented Video & Photography volunteer
  • Experienced natural swimming pool volunteer

Participation is experiential education; you are learning about permaculture and community by living in it. The most helpful, effective, and happy participants are self-motivated, interested, responsible, and accountable.

If you are interested in experiencing permaculture in action, living in community, and engaging with DIY projects in a hands-on and dynamic environment, review this page and fill out the application now!

SUMMARY
We (open minded Swiss & French couple) started in March 2016 created PermaTree a Non-Profit Organization with the philosophy of permaculture which we live by and apply. We are a holistic farm focusing on a sustainable lifestyle by growing and cooking our own organic foods. We build a bamboo house, compost toilets and a river nearby from where we get our water. Half of the land here is a natural jungle reserve so we don’t touch it. Before, the land was occupied with cow farming and so now we are recovering the soil. On sundays, we go to the fresh market in Yantzaza to buy all the food until all grows within the farm.

PERMATREE
As a community, we wake up together, eat meals together, take turns cooking for each other, and share in the responsibilities of keeping daily operations running smoothly.

Each community member may have different responsibilities, but we do our best to work together as a cohesive group. Inevitably there are challenges, both physical and interpersonal, but even in these, we try our best to learn and grow from them.

The PermaTree Project is an 1-year old permaculture site in the edge of the amazonas region of Ecuador in South America. The farm is approximately 76 hectares or 180 acres and located about 3 hours north of Loja, in Southern Ecuador. The lowest part is 800 to 1300 meters over the sea level. Which means we have a high variation of micro climates within PermaTree. It was not so long ago a dense tropical jungle with huge trees and later in the 60s half of the property was made pasture land for cows. Lucky us the fruit orchard is very diverse: papayas, bananas, plantains, cacao, mangoes, bananas, lemons, white zapotes, lulo, guayabas, ice cream bean, passion fruit, sugar cane, and tons of other edibles.

COLLABORATION & KNOWLEDGE
PermaTree is a place where people come together and create mutual enrichment. Participate as a volunteer and teach/learn from people who share their knowledge. On the other hand, we are always looking for mentors to teach the respective topics which match the specific sub-project. Or visit the farm to get a taste of permaculture in the green. Here we stress collaboration. We are about mutual enrichment and working together. There is no room for people who think they know everything.

MISSION & VISION
Living a more meaningful and resilient life in harmony with nature as self-sufficient as possible planting our own food and eating healthy.

A community where you can come, share, learn and be inspired for becoming ambassadors of healthy & resilient lifestyle change.

 





WORK
Each volunteer is asked to be a solid contributor both to the physical work of the site as well as to the social and emotional well-being of the community. Remember you will be living and working in a community! You are given the freedom to make a genuine contribution to the future of the PermaTree farm systems.

Work requirements are a minimum of 5 hours per day (6 days a week) on projects or maintenance. We use shared facilities: kitchen; bathroom; laundry area, and we take turns with daily chores like cleaning. All volunteers will also participate in community chores such as cooking, cleaning communal areas, and maintaining the site. Some occasional weekend duties (such as: watering garden beds, flipping compost, feeding animals, etc). Volunteers will also participate in community meetings ranging from managerial tasks to personal feelings.

Volunteers should consider their position at PermaTree as a job. We like to have fun, but we have serious work to do. The place cannot function without the hard work and energy of all the members. If you care deeply about the work you are doing, you are sure to get most you can out of your time.

WORK ACTIVITIES SHIFT
Daily / Weekly / Monthly Tasks (maintenance):
There are several different daily chores such as cleaning which needs to be done at different times.

Farm Projects:
All the directly farm-related projects such as planting more fruit trees, bamboo, making stairs,digging holes, harvesting other fruits, cutting grass, etc. Farm Projects are in the morning before lunch.

Self Initiated Projects:
Volunteers come up with their own ideas which can be implemented within finca PermaTree. Example: Food recipes, Daily hacks / improvements, Organization, Woodworks, Planting crops and trees, Extracting and drying seeds, Blog post about specific topic. Each project needs a time duration estimation at the start: for example 3 hours or 4 days until finalized. The goal is to finalize the Self Initiated Project during the stay of the Volunteer. Ideally, one should write a DIY blog post with photos about your SIP.

