Farms for Volunteer / Homestay / WWOOF in Nicaragua
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.
Abundance 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 email@example.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 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.
Nearby 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.
Finca 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.