Farms for Volunteer / Homestay / WWOOF in Nicaragua

peterchristopher's picture

I am aware of several opportunities for travelers to volunteer at farms in Nicaragua.  Most of these are reasonably organic.  I'm sure there are some others.  There aren't as many as in Costa Rica, or as many travelers looking for volunteer opportunities.

Nicaragua is truly for the hard-core cultural explorer, interested in immersion in Spanish and immersion in poverty.

Waterfall at Abundance Farm in NicaraguaAbundance Farm, a small semi-organic farm where you can volunteer in Nicaragua, is a small family farm with a 2-room guesthouse for volunteers.  It is run by my ex-girlfriend Yasmina, her parents, and her brothers.  My daughter Gloria also lives there.  The guesthouse has solid walls and solid beds.  Room and board costs $10 per day for the first three weeks, and there is no work requirement.  After that, there is the possibility of negotiating a lower daily rate for working volunteers.  There is also a program for volunteers to work at their local school.  The farm is located right next to a huge waterfall and has a distant view of the Pacific Ocean.  Reservations are usually not required for individuals or couples, but arrival information is appreciated.  I actually handle the emails myself at present, because there is no email at the farm.  The email address is contact@abundancefarm.com.  This farm is run by Nicaraguans, and you will be experiencing a rural experience of subsistence-level existence among poor people without much formal education.  Children are welcome.  A few other external reviews of abundance farm in nicaragua and also this review of abundance farm.

Totoco LodgingTotoco Farm, on Ometepe Island, is one I never visited.  I think it's new.  From what I have read, there are a few Europeans in charge there who lend you tents to sleep in.  In general, I recommend against sleeping in tents in Nicaragua, but Ometepe Island is probably one of the safer parts of Nicaragua so you'll probably be ok.  They charge $4 a day and require 6 hours a day of work.  It looks like you may be eating with the Europeans, but at farms like this the owners are often absent.  If anyone has personal experience, I'd be happy to update this entry.

Staff / Owners of El Zopilote in NicaraguaNearby also in Balgue on Ometepe Island, is El Zopilote. I stayed there a few days several years back.  They are owned and run by some Italians.  They sell food.  When I was there, there were many travelers drinking and smoking.  This exists alongside guesthouses and hammocks ($2.50-$7 per person per night).  Food costs extra.  They make their own bread and condiments, which tastes great.  They are open to volunteers, but volunteers should expect to pay (possibly a reduced rate), at least for the initial few months.

volunteer at Bona FideFinca Bona Fide is project owned by a New Yorker.  I visited many times and met him on one of his visits.  They now have a Finca Bona Fide blog with some great photos of their impressive progress.  They are inspired by permaculture and host permaculture courses.  I personally don't think very highly of permaculture courses, as I don't like authoritarian educational cults - whether they are called permaculture or University - but just because I don't like them doesn't mean there's anything wrong with them.  I once donated $250 to their scholarship fund for locals to participate and still pay their staff, never received a thank-you letter, so I've not donated again.  But the fact is they have done great work over more than five years and (like Zopilote) have achieved more in Nicaragua than I think is possible, showing that my assumptions about Nicaragua are excessively fatalistic. Email to fincabonafide@gmail.com for more information.  They charge volunteers $9 per day for working volunteers, reduced after the first month to $6 per day.

There is just one last note I'll add here. I recommend that volunteers do not join the "wwoof" organization in the U.K.  The organization charges a fee for volunteers to get their list of hosts but prohibits the hosts from charging even a small fee during an introductory period.  Several years ago when Abundance Farm refused to lie about charging a small fee in the introductory period, it was removed from the wwoof list.  I reminded the organization that no farm on their list in Central America followed their foolish rule that ought not to apply in the third world; in response, the organization pushed the other farms to lie on their descriptions, which most did.  The reality of having volunteer programs in the third world is that inexperienced short-term travelers are not able to cover their own expenses with their low-quality labor, especially when their expectations for food and lodging are high.  The wwoof organization supports hypocricy and dishonesty, and seeks to exploit third-world farms by charging fees of volunteers (just to give them a list of hosts) and then refusing to allow hosts to charge minimal expenses.  Boycott the wwoof organization based in the U.K.

But do make a point of going to farms in your travels - whether it is just visiting for a day or staying as a volunteers for a few weeks or more.

