+ What is Provided?
- Sheets & blankets
- Course/Reading material
- Rubber boots for work
+ What will I Do & Learn at Río Muchacho?
The activities are varied so that over a month-long period you will experience many aspects of agriculture and rural life. The learning is mainly hands-on with explanations and teachings from farm owners Darío or Nicola, and also by the workers on the farm. You will learn about all or most of the following through the mornings’ work in the gardens: Planting, transplanting, weeding and organic weed control, harvesting, pest control & prevention, compost-making, composting toilets, fertilizers, the principles of organic farming, permaculture, recycling organic waste, animal care and feeding, paper recycling and lots more. Rio Muchacho is a living classroom, and you will learn every day just by living here.
Project work in the afternoon is also quite varied. This can involve carpentry and other construction; Translating, organizing information, and artwork (e.g. painting, murals and information boards); Community outreach, infrastructure development (e.g. bridges, water pipelines) and maintenance of paths, gardens, trails etc; Food transformation activities (making and jarring sauces, pickles, marmalades); Design of garden or other functional areas, and many other types of work depending upon your skills and what is necessary and possible at the time.
Don’t expect to learn all of this in the first week – it is a process, which is why we recommend a longer stay for those who are so inclined to learn about organic agriculture.
+ How Safe is the Farm, Area & Work?
In spite of the recent earthquake, the farm is very safe. We have clean drinking water with the use of several carbon water filters, plenty of food and most of the structures on the farm are perfectly intact.
The area is safe and you don´t need to be concerned about walking alone during the day. The people of Río Muchacho are very friendly and helpful, however it is not well looked upon that you walk alone at night – try to return to the farm during daylight hours.
There are lockers on the farm for securing valuables. Sometimes there are lots of visitors and as a precaution we suggest that you lock the room when not in it, and avoid leaving cash or other valuables in the cabins – we do not take responsibility for lost items that were left out or in the rooms.
Work on the farm sometimes involves the use of tools such as machetes, in which case you need to take sufficient precaution. Certainly you may do a different job if you don’t feel entirely confident with what you’ve been given.
+ How Should I Act in the Community?
Especially in small rural communities, people are generally very friendly and enjoy conversing with foreigners about what they are doing here, etc. They are quick to offer rides, food, or help with heavy bags. Greeting everyone you pass, even if they are strangers, is typical in the community.
Be sensitive to the local economic situation and avoid creating speculation that all foreigners are very wealthy by flashing around expensive electronics or paying with inappropriate amounts of money (Ex. pulling out a $20 note to pay for a soda). You will find that money is a common topic of conversation, which is best avoided if possible.
Please avoid romantic involvement of any kind with family, farm workers, or community members.
+ How Should I Act on the Farm?
Please be culturally sensitive – a good guide is if the locals don’t do it, then you shouldn’t either. Avoid excluding the farm workers by having long conversations in foreign languages when working together. Conversely, when amongst other volunteers try to use the most common language (usually English) so that nobody feels excluded.
For the comfort of the family and other visitors, don’t smoke inside the house.
If you are a couple please be discrete about showing affection, especially around the children.
Drug and alcohol consumption are not permitted at the farm. If you cannot live without these, than this is not the place for you!
Often we expect things to happen at the pace we are accustomed to. You will need to be flexible and accept that things often don’t happen very fast in Ecuador.
+ What Should I Wear on the Farm?
You will need light, loose-fitting cotton clothes, things you don’t mind getting very dirty. Strong shoes or boots are often necessary, but we will provide you with rubber boots for farm work. Take precautions with the sun, even when it is cloudy it is easy to get burnt – use sun block and a wide brimmed hat (we have a few provided on a 1st come, 1st served basis). A long sleeved shirt is good to protect your arms from grass cuts and insect bites, especially during certain activities such as cutting pasture for the horses.
Women shouldn’t wear bikini tops (even though it’s hot!) in the community, especially not to walk to and from the road. Be aware that Machismo is alive in Ecuador, as in most of Latin America. It is generally harmless teasing, but can be avoided to a certain extent by dressing modestly.
As for local fiestas which you may attend, the standard of dress is a lot higher than you might expect and people here take much pride in their personal appearance – it’s best to wear something suited to more than just farm work.
+ Why Does the Farm Accept Volunteers?
The farm began accepting volunteers as there were many people who wanted to come to help and learn at the same time. We were also receiving inquiries from tourists who wanted to stay on a volunteer basis to learn about organic farming. Volunteers can bring skills that don’t exist in the community, and these can be shared through the school and projects. We thoroughly appreciate the enthusiasm and energy that volunteers bring to the farm!
+ When Do I Need to Pay?
You will need to pay the total amount in cash when you register in Canoa. There are no banks in Canoa but there are several in Bahía (and several ATM machines), and there is also an ATM in San Vicente. Make sure to take note of this before arriving to the office! If, for any reason, you cannot bring cash with you to the office upon arrival, we can arrange to have someone drive you to the nearest ATM and back for $8.
