Volunteer in a permaculture and rainforest conservation project in the Amazon
The project is a centre for field research and education in the tropical rainforest region of the upper Napo river in the Ecuadorian Amazon, one of the most diverse areas of rainforest on earth. The station includes a reserve of 2,200 hectares, of which 70% is primary forest and the remainder is secondary growth.
The managers have dedicated their lives to conserving this verdant and incredibly diverse area and run two important projects to help the local communities maintain their ancient traditions whilst carrying out research. One is a centre for experimental silviculture, reforestation, seed collection, botanical gardens and environmental education. It is situated on the banks of the Rio Napo, a major contributor to the Amazon.
The second is a demonstration and educational farm, seeking to produce food using permaculture methods. Traditionally the local Quichua people clear areas of forest for cultivation, but due to thin soil structures and heavy rainfall the cleared areas suffer from chronic erosion and degradation after just two years. Through the use of organic composts, crop rotation and careful plant selection, this can be avoided using permaculture methods.
In addition to the research and conservation efforts, the centre teaches host tourists to promote and educate the role of conservation, particularly important given the continuing discovery and exploitation of oil in the region.
Volunteers are needed to support all aspects of the project and can be sure to benefit from the educational orientation of the project.
Volunteers will enjoy the great outdoors and will have a passion for conservation and the rainforest when they leave. It is suitable for gap year students as well as well as those looking for a career break to go and volunteer doing something completely different.
Volunteers get involved in permaculture methods of gardening and farming, including making compost, planting food crops & weeding. The crops are used for food and the garden for demonstration and educational purposes. Associated with this is the tree nursery. Seeds are gathered from the forest and the saplings either planted locally or sold for income generation.
Volunteers will also have opportunities to work alongside forest rangers who patrol the reserve looking for evidence of illegal logging and poaching.
The Ecuadorian staff put a lot of effort into taking volunteers on guided walks through the forest and teaching you about the local uses of different plants and traditional ways of life in the rain forest. For anyone considering a career in conservation or the environment, or simply has an interest in these areas, this would be a perfect project.
Volunteers will be involved in the maintenance of the site, clearing trails and running repairs on the infrastructure. There is also a small, local school where interested volunteers may be asked to spend a few hours each week teaching English to local children.
The conservation work such as seed gathering, running the tree nursery, upgrading areas of secondary rainforest, research and teaching English to local children could not be done by local people, due to a lack of funding and resources for such projects. The work and income from international volunteers perpetuates the good work of the project and helps educate visiting tourists.
The presence of international volunteers helps raise awareness of issues threatening the rainforest. Oil has been found locally and its extraction would undoubtedly cause problems. The ‘international weight’ of volunteers strengthens the cause.
I didn’t expect that I would fall completely in love with the place, the simple life in a cabaña or the animalsStudent, Ecuador