Concerned about our global food system?

Experience living a more sustainable lifestyle in the Rio Muchacho community and learn uniquely by living it. Share this unforgettable experience with other like-minded people, link, create and become inspired to spread awareness to promote change in our world!

Rio Muchacho is very well set up for learning. It has working models of: beekeeping, small scale silage, chicken rotation forage area, food forests, no till agriculture, paper recycling, compost toilets, solar energy, bicycle technology, vegetable production, worm culture, natural building, biogas, rocket stove, ecological eating utensils and even an ecological dish washing system! You learn the theory and then go into the field to practice. You can’t help but begin to learn from the moment you arrive!

Course Content

Week 1

History of conventional farming and problems with our present food system - Principles of organic farming, soil/plant relationship, law of return, diversity, rotation, etc - Value of organic matter in the soil - Composting: urban invisible composting, trench and hole methods, cold urban composting, hot composting, Bokashi, and microorganism traps - Green manures and using legumes mulch

Week 2

Plant associations and companion plant rotations, plant families and garden planning project - Plant nutrition - Organic fertilizers - Seed saving - Permaculture principles and ethics, design, multiple use species, integration of resources, composting toilets, alternative energy, bici-technology, etc - Permaculture design project

Week 3

Liquid fertilizers and vinegars - Worm farming - Soils and soil testing - Permaculture design presentations - Weeds and wild foods - Traditional use of the moon calendar in agriculture - Mulch gardening - Double dig gardening/No dig gardening - Natural farming

Week 4

Pest and disease management - Student presentations - Identification of virus, fungal, bacterial, deficiency and insect problems - Traps and repellents, natural insecticides, beneficial insects etc - Organic standards and certification - Land restoration/conversion to organic agriculture from a conventional system - Biodynamic farming, history, principles, cosmic influences, preparations - Animal welfare and organic animal production - Bee keeping

Other activities

  • Making jewellery out of palm seeds and Vegetable Ivory
  • Shrimp fishing in the river
  • Making fresh Baño Negro (a local clay face mask)
  •  Horse-riding to the forest to see howler monkeys 


Nicola Mears, New Zealander – Nicola is the owner of the farm and the main instructor. She has graduated in Horticulture, Non Polluting Agriculture and National Parks & Recreation Management. Nicola has a rich and broad knowledge of agriculture in both temperate and tropical climates. She has been running the Rio Muchacho Organic Farm for 25 years as well as developing the first organic shrimp farm in the world and inspiring the declaration of Bahia de Caraquez as an Ecocity. Nicola has worked as Inspector of Organic Farms on a National and International Basis.

Dario Proaño, Ecuadorian – Owner of the farm. Dario has a deep understanding of the local culture and use of the traditional moon calendar. He coordinates the early morning animal routines.

Javier Carreras, Ecuadorian – Javier is an expert in Permaculture and seed saving (Coordinator of Seed Savers Network). He is a National treasure! His knowledge of seeds is phenomenal and in 2014 was invited to teach in one of Vandana Shiva’s courses at her farm in India. He represents Ecuador in many International slow food events.


Miguel Torsque, Ecuadorian – Miguel is another National Treasure! He is an expert in Permaculture with a focus on water systems. He also has a broad knowledge of seeds and has many years of experience as a permaculture educator.

Where is the course held?

The courses are held at Rio Muchacho Organic Farm on the coast of Ecuador near Bahía de Caráquez Ecocity. Lodging is in rustic but comfortable bamboo bungalows. All meals are family-style amongst volunteers and people who live on the farm. The food is harvested daily from the farm, deliciously fresh vegetarian cuisine. Special dietary restrictions can normally be catered to, please consult us!

Course dates

Check out our course calendar for upcoming dates.

A typical day

Course Hours: Monday through Friday, 6.30 am to 4 pm.

The day begins with practical work, feeding the animals before breakfast, then classes are from 8.30 to 4pm, with lunch breaks from 12-1:30 pm. Videos are watched in the evenings around 7.30pm. Students are welcome to stay on weekends at the farm, but are also free to travel, or go to the beach town of Canoa where you can access internet, take surf classes, go horseback-riding on the beach, or just enjoy cocktails from a hammock beneath the coconut palms!

