Archive For The “Volontariat” Category

Volunteering in Ecuador – Tropical biodynamic farm with Walter close to Vilcabamba

Welcome on our fifth article of the serie volunteering.

Small reminder for everybody, Yakoilabas is about discovering agroecology, alternative constructions and cultures of the world with an eco-friendly journey, find here the link to our previous article ” travel and ecology, does it work?“, and volunteering through 3 continents. Click here to find out our project.
So we are going to tell you about our volunteering in Ecuador, in Loja region.

The host and the place

We are at the Finca Sagrada, a few kilometres away from Vilcabamba, in the southeast of Ecuador. The property is part of a small community, including several farms around the river Solanda.
This one belongs to Walter and Susan, couple of retired people with a busy life, who came to settle down in Ecuador eleven years ago and in this farm eight years ago.

Walter is fascinated by biodynamic since his youngest age and this is why we decided to give a hand to the farm.
He was born in Borneo when Indonesia was under Dutch control. He was then sent to boarding school in England with his sister and his brother and two years after the whole family settled down in New Zealand. It is there that Walter discovered the farm life, his sister settled down with a kiwi farmer. He spent then a few years in Northern Ireland where he met his first wife and with whom he settled down in the United States. He managed several farms, did different type of cheese, sourdough bread recognized in several states… Towards about his fifties he met his second wife, Susan, with whom he travelled and eventually settled down in Ecuador.

The farm cover almost 500 hectares, only 5 are cultivated; the remainder being only for free vegetation.
Two donkeys, two goats, four cows, two calves, a dog and about fifteen hens and gooses browse on the lands.

The project

Walter works on the farm with Cristian, his Ecuadorian partner for 7 years and José, for 1 month.
Their objective is to produce food for their families and their communities. For that purpose, they use the principles of the permaculture, the biodynamie which Walter practises for more than 40 years and the Ecuadorian traditional techniques brought by Cristian and José.

At this time of year, in April, it is the end of the rainy season, we can wander in the farm and harvest there: classic carrots and white carrots, avocados, spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, yuka (roots, kind of manioc), beetroots, lettuces of all kinds, silver beets for the vegetables part; bananas (2-3 different varieties), sweet oranges, acid oranges, sweet lemons, acids lemons, mandarins, passion fruits, guavas, papayas, small plums, and others fruit we do not know the name for the fruits parts. We do not forget neither the big variety of herbs: rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano, wild oregano, mint…

Other product from the farm: eggs of the henhouse, milk (and thus the cheese) offered by one of the cows which had a calf approximately three weeks ago.

Promised, we ate well!

The activities

We arrived one Monday and five volunteers were already present. We did not expect that and were a little disappointed at first because we prefer generally to be alone with the hosts. You know what, in hardly a few hours, we had change of mind! We met amazing, generous, committed, passionate young people and especially Epicureans, always ready to share a good meal and giggles! Thank you Marion and Kai, Rebecca, Eef and Luke, you make our stay even more pleasant! We hope to meet you again somewhere on Earth 😉

As said higher, we are in April at the end of the rainy season. We helped Walter and Cristian for 11 days.

We so have:

  • moved a gate on a fence
  • removed weeds around carrots, sweet potatoes or pineapple
  • cut herbs and mulched the coffee plants with them
  • installed threads in the greenhouse to make climb tomatoes
  • tidied wood
  • turned beds
  • milked the cow
  • prepared a plot of land to plant sweet potatoes
  • moved a pipe to channel a pit and made a small stone bridge covered with earth
  • planted tomatoes and lettuces in the greenhouse
  • collected some cow poo to feed worms in the compost and prepared a compost with a biodynamic preparation
  • cleaned the drinking water tank
  • harvested coffee beans
  • caught up a cow which had escaped from its paddock while we had breakfast, then second time when we had dinner (yes, this cow had the gift to detect when we were ating!)
  • cooked a lot! Always a pleasure; -)


José spoke to us about the Andean culture; all the elements on Earth are by two, because nothing can live alone: animals, plants, stones… So, when an Ecuadorian builds a barrier, he uses certain essences of trees which, even cut, can grow again and create a new tree! Every trunk is planted with a branch and each one will help the other one to grow up.


If you wish to learn more on the biodynamic production and the Ecuadorian cultures with inspiriting people and in a preserved place, we strongly recommend the volunteering in the Finca Sagrada. Walter, Susan, Cristian and José will passionately share their experiences with you.

We were lucky to spend these few days with them and were able to meet inspiriting and generous Men. We did not hesitate one second and asked them our questions to learn more about them. To find the interview of Walter and Susan it is this way and for Cristian one it is there!

We wish them full of happiness and success in their respective projects. Thanks to them for their sharing.

Thanks to the volunteers for all the good moments and the awesome shared meals!
Marion and Kai, we wish you to find your perfect place to grow passion fruits and save marine turtles there; Rebecca, we wish you to continue your beautiful projects and to share your agricultural discoveries at your return; Eef, we wish you to find the job which will fulfil you; Luke, we wish you good luck for this new Vietnamese adventure to come!

If you wish to discover more about it, the site of the farm is this way: Finca Sagrada

And to discover the magnificent foundation carried by Cristian it is there: El Arte de Reciprocidad

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Volunteering in Chile – Natural wine production with Quentin close to Trumao

Welcome on our fourth article of the serie volunteering.


Volunteering Argentina 3 – Ecological building with Catalina and Juan in El Bolson

Welcome on our third article of the series volunteering.

