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Volunteer Experience – week 12 – Rebecca

Personal experience (lasts weeks)

As I mentioned in a previous post, I Rebeca Gaona, I’m doing my internship on the Yantza PermaTree Farm in Ecuador. Now I’m on week 12, almost ending my internship. I had to end my internship on december 20, but I have some health problems, so I’m going to have surgery on Tuesday, december 3, and the weeks between december 3 and december 20 I will work virtually with blogs, publications and information.

Jackfruit seedlings

I’ve been working in different things in the farm and I have learned new things. Some of the activities I have done are for example to plant seedlings from a jackfruit. At first we only used one jackfruit. After 1 and a half month approximately we obtained 102 plants, but 16 died.  Now we are waiting to see the other seedlings of 2 more jackfruits.

We transplanted new plants where some other plants did not survive. We used fruit plants and some native timber plants, and in some places we put some flowers, so the insects/bees and birds will have food and a place to stay. Enhancing biodiversity. 

In this time we harvested some ripe soursop fruits and we have made a lot of soursop-ice-cream. The biggest soursop that I saw, was one of 8 kg and we obtained almost 57 ice creams. 

Here rains a lot, and sometimes we have problems with the water. It can go under the earth and the landscape changes because the water is moving the earth. Erosion. Once we went up the mountain because the rain and mud covered the mouth of the main water tank. Which is used for the house, so we had to clean it and be sure that the water was arriving to the house. 

The farm dogs

I’ve always liked animals, and here on the farm there are four dogs. They are very friendly. The boss is Pulga (Flea), she is not the biggest, but she rules among the dogs. Then Toby goes, he is the biggest, Pica Pica is the youngest and the sister of Pulga (Flea). Mango, it’s a bit awkward, but he loves to receive affection and attention.

Other activity we made is to prune the bamboo, because it gives more strength to the plant and because of that it grows faster. We have to cut the new buds of the plant and the big ones. 

Sometimes we have to work on virtually because there is tropical rainfall. And sometimes we do not work outside because of the sun. Tropical climate.

Another important thing is that, after watching the farm and knowing how it works, the farm obtained the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification, given by the Agriculture Ministry. It’s important to say that it’s the very first farm in the Zamora-Chinchipe province that obtained this certification.

With the help of Conservation International, there will be a big conservation area linked with a biological corridor, so the native fauna will recover some of the natural habitat and they can have food and shelter there. Enhancing biodiversity.  

Currently, there is a project of building a small fabric to give local tropical fruits and vegetables added value. For example, the plant will produce dehydrated fruit, some different teas, natural oils and coffee. The coffee shop will be here on the farm and will work as a showroom for the added value products. For this we had to clean all the area where the construction will be, so the architects and the people of the construction could get a better look at the terrain.  

Farm Field Work

I have worked with “Don Ray” and Cunanchi, they are the workers of the farm. I really have fun with them because they are always fighting and saying nicknames between them. I work with them cleaning the perennial peanut (forage) and the soursop plants, reforesting some areas, making some steps on the terraces, relocating some perennial peanut to make soil  cover. 

Sometimes I go to eat with them, because it’s easier to eat there and then keep working than coming here to the main farm house and cook, eat and go down there again. 

I have learned, more than anything, about how life is, how hard things can get in a farm, how to work with other people and to organize my time and the activities that I have to do. This experience opened my mind to new projects and new way to manage a farm. Another important goal for me is that now I have more contact with people that can be helpful in the future, for new projects.

Making Home Made Bread in the Adobe Oven

I learned to make bread too, and I really like it. It’s something that I never thought I will learn but I’m glad i made it.

healthy food

I know to cook healthier things, and I’m reducing the quantity of meat that I eat. This is good because, even though people don’t know that, the meat production and cattle raising are destroying thousands of productive areas and are deforesting a big part of the Amazonian Rain Forest. 

Nature Surrounds the Farm

I think that now, I see more value in the natural resources, like flowers, plant, water, natural coverages and all the animals that complete this system, not only economic value, I mean, the importance that these resources have in our environment and to understand that all these elements work together and create a balance in the nature.

Ojeme – Volunteer Testimonial 2018

I spent four weeks at PermaTree, and my overall feeling about the experience is very positive : it was a great enlightening and rewarding experience. I had the opportunity to do :

  • Building work : I worked on the big sized greenhouse (I helped to build the roof, the field, the tables and install the taps) and the little bamboo house (I helped to paint the doors, and make the four windows and the doors out of bamboo and wood)
  • Farm work : I planted pineapples and vetiver, I made holes to plant trees, I filled insects traps in citric trees, I created paths so parts of the farm would be more easily accessible, I faced the wrath of the bees and the stubbornness of a horse, I braved the wilderness of the jungle to reach the waterfall, and did one of the main farm work i.e. cutting the 2 to 3 meters-tall grass with a machete (Yago’s hobby ;-))
  • House work : washing the dishes (there can be a lot), cooking, making bread (Yum!), lighting a fire in the oven, feeding the animals (giving food to the dogs is REALLY something !)

Some of the tasks were done under very hot sun, and others under very strong rain, the weather can vary a lot and rapidly ! Sometimes, the work can be hard and tiring, but I was never alone, and working with Cunanchi (the Ecuadorian worker), Yago and Btina has been a real pleasure. Also, talking and sharing our experiences and ideas has been enriching and instructive.

Finally, I must mention the uniqueness of the place that is beyond beautiful : the plants (the trees, the flowers …), the animals (the birds, the insects …) and the vastness (77 ha) of the land (I adored the view from the top of the finca) all of it contribute to make this place a true paradise.

I found out about PermaTree through Bridgeo.org, which is a French NGO run by young motivated guys. After guiding me to this mission, they really supported me before my departure.

Ojeme

Recipes – do it yourself

  • Here are the recipes I used to make the several products I brought :
  • Deodorant (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42Htnp8P9Eg):
    • 2 table spoons of arrow root powder
    • 1 table spoon of baking soda
    • 1 table spoon of coconut oil
    • 1 table spoon of shea butter (beurre de karité)
    • A few drops of essential oil (for the scent)
  • Mosquito repellent (http://memedanssesorties.com/3284/repulsif-anti-moustiques-naturel/) :
    • 10 mL of vegetal oil (I used hazelnut oil)
    • 6 mL of essential oil :
      • 3 mL of citronella (I used 2 mL of Java’s citronella)
      • 2 mL of geranium
      • 1 mL of peppermint (because of Violetta, I used 2 mL of eucalyptus citronné instead of peppermint, because “Du fait de la présence de menthone, l’huile essentielle de menthe poivrée n’est pas recommandée aux femmes enceintes, allaitantes et aux enfants de moins de 6 ans, ainsi qu’aux personnes souffrant d’hypertension”)
  • Laundry detergent (Don’t forget to shake it before every use !) :
    • 1L of hot water
    • 30 g of natural olive oil soap (in chips)
    • 1 spoon of baking soda
    • (Optional) A few drops of essential oil (for the scent)


   

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

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