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.
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!
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