“For 9 weeks in the Summer of 2018 I participated in an agroforestry internship through Global Nomadic. This opened me up to a company that produces and sells an energy drink made from guayusa, a ‘tea’ like leaf native to the Ecuadorian Amazon. I worked for the Fundacion, the non-profit initially attached before total separation in the Summer of 2018. The vision of the Fundacion is to improve local livelihoods and conserve tropical biodiversity by creating sustainable value for rainforest products. Throughout my agroforestry internship I undertook a variety of different roles and had the potential to participate in a number more, those of which I did participate in are listed below.
- Creation and editing of monitoring guides.
- Research into the health properties of Amazonian plants.
- Creation and editing of communication products such as posters, handouts and product packaging.
- Organisation of intern work.
- Creation of a guide for future interns.
- Creation and updating of vivero (plant nursery) inventory.
- Reforestation project: rotating agroforestry fund.
The work I did with the Fundacion that I felt was most worthwhile was with the rotating agroforestry fund. It was the most rewarding in terms of the physical labour exuded and most insightful into how a non-profit project works to make a self-sustaining cycle incorporating both environmental conservation and livelihood protection. Work within this project involved number of different processes, each making up a cycle as shown below. One of the highlights of the internship was spending a few days with the Fundacion Local Community Coordinator (Leonardis) in the community of Mushullacta whilst monitoring the reforestation programme that had been implemented the previous year. Whilst staying with Leonardis’ brother and family, we would wake up to a breakfast cooked by the mother of the family (also the chief of the community), eat as a family, and then all set of to work, the children to school and the parents to their respective jobs. We spent our days hiking to nearby chakras to monitor the growth of plants alongside collecting information about the land owner and their chakras. After an intense day of work, we would then come home and await dinner whilst playing with the children of the family. The information collected during these field activities is then collated in annual reports that feedback to funders (in this case such as WWF) about the projects progress and act as proof of its ability to allow for reforestation alongside livelihood benefits.
With the help of a locally based social enterprise that focus on cross cultural exchange, the Fundacion interns are able to participate in traditional ceremonies that allow for further cultural immersion. In the Ecuadorian Amazon, these include forest feasts and traditional guayusa ceremonies, where communities wake up as early as 3am to drink guayusa tea, share ideas and interpret dreams. Weekends for interns are free and work days can be negotiated
(within reason) and the staff will willingly give recommendations on activities and guidance on how to get to points of interest. This gave me the opportunity to visit Yasuni National park, arguably the most biodiverse place on the planet. Here, we would experience the most beautiful sunsets and a plethora of flora and fauna. Our weekends were also spent canyoning in Banos, visiting botanical gardens in Puyo, swimming in Laguna Azul (Blue Lagoon) and hiking around lake Quilatoa and up Cotopaxi. The city of Tena where the internship is based also holds many opportunities for community immersion with ultimate frisbee being played weekly and daily free zumba classes taking place in Parque lineal.
This internship experience simultaneously lived up to my expectations and was very different to my expectations. The organisation goes above and beyond to provide intern support, with both pre and post departure orientations. The internship coordinators encourage being open about challenges being faced throughout your internship, such as culture shock and provide coping strategies for this. Runa in Kichwa language means fully alive. I believe that this internship gives a wider world view for interns and provided me with varying facets of knowledge such as emotional strength, academic growth and profession awareness, allowing me to feel ‘fully alive’ by being aware of my vision for my own future.”
Agroforestry Internship in Ecuador