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voluntary work

hello, my partner Hugh & I are coming to Central America soon & are interested in doing some voluntary work for your organization. We are both Australians and have had wwoofing experience in the past - working on organic farms. We are both lovers of nature and the great outdoors. We would love to help you with your studies at Laguna de Apoyo, learning new things about wildlife monitoring and your reforestation projects. We enjoy working alongside locals in our travels & getting to know the land more intensely, we believe voluntary work can helps us to have a more intimate experience with people & their country. I'll look forward to hearing back from you. Kind regards, Aimee

Volunteering in Laguna de Apoyo

We take on volunteers to help with wildlife monitoring and reforestation projects in the most beautiful site in Nicaragua, Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. We are working with local landowners to reforest land inside the reserve, using native tree species, and to protect the soils from erosion. We are biologists, and we are studying wildlife, and you will have ample opportunities to help with our studies, as well. Read more about us at www.lagunadeapoyo.blogspot.com and www.gaianicaragua.org. Thanks!

Hello from Nicaragua,We are

Hello from Nicaragua, We are two writers who have a 15 acre piece of land in the Pacific Coast of rural Nicaragua. We are from Argentina and USA and just opened an Art and Yoga Retreat and have been running an educational foundation for seven years. We are looking for a bilingual person willing to volunteer for one year as a Farm Manager or Head Gardener in our farm, with considerable experience in growing food organically, particularly in the tropics. Why a volunteer? Because we do not have the money to pay a salary yet! Ideally this person will be able to make the land produce to being able to earn money for paying his/her own salary if he/she decides to stay after the first volunteer year. This position is ideal for someone with training in agriculture and a bit of experience of farm management with some other experience of managing people in a working environment Responsibilities include: Permaculture gardens: Plan, organize and construct growing areas; build soil fertility; plant, care for, harvest and sell produce, designing and applying systems to improve the sustainability of the farm and managing Nicaraguan workers. What you get in exchange: A beautiful place to live, a 10 minutes walk from the ocean, in a Nicaraguan community, practicing Spanish and unlimited free yoga classes for the volunteer year. Please notice that this is not a position for people younger than 21 years old or without experience. Please visit our websites: www.equilibrioyoga.com and www.aprendernicaragua.org

Ometepe land

I've been traveling around the world and now we are looking for a place to put our energy and test our permaculture/organic agriculture knowledge. Please let me know if you would like somebody to watch/develo the land for you. rodrigoquiros@hotmail.com

available land on ometepe island nicaragua

hi, i have a couple acres on ometepe that i would love someone to pour some love into, maybe live there for a year or some years. its 10 minutes from the road and is part farmable part rocky. 15 minutes from lake nicaragua.............write me at pazparatodas@hotmail.com

g'day mate!

Hi, Thanks for your contribution and the reminder.  There are indeed some times I have not mentioned here when a Nicaraguan person was generous to me.  

If I ever I violate copyright law, invade privacy, violate confidentiality, participate in and condone slander and personal attacks, delete posts for political and profit reasons, lie about facts, withold relevant information, and ban users who disagree with my analysis, then I'll accept  that I've fallen to the level of Nicaliving's owner Phil Hughes and his partner in misrepresenting reality for profit Jon Berger.  Until then, I'm happy to accept here your contributions that balance my cautious tales.

Are you involved with Vision Mundial by the way?

interesting

Dear Peter,

While avoiding doing what I should really be doing, I have been wandering around your site, in turns fascinated and horrified by your stereotyping of Nicaraguans. This page seems to have your only admission that your conclusions about Nicaragua are excessively "fatalistic" (your words). I return to Nicaragua regularly, and as a total scatterbrain, I am now up to both hands and feet when counting the number of times I have left a valuable personal belonging in a cafe or similar then returned to find it safeguarded by the staff. 

As a young blonde, I receive male attention in Nicaragua that would be unacceptable in my sanatised streets of Canberra, but would not be at all out of place whilst passing the construction yards of Western Sydney. 

I cannot deny that there are aspects of Nicaraguan life that terrify, appall and disgust me. However, there are others that are beautiful, inspiring, hard-working and honest. You risk replicating the errors you accuse "nicaliving" of making, only in the opposite vein.

Best

Glaukopisignari.