SUSTAINABILITY
Learn first hand what sustainability looks like. A minimal ecological footprint is our goal. Our water is directly from the waterfall. 90% of our house in built from fast growing bamboo instead of wood or cement. We have no glass windows just bamboo windows and most doors are recycled or made from bamboo too. We have recycled many beer bottles for the shower and toilet facility. We have also recycled used tires for stairs and erosion control projects. All our light bulbs are LED so they use a very small amount of power. One of our showers is heated by black pipes with the sun’s rays. All of our grey waste water goes into a banana circle and then a pond. We have composting toilets and use the compost in the garden. We try to be an education center where many people can learn about all these ideas/techniques and how they can apply them in their own homes. We also have a natural swimming pool which is fueled by the overrun of the main water tank.

SURROUNDED BY NATURE
At PermaTree you are literally surrounded by nature. We are located at the edge of the Amazonas region in the south of Ecuador with a breathtaking landscape view of the Rio Zamora. The twilight is spectacular on cloudy days. At night you can enjoy listening to the frogs, bats and owls. During the day, if you are lucky enough, you can see eagles very near our bamboo house. Snakes, spiders and mosquitoes are a part of the ecosystem here. You can walk around the farm which is about +75 hectares or 180 acres. There are several creeks and waterfalls within the different micro climates of the property.

FRUITS AND VEGETABLES AT PERMATREE
Depending on the season you can find the following tropical fruits and vegetables or grass: papayas, bananas, plantain, cacao, ice cream bean, sugar cane, pineapple, guava, lemons, guayusa, hierba luisa (lemon grass type), cassava (yuca), wild cherry tomatoes, corn, rosemary, basil, thine, aloe vera, vetiver grass, neem, noni, naranjilla, zapote and we have been planting guanábanas, mango, avocados, oranges, grapefruits, chirimoya, coconuts, strawberry, maracuya, breadfruit, bamboo (bamboo shoots), macadamia, peach palm (contact), soursop, jackfruit, star fruit and dragon fruit. In case you wonder which are the main crops at PermaTree please read the article about PermaTree’s productive and nutritional capacity.

WHAT DO YOU GET?

  • Excellent quality of life in a natural setting, surrounded by nature in tropical climate
  • Sustainable Lifestyle (minimal ecological footprint. Eating only fresh organic produce, cooked by ourselves, planting food trees, eating the fruits, all water is from the nearby creek, hot shower during day heated by black pipes from the sun rays, etc.) Minimal waste production, future goal zero waste. No Junk food, no sugar diet, no TV etc. There is no such thing as waste only unused resources …
  • Eat tropical fruits you may have never heard or seen in your life
  • 24/7 ecuadorian Spanish Language practice
  • Community living experience
  • Learn to work in a true tropical climate
  • Hands-on Permaculture experience
  • Develop communication, leadership and teamwork skills
  • Develop permaculture skills through hands-on experience in natural building, water management, gardening, plant propagation, food forest establishment, community development, waste management / recycling and more.

AGREEMENTS
We have no rules, only agreements. Everyone is equal. We are self-organizing. Please do read the FAQ before arriving.

Lose or break = replace
Simple. If you lose a tool or break a dish/glas for example we expect you to replace it.

Shower
Please use your own towel, organic soap and shampoo! After the use of the shower, check the facilities to ensure that they are clean for the next user. During the day, only use the natural shower on the left side, which is naturally heated by the sun.

Sleep / Rest Time
Between 21:00 and 06:00 is the general “rest time” – please respect. Avoid unnecessary noise and lights. Lights should be turned off at the latest from 22:00 until 05:00.

Internet Access
During following hours the use of the WIFI-Internet is open for Volunteers: From 13:00 until 14:00 o’clock. Else you can buy a personal CNT-chip for $5 =300MB data) In case of emergency, we have 24/7 internet access.

Washing clothes
Volunteers can wash their clothes by hand or have their clothes washed at a “lavanderia” in Yantzaza for $1.50 per kilo. If you wash your clothes by hand, use the “lavanderia” / sink. Use your own washing soap and let your clothes dry in the plant nursery on the strings. First, firmly squeeze out the remaining water before hanging the washed clothes up on the strings in the plant nursery. Use the wooden clothespins to attach the clothes to the string. Remove the clothes after 4-5 hours, before nightfall.

Compost toilet
Sit, use, sawdust after business, close the tap, check if there is enough sawdust in the orange bucket and toilet paper around, otherwise, refill. Close the door after leaving the compost toilet. Check if the light is turned off upon exiting.