+ What Should I Bring?
Flashlight Towel Water Bottle (Metal ones are tougher have a longer re-usable lifespan) Work clothing you don’t mind getting dirty/ stained – Light cotton is best. Also remember to bring long pants & sleeves Nicer clothing for fiestas and going out in Canoa (Also bathing suits for the beach in Canoa) A small padlock for room/ locker Biodegradable clothing detergent (Or you can pay a small fee to have clothing cleaned).
Much of the farm work requires that workers and volunteers wear rubber work boots. We have a supply of boots to lend to volunteers, but over the years they wear down and we find that we have a shortage of common men’s and women’s sizes. We suggest that volunteers bring their own work boots and/or a pair to donate.
- Body/ Hair soap – Glycerine soaps are biodegradable
- Sun hat and sunscreen
- Good books
- Basic first aid kit, along with any specific medications or supplies you might need
- Mosquito net if preferred
NOTE : If you are concerned about what to do with things that you might bring for the school/community until you come to the farm, we suggest that you send them on to Canoa through the Reina del Camino parcel service once you arrive in Quito or Guayaquil. This will cost you about $3-6, depending on size and weight.
+ What is a Typical Day on the Farm?
A typical day begins with routines at 6:30 am, which include harvesting, irrigation, helping prepare breakfast, or animal feeding and cleaning (horses & cows, pigs, guinea pigs or chickens). The duties change each week so that you gain experience in each area. Routines take an hour or so, and breakfast is served at 7:30.
In the mornings everyone works in agriculture in the garden (unless you are helping at the school), from 8:30 am until 12:00 noon. Lunch is served at 12:00, with a bit of free time afterward to relax. In the afternoons from 1:30 until 4 pm volunteers work on individual projects. Projects are assigned based on skills and the necessities of the farm. But some volunteers prefer to get more experience in agriculture during the afternoon, in which case they continue in this area.
From 4:00 pm onwards is free time before dinner being served at 6 pm– typically there is a dish-cleaning roster, rotating clean up duties between volunteers. Movies, presentations, or evening cultural activities are sometimes offered around 7:30 pm. Star gazing in the garden and enjoying the glow worms and fire flies glittering the land are a relaxing way to spend your evenings off.
+ What Can I Do on the Weekend?
Some volunteers spend their time relaxing at the farm during the weekend – there are often futbol games or fiestas in the community. Others spend the weekend at the beach in Canoa, but there are many other options:
- There are a number of walks/hikes that you can do from the farm upriver, to Canoa, and other areas.
- Canoa offers paragliding, horse riding on the beach, cycling, surf classes, etc. (Paragliding and cycling can be booked through our office).
- Isla Corazón is a great visit to do on a weekend. It is a community ecotourism project that involves canoe/walking tours of a mangrove island in the Río Chone estuary. You can book a tour through our office in Canoa, just be sure to ask for times as they vary since you have to do it at high tide.
- El Humedál la Segua is a high-quality wetland located about one hour outside of San Vicente. This (approximately six hour) tour begins early in the day for the best bird viewing, and includes walking and canoe tours and a meal. You can book this through our offices as well.
- Punta Prieta is a comfortable guest house about one hour further north. The beach is very clean and private – a real treat! We can make reservations for you through the office in Canoa.
- There are nice, relaxing walks along the beach between San Vicente and Canoa, though these are best done in groups, and only in daylight.
- In Bahía there are many interesting things to do/see; A giant Galápagos tortoise, walk to (and up) the Cross lookout, tricycle ride round the town ($2-3), and museum (no charge).
- Saiananda Park has a wide variety of endemic and exotic bird, fish, and tree species; A restaurant and hotel, spa; Kayaking in the river, etc.
More information on these tours can be found in the weekend activity folder on the farm, or you can inquire in our office in Canoa.
+ What are the Different Volunteering Options/ Which to Choose?
Volunteering is a hands-on learning experience without formal teaching.
Volunteer Training Course:
This option is for those who want to gain good practical experience and learn more than simply volunteering, at the same time. Ten hours a week are dedicated to theory-related practical work, while the rest of the time is spent in volunteer work. This is a very good summary of organic methods, but less intensive than the one month course.
One Month Intensive Course:
If you really want to learn all you can about organic farming, the apprenticeship course is for you. It is a month packed full of learning, with theoretical classes, guided hands-on activities, and videos. This is a valuable and unique experience for those who are new to organic agriculture and permaculture, and who want to acquire extensive knowledge and experience in a short period of time. There are full-time and part-time options for this course, to suit varying budgets and learning objectives (Email us for more info).
For more information, please visit our Courses page.
+ Do I Need Prior Agriculture/Permaculture Experience?
Prior experience is certainly useful, but not essential for volunteering. Some people may have a theoretical background, but have no practical experience; For example, you may have done a PDC (Permaculture Design Course), but haven’t had the chance to put it into practice. This is an excellent opportunity for you to reinforce what you have previously learned. We also offer a 1 Month Permaculture Course, Check it out here for more information!