Volunteering Abroad Shouldn't Cost the Earth

Ecological Restoration Ecuador



Our project is part of a global movement of transition from our current growth economy, based on fossil fuels, to a sustainable post-carbon society.

During two decades of continuous planting - following the principles of Permaculture and Ecological Restoration - the owner Piet Sabbe, converted an abandoned hill-side, depleted of topsoil due to years of slash-and-burn, into an island of vibrant green. As the decline of the capitalist economy, built on relentless depletion of resources, is drawing nearer, Piet has been building up biomass and biodiversity in his reserve, as a means to consolidate resilience. With Permaculture as a guideline, Piet Sabbe established barriers of Vetiver grass in contour lines on the slopes in order to stop run-off, he planted many species of Nitrogen Fixing Trees to fertilize the soil, he applies Hydrological Design to collect rainwater in the landscape, and he recycles stubble and kitchen waist into compost. In recent years, he introduced many different species of bamboo and palm trees, such as the Giant Bamboo and the Acai palm. He is glad to share his knowledge and experience with local farmers, visitors, apprentices and volunteers.

There are several ways to commit or participate in the project: 1) The real volunteer work: a three months commitment, 5 hours/day, in exchange for food and board (three meals a day and plenty of fruit); 2) An apprenticeship of at least one month, during which the principles of Permaculture and Hydrological Design are explained. At the end, a certificate will be issued. Contribution: US$280/ month; 3) Short-term apprentice or work-visit (less than a month), contribution US$20 /day (three meals/ day and accommodation).

You are invited to learn about farm-work on a tropical forest farm, a kind of apprenticeship in rural living. You learn about the people on their land, as well as the hardships and joys facing small farmers in Ecuador. You will learn practical skills such as planting trees, grafting on fruit trees, dig irrigation swales, how to swing the machete and harvest bamboo, bananas and pineapples. Setting up compost piles and general garden maintenance will be part of your daily routine. Also, for those who like it, administrative tasks such as documenting the bamboo trail, translating texts and updating the website may be part of the work.

Locals are friendly and open to visitors. The area offers great hikes in the hills with splendid panoramic views and remnants of rainforest. There are some small bathing holes in the river.


Parque BambĂș

El Limonal, Ibarra, Province Imbabura

People who want to commit for at least three months (preferable with working experience in gardening) can apply for a position of room and board in exchange for work. Interested parties should send me their profile. It is important to me to know about the people I welcome into my home and work with me.

Dates of program:
Year round

Duration of program:
2 weeks for short-term work-visit, 1 month for apprenticeship, 3 months for volunteers

Age requirement:
Adults of both sexes 18+ (families with children under the age of 18 are accepted)

3 months volunteering, no financial contribution: 5 hours work per day in exchange for food and accommodation. Apprenticeship: US$280 contribution for food (three meals) and accommodation for one month. Work visit: US$20 per day (three meals and accommodation).

Other information:
Locals are friendly and open to visitors. The area offers great hikes in the hills with splendid panoramic views and remnants of rainforest. There are some small bathing holes in the river. We are located in a subtropical area, which means that there are always insects, be prepared: long sleeved shirt, long trousers.


An incredible place!
"Prior to arriving at Parque Bambu, I basically had no useful pertinent knowledge whatsoever. I'd never pushed a wheelbarrow or swung a machete, never cut firewood, or made my own soil. All I came to the park with was a strong interest in climate change/conservation and some great dance moves. What's really nice about Parque Bambu is that Piet will totally teach you everything you need to know, even if you're starting from absolute zero, like I was. You'll learn so much about how to reforest, create an income via permaculture, and reduce your waste to practically nothing. Each day's tasks are super different, so you never get bored, and you've got a lot of latitude to start your own projects or focus on what interests you the most. The environment is open and welcoming, and Piet and his daughter Naomi are easy-going and patient. Evenings are serene, and you'll have plenty of time to read and do your own thing. I do recommend all volunteers to be HARD-CORE animal lovers, though, as I have two dogs at home and volunteer at the SPCA, and even for me it was a bit much. Other than that, the food was phenomenal (Naomi's a great cook and they make proper European-style bread!) and the house is cool with great views of the surrounding hillside. El Limonal is pretty firmly off the tourist trail, so lots of folks in town are really friendly and interested in you- a great place to be if you want to improve/fortify your Spanish and avoid the gringo trail for a while. It's especially useful for folks who are interested in reforesting their own little piece of land one day, as Piet will pass on all he learned from trial and error, and you'll see for yourself what works and what doesn't work on the farm while you're there. In short, it was a wonderful, unique, enriching month, and I'm super happy that I did it!"- Samantha Chu
An Amazing Week Learning and Growing
"I have spent the past week in a sort of apprenticeship here, learning about permaculture values and practices. I have volunteered on a couple other farms during my time in Ecuador and I can honestly say this has been the most enlightening. Here I was able to connect macro-topics of environmental activism to practical application in the field. This was in the areas of waste management and compost, soil health, and water conservation. With Piet I explored many different species of bamboo and other trees. My stay here made me pay more attention to the effects of each of my actions, and the amount of waste I produce. This is a very helpful and open environment to learn and I wish I could stay longer! Its also a beautiful home with great food! I thank Piet and his friend Barbara for treating me like family and providing me with great advice moving forward."- Vinisha Browne

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If you visit and apply via the website please mention that you saw this project on volunteerlatinamerica.com.