WHAT TO BRING
The most important thing is a smile and an open mind. Sleeping bag, Sun protector like long sleeves, hat, sunglasses. If you bring Sunscreen please bring an organic one with you. Bring working pants with you. Waterproof shoes, a light raincoat. Towel. Mosquito net. Mosquito repellent, torch/flashlight, flip flops or slippers (for indoors). And all you need to be comfortable. You can buy boots in the town unless you have very big feet. Bring your own gloves for the farm work. In Quito/Cuenca you can buy almost anything in case you don’t have it.

A weekly shopping trip will be made to the fresh market in Yantzaza (on Sunday) where any additional personal items can be ordered.

LANGUAGES
Most of the team at the finca PermaTree is multilingual here: Spanish, English, French, German, Swiss-german

WEATHER
27°- 30° during the day, at night it can be fresh around 17°, 65% and 85% humidity!!!
Sunrise around 6AM Sunset around 6PM.

APPLY FOR VOLUNTEER SPOT
1. Send message with your gmail email address and info & introduction about yourself and your motivation.
2. Read the full PermaTree Volunteer Information Pack here: https://goo.gl/kxjUKq
3. Answer the micro questionnaire you will receive via email.
4. Skype interview

Status update October 2016 at PermaTree

It has been more than just VERY busy. It has been exiting EVERY day here. With ups and downs like everywhere of course. But so fare we are on track and are moving forward.
Enjoy the photos.

Let us know if you want to Skype. Sunday afternoon, our time, is a good day for Skype here 🙂

The PermaTree challenges so far in a nutshell:

  • We got the Ecuatorian-Cedula (permanent visa)
  • Planted over 200 Bananas / Vetiver-grass!
  • Replaced dead battery of the MBP …
  • Bought 400 Guadua bamboo’s to finalize the house
  • Planted over 400 Guadua and Giant bamboo plants!
  • Got a 2nd-hand machine-saw and guarana (it got robed)
  • Got a third dog: Pulga puppy mix
  • Purchased lots of used bottles for construction of the bath and shower
  • Organized almost 1000 used car tires for current construction
  • Got bamboo windows and bamboo walls 4 our house build

Twilight at PermaTree Shower Shower PermaTree The Machetes Shower window healthy food work Amazonas Landscape from PermaTree view Planning screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-7-10-54-pm Twilight at PermaTree Bamboo house Machete screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-7-13-48-pm Healthy Breakfast screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-7-13-59-pm reparing computer to last longer screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-7-14-15-pm Arepas planting fruit trees screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-7-16-46-pm screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-7-17-17-pm screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-7-20-15-pm

August 2016

Time is flying by. Now it’s already again August. Exactly 2 years ago back in 2014 we left Zurich Switzerland with the plane to São Paulo in Brazil to officially start our exploration journey of latin America. First Paraguay then Bolivia after that Colombia and finally Ecuador. Much has happened since then. Even more happened now in the last 3 month here in the Zamora Chinchipe Province part of the so called “Oriente” region of Ecuador which is in fact part of the great Amazon Basin. Here we found a property and build the first cabana to live and work the finca full time. Have been planting fruit trees and bamboo like crazy the last month. And since August now also moved to the cabana where we have water and electricity! Only the shower is not quite warm yet … only about 15 minutes in the afternoon. We will find a workaround here… 🙂 Today the food-bodega-room just got inagurated and we are also finalizing the compost toilet.

PermaTree_Ecuador_Cabana_permaculture Cocina_PermaTree Btina_Santi_PermaTree PermaTree_construcion2016 Giant_Bamboo_PermaTree-Ecuador HealthyFood_PermaTree_Ecuador

Volunteer opportunity in Ecuador!

Take the chance and visit us! A Volunteer abroad opportunity at Finca PermaTree located in the South Ecuador between the Amazon basin and Andes mountain range. We’re just starting to build the house and the farm with Permaculture principles. Be involved within the very first steps, like building the main bamboo house and starting with planting many fruit trees, bamboo and timber trees.

You can be part of the development processes. Participate as a volunteer or learn from people who share their knowledge. On the other hand, we are always looking for mentors to teach the respective topics which match the specific sub-project. Or visit the farm to get a taste of permaculture in the green. However, there are also other ways how you can collaborate.

Our little permaculture farm in Ecuador – it’s 76 Hectares in size. It takes about 3 hours to walk around the property. It starts at 800 meters above the sea level and ends at about 1300! There is one bigger creek and about 4 water streams (ojos de agua) which start within the property like the bigger creek. So there should be no water quality issues. There is at least one waterfall of a few meters – we need to explore this a bit better.

