Volunteer Experience | Community Development

Ecuador: Climate Change Mitigation, Agroforestry, and Forest Conservation

Tena, Ecuador


Location: Tena, Ecuador

Duration: Minimum 1 month (flexible for min. 2 weeks depending on intern’s qualifications), Maximum 1 year

Start Dates: Project is ongoing, and you can join at any time, depending upon availability

Cost: $450 for the 1st week + $250 for each additional week (2 month minimum is recommended) – see ‘Costs’ tab for further details


  • Work closely with NGO staff, farmers, and local agronomists experienced in forest conservation, agroforestry, agronomy, participatory community development, social entrepreneurship, and sustainable farming.
  • Learn about international efforts to mitigate climate change and be a part of implementing long-term research and solutions alongside local community farmers
  • Learn about Amazonian cultures and their connection to organic agriculture, ethnobotany, agroforestry, and plant medicine
  • Live in a beautiful, rural community with an indigenous host family in the Amazon rainforest
  • Keywords: field research, sustainable development, climate change, international development agriculture, forest conservation, community tourism, cacao industry, seed banks, indigenous rights, economic development, sustainable development, indigenous traditions.
Costs Explained


The Amazon rainforest is home to the most biodiverse ecosystem in the world, teeming with millions of species of trees, plants, insects and animals. For thousands of years, Amazonian indigenous peoples have been connected to all of this life in the rainforest and living off their naturally organic chakras, or traditionally planted agroforestry farms.

This internship will give you the opportunity to collaborate with both an international NGO working to solve big issues of climate change and community development, as well as assisting your host family on their traditional farm.

You will become part of an Ecuadorian family and community, dive deep into language and cultural immersion (Spanish and Kichwa!), all while learning about the importance of valuing traditional seeds and farming techniques for mitigating climate change. In addition, you will experience life in the Amazon rainforest through unique activities such as weaving baskets out of freshly harvested palms, carving spears and statues from local woods, swimming in waterfalls, making chocolate from fresh-picked cacao, and trekking in the virgin rainforest. Your placement will include staff check-ins and 24/7 on-ground emergency support.

Daily Life

At the start of your program, you will have a 3-day orientation in the city of Tena which is about 4 hours east of Quito, Ecuador’s capital city. During orientation workshops, you will start learning about the culture, people, and geography of the region as well as other tools to support you in your internship abroad. Here you will also be connecting with other interns that are going to be leaping into a similar experience.

After orientation, you will move in with a local host family in a community outside of Archidona. You will participate in their daily lives and be a part of family rituals, like waking up at 6am to make guayusa tea with your host grandmother and interpret your dreams. You will also spend time together harvesting, cleaning, and planting in their chakra (traditionally planted agroforestry farm).

Beyond assisting your family on their farm and selling their products, you will collaborate with research and projects for an NGO working to prevent the chakras (as well as the Kichwa culture and livelihoods) from being at risk to increased flooding, intense droughts, soil erosion, and other predicted climate change impacts.

Potential daily activities may include:

  • Work on a research project that is analyzing changes in the chakra system associated with production of cacao and other local products
  • Participate in activities in your community, dubbed “The Village of Cacao and Chocolate” by a network of NGOs supporting development and community tourism in the region
  • Collect environmental data about species composition in farms and chakras
  • Interview locals regarding their ancestral knowledge about selecting, saving, and planting seeds with the goal of identifying practices that help crops withstand dramatic environmental conditions
  • Attend community meetings and workshops related to development
  • Hike through farms and in the rainforest to do seed collecting and farming
  • Complete your own research relating to climate change mitigation with the support of experienced staff
  • Conduct language tutoring and exchanges with kids and community members [English, Spanish, Kichwa]

Your main internships can be complemented by personal research opportunities. If you are interested in conducting research, we can support you and connect you to our network of communities, local experts, and others to help you create your independent project.

Book with Confidence

Travel & Accom.

The best airport to fly into is Quito (UIO, Mariscal Sucre International Airport) as it is only 4 hours from the project. You will be put in contact with the director of the program upon applying and they can give easy to follow instructions to get to the project Headquarters from Quito or Guayaquil International airport.

You will stay for the first 3 nights in the town of Tena for orientation (accommodation is provided), and then will spend the rest of their time living with a local host family. This is an amazing opportunity to integrate fully with the local community, culture, and learn Spanish. Host families also provide 3 meals per day, bedding, mosquito net, and a place to do your laundry.

Fundraising Help


We recommend that interns commit to 8 weeks on the ground in Ecuador, have an intermediate level of Spanish proficiency (or a strong motivation to learn quickly before and upon arriving!), and bring knowledge in their area of research if looking to do a personal project. Interns are expected to finance their own travel costs.

For those interns looking to do their own research or fieldwork for university – we offer the knowledge and time of our network, technical knowledge and informational databases, access to communities, NGOs, government agencies, and consultants, and pre- and post-research support.

Further requirements include:

  • Minimum 2 weeks commitment (40 hours/week), recommended 8-12 weeks.
  • Industry professionals, graduate/undergraduate students majoring in pre-medicine, global health, public health, community development, or a related field.
  • Full travel & medical insurance
  • Necessary vaccinations
  • Necessary flights & visas
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$450 USD for the 1st week, $250 USD* for each week thereafter.

* Currency conversions are approximate. Use xe.com for up to date currency conversion rates
** All payments incur a 5% bank transfer fee
*** Places are confirmed with a 1 week deposit.

What’s Included:
  • Accommodation and 3 meals a day with a local Host Family. This includes a private room, shared bathroom, all bedding, and place to do laundry.
  • A pre-departure orientation (general and specific information about Ecuador, logistics and a Skype meeting)
  • 3-day in-country introduction and orientation that addresses risk management, culture shock symptoms and remedies, cross-cultural adaptation skills, intro to history/culture/politics of the Ecuador and the Amazon, team-building amongst interns and staff, setting a vision and goals for your experience, and more;
  • 1:1 coaching/check-ins every 3 weeks to track goals, check in on health, support with challenges, and providing feedback;
  • 24/7 emergency support;
  • Thorough vetted network of doctors, therapists, Spanish tutors, organizations, etc. in the country;
  • Space for learning and reflection with other foreigners having a similar experience;
  • Re-entry training;
  • Alumni group and future references.

Additionally you will need about $15/day for food for the first three days of training. You will also need to pay for your own transportations and any other activities you want to do.

What’s not included:
  • Food during the first 4 days of orientation
  • Transportation from the airport to location is not included
  • Flights, insurance, visas (if applicable) and vaccinations.

Full assistance will be provided in getting all these arranged if you choose our Premium Support.

Premium Support Upgrade

We understand there’s a great deal to plan and organise for your trip. When booking a Placement, many of our participants choose to purchase our Premium Support Upgrade to benefit from the expertise, knowledge and experience of our Project Coordinators. We can provide the personal advice you need to ensure your trip is organised with excellence and planned with efficiency; ensuring the very best experience possible. Read more about how we can help you.

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Past Participants Say

Emma Desrochers
Emma Desrochers
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"It was an incredible experience and truly different than just study abroad. It was a true dive into cultural immersion and I hope that everyone has the chance to have this experience. I really found another extraordinary part of myself that I had been pushing away for years. I found the part of me that was outgoing and confident. I learned to go w...
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