I'm about to head os travelling through Central America (including Cuba)from August 05 till Jan 06 and then down to South America for another 5 months. I would like to find out about any volunteer opportunities or permaculture projects that I can visit along the way. I am prepared to volunteer for an extended period of time. I lived in rural Cambodia for 12 months, so have some experience living with challenging conditions.
I completed a PDC with PRI in Jan 03.
I have a degree in Env Science and have been teaching intro courses in permaculture to teenagers for the last two years.
I am not looking for a free ride, I'm just keen to find out more about practical permaculture at work.
If anyone would like more info or has any contact details that I should have a look at, I would be very happy to hear from you.
26-07-2005, 01:12 AM
We run a small homestead that we are turning into a demonstration farm in Belize, Central America. We are on the WWOOF Independent and WWOOF Australia lists under Maya Mountain Research Farm. We do agricultural training for NGOs and, lately, Peace Corps, and we are hosting a PDC here next february.
We have 70 acres of land, with about 10 acres in some form of cultivation/management. The balance is habitat and biological reserve.
We can pretty much always use volunteers.
I will post out "scary letter" which outlines what people can realistically expect here. Its long, but informative, and anyone else interested in volunteering here can read it, too:
Write if the scary email doesn't scare you away!
Dear WWOOFers ,
Please forgive the form response to your inquiry regarding WWOOFing at Maya Mountain Research Farm. The farm has changed from a small family farm with progressive agricultural techniques to a small developing research facility in tropical agriculture for the humid tropics with progressive agricultural techniques, and is now incorporated as a not for profit educational farm. We receive hundreds of emails asking for information about our farm and find that this format saves time. We have tried to anticipate all of your questions, but almost certainly we have missed some, please feel free to ask them in response to this email.
Who we are, Where we are, what is Maya Mountain Research Farm
Maya Mountain Research Farm is our family homestead and a place where we conduct experiments in stacked polycultures and permaculture. It is a 70 acre parcel of land on the Columbia Branch of the Rio Grande in Belizes Toledo District. We are located 2 miles up the valley from the Kekchi Maya village of San Pedro Columbia in the foot hills of the Maya Mountains. Access to the farm, as of today, is only by canoe or by a trail. We are sometimes difficult to get to.
Our farm is a developing stacked polyculture, with a variety of fruit and timber trees, banana, pineapple, and a substantial perrenial vegetable garden, with a total size of about 10 acres of our land under some form of cultivation. The balance of the farm is managed for habitat and as a wood lot with limited timber extraction. We have catalogued over 300 food, medicine, fuel, timber and fiber producing species of plants we produce on site. We are both students of permaculture, and believe in multiple yields and functions in our system, with an emphasis on trees. Our farm is %100 organic. We use no chemicals or synthetic fertilizers.
We have been working on developing a system that will build or maintain soil fertility, and this has enabled us to derive the bulk of our nutrition from our own land. Our goal is to improve nutrition in the lowland humid tropics by increasing biodiversity in the farmers cropping systems through cultivation of a variety of species and cultivars, including varieties that are underutilized.
We eat well here, while Christopher is a 3 trick pony, his 3 tricks are all very tasty. Dawn is marvelous and innovative cook. We produce all of our vegetables (except onions and garlic) and fruit, eggs, and all of our beans. WWOOFers with culinary skills are encouraged to utilize them here.
We have a WWOOFER house, called Spencer House or Chateau WWOOF about a 10 minute walk from ours. It's a dormitory affair, with foam and hammocks for people to sleep in. It is perched on the side of a hill in the bush, and has a large verandah. It is simple and dry. There is a box of old clothes over there for folks to wear, to keep their travel threads sparkling, and a few pair of rubber boots. We bathe in the river, cook on a fire, have a few biting insects during the rainy season.
The WWOOF house is a house for WWOOFers. It is only as clean as the last WWOOfers left it.
We are a family. Christopher was born in 1966, and Dawn was born in 1973. Our daughter Esperanza was born in 2000, and daughter Zephyr, was born December 24th, 2002. They are important to us, and we like WWOOFers who are into children. We are open to accepting WWOOFers with children, too.
What WWOOFers might do while here:
As we are an ongoing experiment in stacked polyculture/agroforestry/permaculture, there is always lots of work to do around our plants, trees, in the garden, in the nursery, or in the chicken run. We also seem to always have long term construction projects, and we find new projects regularly. WWOOFers have helped build our water system, built tree nurseries, helped build our house, laid stone paths, planted thousands of trees, cleared for vegetables, beans and peanuts, hauled stone or wood for the house, mixed cement, collected firewood, re-fenced our chicken runs, rebuilt our chicken house, cleaned the chicken house, picked and shelled beans, started vinegar, made mango and golden plum chutney, made pickles, made jellies, jams and syrups with local fruit and juice, made peanut butter from peanuts produced on the land, and baked bread, among lots of other things. We have had Woofers house sit for up to a month in the past.