Our Main Focus with PermaTree:

  • Researching and implementing sustainable lifestyles
  • Food forest – A permaculture forest garden mimics the architecture and beneficial relationships of a natural plant/animal community that occurs in that climate. Food forests are designed and managed ecosystems that are very rich in biodiversity and productivity
  • Seed bank – seed exchange
  • Collaborative Community – Language and sustainable living exchange
  • Conservation – All the current left over forest areas will be from now on nature reserve
  • Analog Reforestation – re-vegetating depleted soil with flora that mimic the role of original native species to bring back natural vs. anthropogenic harmony
  • Transparency  – Open information / Open source – share information

 

Some landscape, plant, food, nature impressions from the life at Finca PermaTree in Ecuador:

PermaTree Bamboo Guadua PermaTree Landscape Ecuador PermaTree Yellow Bamboo Banana Cacao Creek River PermaTree_landscape_roadvolunteer at Permatree jungle creek Permatree_jungle_Waterfall_creek Permatree_jungle1 Permatree_jungle2 PermaTree_Chonta_Palm PermaTree_WaterFall1_jungle healthyfood permatree encocado tropical fruit juice healthy

 

Ecuador

Nature: Flora and Fauna of Ecuador

Ecuador has 10% of all of earth’s plants.

This country has more species of plants per area unit than any other country in South America. 18% of the total discovered birds in world, 1655 birds, are found in Ecuador. The 382 mammal species that exist in this country, comprise 7% of the 5,490 species registered in the world. It is, in summary, a rich tropical region, with wetlands, due to its privileged geographic location in the Neotropics, which makes it form part of this privileged list of biodiversity.

Ecuador Landscape

Like many visitors, we where surprised that the country is not only tropical but is also home to so many microclimates, including the snow capping the highest of the Avenue of Volcanoes’ 55 peaks (of which 14 are active). Another interesting detail is that the Chimborazo in Ecuador has an altitude of 6310 meters (20,703 feet). Mount Everest has a higher altitude, and Mauna Kea is “taller.” However, Chimborazo in Ecuador has the distinction of being the “highest mountain above Earth’s center.”

The climatic extremes are amazing, but it’s how fast it changes that is so startling. Yet, this, more than anything, illustrates how the tiny nation of Ecuador nurtures one of just 17 biological megadiversity hot spots on the planet.The numbers are staggering: 1600 – 15% of the world’s – bird species on the mainland alone and another 38% that are endemic to the Galapagos; 3500 orchid species, the most on Earth; 4500 or more butterflies; more than 16000 plant species, 106 reptiles and 138 amphibians native to the country, and so on.

BioDiversity Ecuador

Drive 20 minutes and everything changes, in this South American country that’s just smaller than Italy: the topography, climate, plants and animals – even the culture and language.

 

Threats from modernization

Unfortunately, Ecuador’s natural wealth is continuously challenged by unsustainable economic development from sectors such as oil and gas, fisheries, logging, mining and infrastructure. Coupled with rapid population growth, historically high deforestation rates, and an economy highly dependent on exporting raw materials rather than refined products.

Market in Quito Ecuador

Iconic species such as jaguars, great green macaws and brown-headed spider monkeys are all in jeopardy from the rampant habitat loss. Being one of the world “hot spots” of biodiversity – from dry tropical forest (less than 2% remaining in Ecuador), coastal humid tropical forest and coastal wet tropical forest (currently only 0.8% remaining)…

deforestation in ecuador 2016

The deforestation figure in all of coastal Ecuador is 98%. The Pacific Equatorial Forest, which has suffered an estimated loss of 75% of its native forest, has thus fared somewhat better than the rest of the region owing to its limited access and more challenging topography. However, the construction of a new coastal highway through the region threatens to facilitate the deforestation of the last remnants of Pacific Equatorial Forest. Sadly the vast majority of the Pacific Equatorial Forest remains unprotected and continue to be logged and cleared for agriculture and cattle ranching. More than 60’000 hectares of  forest are lost every year! In 2009 the Ecuadorian Ministry of the Environment launched its Socio Bosque (Forest Partners) program, which provides forest owners with an annual conservation subsidy of $30 per hectare ($12/acre), has had some traction in the region but the long-term efficacy is still uncertain.

 

Pachamama in Ecuador?

Pachamama is a goddess revered by the indigenous people of the Andes. She is also known as the earth mother.

Is there a alternative sustainable agricultural model?