I agree entirely with the

I agree entirely with the anonymous post above

past emails with the supposedly representational organization

Here, for the record are the emails I exchanged with the organization in the UK that claims to embody "free exchanges" while charging a fee themselves to both hosts and volunteers. 

2/2007

Hi, 

I’m Sue Seymour the director of WWOOF Independents responsible for following up on reports that one party in the WWOOF exchange is not keeping to their side of the bargain.  The underlying principle of a WWOOF exchange is that it is a non-monetary exchange of practical help in return for food and accommodation.  Your website clearly states that people have to pay $10/day to stay at Abundance Farm.  I’m sure many people have valuable experiences on your farm and think that your project is well worth supporting but we cannot continue to list you as a WWOOF host.  There are other organisations, helpx (or helpex?) and Organic Volunteers who may well be happy to list hosts who make a modest daily charge.

I expect we have had your website address for a considerable time and I am sorry that we did not realise the situation earlier. 

If you wish to discuss this decision please contact me: sueseymour@barkmail.com

Best wishes,

Sue

Sue Seymour, director WWOOF Independents

 

My response:

Hi Sue,
We are open to WWOOF guests staying without paying, but only AFTER they have complete 1-2 weeks as a paying guest. If you read our website carefully you will see this. Nowhere in any WWOOF documentation does it say that a wwoof host is required to provide the "free ride" from the very beginning, only that we offer a program. We tried offering a progam from the beginning like that. You know what? It didn't work for us. Being in Nicaragua is just too big an adjustment for westerners to be productive quickly. Many leave quickly before they even know how to haul a bucket of water. We could not continue that charitable service. The way we do things now works well. I think, rather than purging our farm, you might be wise to recommend our approach to other farmers.

The other farms in Nicaragua on your website list have all found the same thing, and they also charge for the introductory period. I know them all, I've been to them all, and I've talked with all of them about this. If you want to eliminate Nicaragua, go right ahead and eliminate us all (not that I am authorized to speak for them). My preference is that you change your website and your publicity to let all WWOOFers know that they should expect to pay a small daily fee for their introductory period at some wwoof hosts.
Peter Christopher
Abundance Farm

Peter,


A WWOOF visit is not supposed to be a 'free ride'.  WWOOF has been operating
for 30 years and the deal has always been an exchange of practical help in
return for board and lodging.  If hosts think that a significant adjustment
period is necessary they are encouraged to suggest a minimum length of visit
to enable them to recoup something for the initial period where 'green'
volunteers might not be able to pull their weight.
We will not be re-instating your host membership and will, in due course,
cancel the memberships of the other Nicaraguan hosts if, as you say, they
operate in a similar way.
With best wishes,
Sue

Sue Seymour, Director WWOOF Independents

Hypocritical organizations like that don't last.  They are replaced in the internet age by sites like the Free WWOOF host list site.

 

the WWOOF organization

Thanks for your suggestions.

I don't actually care what the WWOOF organization thinks.  They've come begging back to say they would welcome Abundance Farm on their highbrow list after a change of heart, if I take down the free directory of WWOOF volunteer hosts that I posted on the internet (they would like me to give them back their monopoly on information).  But they still haven't apologized for their snobbery in our earlier interactions.  Unfortunately for them, the world doesn't need them anymore.  That's an outdated model - selling information that is now freely available.

I do try to state facts and opinions about many things (including Nicaragua) but I'm not yet convinced that it's my manner of speaking that turns people off.  Rather, it's that the facts and opinions that are unfamiliar to them.  If you have some specific examples on this website or elsewhere in my writing where you have some suggestion for how I could improve my readers' comprehension without removing the actual message, please let me know either privately or publicly.

your words would be heard so

your words would be heard so much better, and would be so much more powerfuls, if you chose language that was less harsh and led to honesty and understanding, rather than distance and animosity. it seems that this is what you want -- for foreigners, for wwoof -- to be more understanding of the dynamics of farming in the so-called "third world". and yet your words are full of hatred and doomsday semantics. you speak of fatalism when it comes to what nicaragua can achieve, you yourself are a foreigner, and you refer to this country, and all others in similar circumstances, as "third world", a term which has been outdated since the end of the cold war. i appreciate that you know nicaragua well, have a daughter and close friends here, but please -- spread understanding, not alienation. peace, and not hate.

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