Frank, Kristina, Frederick and Jana of Germany and Richard of UK built us a wonderful wood fired earth oven where we bake bread and, on occasion, pizza. Yummmmm. This was a project that they decided they wanted to do, and did using mud, clay stone and wood from the river and our land, and roofed it with cast off hurricane damaged zinc. It is a monument to them, and is beautiful in form and function.
We are hoping to build a sheep dairy, a small aquaculture system for native cyclids, and start beekeeping again, and perhaps a piggery with biogas digester for the farm.
Christopher is excited about a spring up river by the western property line that he has started to develop, and is hoping to put some WWOOFer energy towards that goal. As of this writing, we get our water from roof catchment and solar pumping surface water from the river (which actually comes out of another spring 1/4 mile from our property line).
Recently we have received a grant from a foundation that supports food security issues, and are building infrastructure for animals, a new kitchen, as well as buildings to house students and interns. We can use WWOOFers with experience in construction, tile and brick making (terra cotta ceramics), and anyone who likes hard work. We have plans to build a tree house between two large cedrella trees. Climbers are welcome! In a more terrestrial building style, we are especially interested in earth bag building, and anyone with experience in that or enthusiasm for it is encouraged to WWOOF with us.
What We Are Looking for in WWOOFers:
We love having WWOOFers who are motivated, hard working, open, flexible, interested in organic farming, have skills we can use, or enthusiasm for what we are doing, WWOOFers who work with us in the kitchen (that means cooking and doing dishes), don't mind hard work, have a good sense of humour. Usually the only time we all work together, is construction days, and in the kitchen. Other than that you will have personal, or wwoofer group projects. We appreciate the synergy of having many people helping us work towards the goal of living sustainably.
We have benefited immensely from having WWOOFers in our lives.
The Fine Print
If you are going to look at your watch and mind the 4 hour of suggested labour under the WWOOF guidelines, this is not the place for you. Some days we work hard, others not so hard. We expect WWOOFers to work as hard as we do, and if there is a project, like the stone house we built in stages for four years, or developing infrastructure for the MMRF, we work all day. Most days we work in the AM, then siesta after lunch to read and relax, and resume working in the afternoon.
We have a few rules: no drugs, no alcohol, no tobacco. Our kitchen is vegetarian. We have had many happy vegans here, too. We ask for a 3 week minimum comittment, and are open to the possibility of longer stays. We have had many WWOOFers stay for several months, and one, the famous Nick Spencer from Cornwall UK, who holds the record for WWOOFing time was here with us for 7 1/2 months. We ask for a minimum 3 week commitment because it usually takes WWOOFers a week or so to learn enough how our farm is designed to get up to speed. WWOOFers who would like to WWOOF longer than 3 weeks are welcome to discuss this after the first two weeks have elapsed.
We do not run a hotel or guest house. There is no charge for food and board, you pay in sweat! If a WWOOFer decides to leave before the 3 week minimum commitment is over, we ask for USD25 to cover the time spent orienting them to the farm.
C&P Clause: Lastly, to avoid future charges of obtaining WWOOFers by deception, we need to say that we are well off the road. We are remote. The trail can be very muddy. It is a heck of a walk in. Two whole miles. To avoid unhappiness, as happened with the unfortunate C&P, who felt they were not adequately informed of the monumental distance to the farm (apparently missed third and fourth sentence, third paragraph of this message), you have been warned!
Some questions we have about you: Where are you from? What is/are you/r age/s? Have you WWOOFed before? Why do you want to wwoof now? What attracted you to our farm? What are you looking for in your WWOOF experience?
Please write back if you have any questions, or if you are still interested in visiting.
Christopher and Dawn
Suggested items to bring with you to Maya Mountain Research Farm, (formerly known as Roots and Fruits Farm)
Flashlight, an LED flash light is highly recommended! Spend the extra money up front, and save in batteries in the long run!
we have some bugs from June till December, usually mosquitos around sunset, we have two mosquito nets at the wwoofer house, but some people may want their own, especially if we have several wwoofers.
if you need space and the wwoof house isn't going to give you enough, bring a tent.
non deet bug repellent (please read the label before you bring bug repellent here)
05-08-2005, 03:13 AM
I'm interested in learning a little bit more about what you guys do. I have found some spare time in the coming months and would like to put it to good use - it sounds like you guys might have some ways in which I could do that. I have very little experience in the world of agriculture (except for a stint de-tasseling corn when I was younger) but I've never been afraid of hard work and I love learning new things. I am an engineer with some theoretical (i.e. useless) knowledge of fluid dynamics and am very interested in learning more about irrigation, water treatment, etc. in developing countries. Is this something I might be able to do while working with you guys or could you maybe recommend a contact to me? Thanks Christopher.
09-08-2005, 05:10 AM
Thanks for your interest. I can say that sometime next year we are interested in building a pond or series of ponds with local fish species, and a spirulina pond. We know next to nothing practical about all of this, very heavy on theory.
If you would like to come for a few months and help us set up the ponds, we woud love to have you.
We already solar pump, and are developing a spring on our land, so you might see something we could improve on.
my email is firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to contact me directly.
I look forward to hearing from you,
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