The spread of organic agriculture is a multi-faceted process that includes a tension between economic and social factors. Nationally, public institutions like the Ministry of Agriculture serve as the central nodes of the network, but their initiatives to promote organic agriculture are less developed than those of both foreign and domestic NGOs. Key actors are more successful in spreading organic agriculture if they are perceived as legitimate and capable leaders. The spread of modern organic agriculture appears to follow the top-down diffusion model. However, a growing grassroots agroecology movement follows a more decentralized approach. (Source: Return to pachamama?  The diffusion of organic agriculture in Ecuador by Sophie Fuchs, 2011)

 

Permaculture movement and communities

Ecuador permaculture movement is alive and well, but not exactly comparable to for example Costa Rica which is located much nearer physically to the United States. Costa Rica “Pura Vida” marketing-lifestyle-expression is definitely very different. 🙂 While exploring Costa Rica in 2014 for 4 weeks we did enjoy our stay and visited many so called Eco Villages, Green Resorts, beautiful Nature reserves and so picturesque Caribbean sand beaches. Here we got our inspiration to start to explore for a place for our own project PermaTree. In Ecuador there are various so called international communities and or Permaculture Farms, Private Reserves some of them which we have been able to visit. So far we have noticed that most projects are still in a phase of growth and there is much potential in working together for sure. The permaculture “idea” does help for sure. We have been avoiding places with too many expats at the beginning and did explore a few after a while like mountain village of Mindo and the city Cuenca later. Networking with similar minded people never hurts. In theory the idea behind “permaculture” should not be anything new for the remaining native and indigenous peoples, who have retained a balanced way of interacting with green living things for thousands of years. But reality is different than theory. In Ecuador many indigenous peoples such as the Shuar and the Achuar have a rather difficult time “adapting” to the so called modern world  “work & consume”. Most local people here in Ecuador have never heard of the term “Permaculture” and if they live from agriculture then from pastureland and growing cows. It’s the same situation in Paraguay, Bolivia, Colombia, and Ecuador. No big difference here. Ecuador has a very privileged geographic location and much less climatic issues than most countries we explored in South America.

The movement of sustainable communities in Ecuador reflects a bit the fact that it sits on the halfway mark of the Earth: it’s neither invisible nor well defined, though small, it has many projects, although they are not necessarily part of a functional network (Quote: Leti y Ryan – http://www.comuntierra.org)

The biodiversity is Ecuador’s main attraction, however there are is also a surprisingly diverse ecological movement with some very interesting and peculiar projects.

Permaculture inspired Farms in Ecuador:

 

Seed Savers Network – RGS

Another very interesting network in Ecuador are the Seed Saving Network (Red de Guardianes de Semillas de Ecuador) which is a Non-Profit Organization, established in November 2002. Currently there are more than 300 members in the RGS network which share their seeds. RGS also trains farmers to save seeds, providing a national platform for seed preservation, creating an effective network between campesinos and educating activists nationwide to conserve biodiversity and promote food sovereignty in country. Source: https://www.facebook.com/guardianesdesemillas/

Exploring with digital maps challenge

We have been exploring for over 2 years many properties in Latinamerica. The following have been the most reliable tools so far. Sometimes no Internet/3G (no coverage or too much demand). No GPS-Satellite (too many trees in the jungle). No Electricity to reload the batteries 🙂

It has been a real challenge to find good map-solutions with digital terrain elevation contour information. Same for our Garmin device witch operates with the free open source solution from OpenStreetMaps (OSM) http://wiki.openstreetmap.org Still trying to find a better information source here… more research is needed. Although I found another source of information regarding the How & Where to Find Free,  Digital, Topographic Maps… here.

 

Best “Save GPS points” no need of Internet connection
smartphone app “MAPS.ME”
http://maps.me/

MapsMe Ecuador  MapsMe Ecuador  MapsMe Ecuador

Best “Terrain” altitude info map (altitude information = elevation from sea level)
Google Maps – Terrain view
https://www.google.com/maps/

Google Maps Terrain View

 

Best “Road” and “Terrain Contour” info
OpenStreetMap
http://www.openstreetmap.org/

OpenStreetMap Road Terrain Contour

 

 

Best “River” info map
Yahoo / Flickr Map
https://www.flickr.com/map Yahoo Flickr Maps

 

Permaculture zone planning

Now for calculating the property sizes it’s not to complex to work with Google Earth / Pro and to do some permaculture zone planning for example. Actually Google Earth / Pro is rather straight forward to use, yet powerful interface, can be mastered in a few steps and provide you with a map you can print or share online. There is a great and detailed article about Using Google Earth to zone your farm is a great planning tool here so no need to re-write.