Who is the course for?

Everyone that eats! If you are looking for ways to improve your food, but you feel helpless, trapped in the system and uninformed to be able to make changes; If you want to live a more sustainable, meaningful life closer to nature; Or if you want to live a more simple life growing your own food, even if you have no land! The course is suitable for people who have no experience in agriculture, but is also challenging for those who have some prior experience. It is an opportunity to learn and practice new skills, experience a new culture and learn some Spanish!

Does the farm run PDCs (Permaculture Design Courses)? 

Our instructors are permaculture educators and our courses contain most of the information you would obtain on a PDC, but have the advantage of being more practical, longer and cover a wider range of topics than a PDC.

Do I need prior Agriculture/Permaculture experience? 

No but if you have done a PDC, it will have given you a good theoretical base. This is an excellent opportunity for you to put in practice what you have learned. Here you can experience sustainable living whether you are a student, volunteer or tourist. We have rotational forage systems, swales and food forests, vegetable production, apiculture, alternative energy and more!

Can I get University Credit for the program? 

The course is accepted in most universities as credit for your studies. We are happy to fill out any evaluation forms that you might need, just let us know!

Do you need to know Spanish?

Some Spanish is useful, but it is not a requirement. The course will be in English; However, some of the practical work may be done with Spanish speakers. The farm can organize Spanish classes a week prior to the course, for you to get a bit more accustomed. If English is not your first language this is also an opportunity to improve!

Before or after the course…

Some people come to the farm before the course, from a week or even up to a month early. With this extra time, they get a better feel for the farm and sometimes take Spanish classes to reach a better level prior to the course commencing. You are welcome (and we highly recommend) to stay at the farm after the course for more practical experience. We can also help with travel information and reservations for Galapagos, the Amazon, etc. if you are interested to travel more before returning home.

Optional visits

  • Isla Corazon Archeological Museum Whale-watching (During the season)
  • Other cultural activities while on the farm: Chocolate and coffee making Carving Mate (gourd) to make cups and spoons
  • Making jewelry out of palm seeds and Vegetable Ivory
  • Shrimp fishing in the river
  • Making fresh Bano Negro (a local clay face mask)
  • Horse-riding to the forest to see howler monkeys

Course review

A review from Alex on Tripadvisor:

“This place is a paradise for many. Despite being considered a “rustic” alternative to tourism, there is a certain feeling of bliss in unplugging for your entire length of stay. Visitors are able to come for days or months. – I personally spent two months there, dividing my time between volunteering, and attending the month-long permaculture course. My experience living there has definitely changed me for the better. — And the course itself could not have gone better. It was so full of information and ideas, I am fully motivated returning home equipped to take charge of long-awaited projects in my home fields. — From my experience working in the field, to my nights of tranquility, I learned a new way of existence. I realized how splendidly simple it is to live sustainably; and Rio Muchacho provides the perfect community in which to learn.

I met many visitors during my length of stay, and even those who stayed for a few days were all departing with previously unobtained knowledge. There is so much going on at the farm in terms of particular projects or methods of sustainable living, that one can become acquainted with much in a very little amount of time. There is plenty of work to be done, and the owners are very happy to help facilitate newcomers into the routines. Cheers to Nicola and Dario for their glowing energy that shines bright from Ecuador.

If one wishes to see excellent examples of eco-tourism, organic agriculture and agroecology, this is the place to visit. They sewed in me, many seeds of wisdom that I am taking to scatter the earth. I hope you get a chance to stop in and let them rub off on you. Cheers.”

Rio Muchacho Organic Farm & Eco-lodge inland from the Ecuador coast practices permaculture for sustainable living, a lifestyle that proved successful after the earthquake of April 16. The farm offers both part-time and full-time courses for people interested in learning how to practice permaculture, live sustainably and reduce their carbon footprint.
Rio Muchacho Organic Farm in beautiful Manabi, Ecuador offers permaculture and sustainable agriculture courses in both English and Spanish throughout the year. Here is a glimpse into Rio Muchacho's week-long introductory course, from which a group of 8 young women left confident to start their own gardens and permaculture projects!