Small reminder for everybody, Yakoilabas aims at discovering the agroecology, the alternative constructions methods and the cultures of the world thanks to an ecological journey, find here the link towards our article ” journey and ecology, it works? “, and volunteering through 3 continents. Click here to reach the link towards our project.
So we are going you to tell it more on our third and last voluntary service in Argentina El Bolson in the Río Negro region.

The owners and the place

We were welcomed by Catalina and Juan, her, a music teacher, him, a paragliding instructor. They are as Argentinian as they like playing music and singing songs, it is not uncommon to hear guitar music, singing or music at any time of the day. It is moreover the music school of Mendoza that gathered this girl from Mar del Plata and this boy from San Carlos de Bariloche. Juan had already begun to build his house in the periphery of El Bolson, city renowned for its craft market, its organic farming and its numerous hiking trails.

The situation is rather particular because Juan recovers from a paragliding accident and cannot move a lot. Catalina spent the last month to take care of him and all the house; our coming will allow them to rest as much as to move forward on the house construction before Christmas and New Year holidays.

The project

Juan bought the place by means of his family and wanted to build with local products, at low cost and according to his wishes. What about the trees, the straws, the clay and the sand from the valley?
The construction began in 2011 and continues even today, the reason is probably related to the fact that the duplex saw its surface doubled since the initial project. Two new bedrooms and a second bathroom are in progress.


It is during our 14 days stay that we have been able to realise various activities with them as:

  • Prepare and apply a clay-straw mix which serves as isolation;
  • Prepare and apply a filler to cover the layer of insulating material and which allows to level or to form walls according to our desires;
  • Cook, always a pleasure, and maintain the house;
  • Bring a help of all kinds.

Here, contrary to Martina and Yohan’s place, materials are freed to us by small trucks and there is a cement mixer to mix products. We just need to step the mix, which activate the clay.

Except the days of works, we strongly recommend to the volunteers to pass at Juan and Catalina’s. They will find a cosy place and a very nice couple there to speak the Argentinian Castillan, but also to soak in the Argentinian rhythm, including naps, matecitos (a small mate – also works for tea or coffee with tecito or cafecito) and music or song.

We wish to Juan and Catalina to finish their house and that music continues to live around them! And a good recovering to Juan …

Juan et Catalina devant leur maison – Juan and Catalina in front of their house

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Volunteering in Argentina 2 – Permaculture inspiration with Andrea and Nate in San Marcos Sierra

Volunteering in Argentina 2 – Permaculture inspiration with Andrea and Nate in San Marcos Sierra

Welcome on our second article of the serie volunteering.


Volunteering in Argentina 1 – Natural building with Martina and Johan in Seclantas

Welcome on our first article of the serie volunteering.

Small reminder for everybody, Yakoilabas is about discovering agroecology, alternative constructions and cultures of the world with an eco-frinedly journey, find here the link to our previous article ” travel and ecology, does it work?“, and volunteering through 3 continents. Click here to find out our project.
So we are going to tell you about our first volunteering next to Seclantas in the region of Salta in Argentina.

The host and the place

We began our learning with Martina and Johan, her German, him South African. This couple of adventurers met during a journey in China then their road brought them in South America where they bought a plot of land 6 km from the village of Seclantas. She has been traveling for 15 years and he has been on the road for 4 years (only).

The project

It is with some tools and some elbow grease, theirs and that of numerous volunteers, that they transformed in a few months this neglected ground in campsite, orchard, vineyard, garden and soon, living place. It did not more remain than to find a name to this project: Utopia Overland camping.

Martina and Johan are now building a 10 m of diameter tiny house which is a test before the realisation of a bigger house.


It is during 6 days when we were able to realize various activities with them, the main task stay construction, we have:

  • built an earthmade insulation slab,
  • repaired cracks on the roof,
  • standing of the lawn and watered,
  • cooked, but that it is a pleasure.


Their house is entirely built with the following materials: clay, sand, natural fibers (sheets and cut herbs), bamboo, bottles and wood. And some electric cords also.

It is with a mixture of clay, sand, naturalfibers of bamboo that we realise the insulation slab, minimum 10 cms of thickness. To repair the cracks on the roof, we use a sand/clay mixture (the roof is made with a mixture sand/clay and fine fibers such as the cut grass).

The longest during the slab building was to get the building materials, as the sand comes from the river and the clay results from rests of ground, kept after the excavation of the foundations, which it has to be sieved. It was then necessary to mix the whole mixture in a well with feet!


It took 3 and a half days for 4 persons to end the slab and 1 day for 2 people to repair the cracks of the roof, revealed during the drying stage.

The following stage will be the creation of finition slab which will serve as ground, the electricity and the protection of walls and roof with a waterproof filler. But that, it’s another story…


  • For any information concerning the ecological / alternative constructions, they used Sigi Koko’s website . This American became renowned in the ecoconstruction world and her Facebook page is very active for those who want to dash or to dig up ideas.
  • We reused plastic bottles to protect the young vine stocks. Cheap and useful against rabbits and other predators.

Cleaning and cutting plastic bottles for protecting the vines

Beside all of this, we strongly recommend to the volunteers and the campers to come and stay at Martina and Johan’s Utopia Overland Camping, the first ones can practise surrounded with adorable people and delicious food (Still don’t know what we prefer between : dahl, pizzas, breads, salads, sweet polenta 😍, etc.) cooked with wood fire to recover from working hours, the others will find a restful peacefull place in their journey (and the possibility to buy an amazing bread!).

Martina’s bread cooked on woodfire

We wish all the happiness in the world to this couple which welcomed us for our first volunteering in Argentina.

In front of the house

If you wish to know them a little more, meet them on their interview page!
Reading this article pleased you? Comment and share on the social networks.
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