Location: near Punta Gorda, South Belize
Duration: Minimum 2 weeks, maximum 6 months commitment
Start Dates: Project is ongoing, and you can join at any time, depending upon availability
Cost: $450 / £350 for the 1st week (discounted to $850 for a month) - see 'Costs' tab for further details
- Produce rare strains of cacao plants, learning about sustainable agroforestry & tropical agriculture
- Hands-on organic farm experience, growing and producing cacao, planting and harvesting.
- Remote and beautiful location in the Maya mountains of southern Belize
- Keywords: permaculture, cacao cultivation, agriculture, agroforestry, environmental conservation, nursery management
The NGO you will be working with here in southern Belize is host to one of the oldest on-going agroforestry experiments in the country as well as being one of the oldest permaculture projects in all of South America. The maturity level of the canopy has allowed for several sub canopy species to be grown, with an emphasis on cacao. The cacao tree, whose Latin name means ‘food of the gods’, has been a vital part of Latin American culture for well over 1200 years. Some of the cacao varieties you will work with are relic cultigens from the Maya culture and have been growing in isolation in this area since the collapse of the Maya civilization.
As part of the sustainable farming project, you will partake in all the processes of cacao production, from planting and mulching to fermenting and drying as well as nursery management. The cacao is sold locally as either raw cacao or as cacao balls. The cacao on the farm is grown in an entirely artificially created agroforestry system, with many species. The system is designed to closely imitate the ecological functions of a completely intact ecosystem in an arboreal architecture that closely resembling the rainforest that originally grew here.
The farm believes in and is run entirely on renewable energy, meaning you will get a rare opportunity to experience living a completely organic lifestyle. The project also works with local communities, installing photovoltaic pumps and solar systems.
The farm you will be working on is an experiential learning centre and a working demonstration farm. You will be a part of the everyday farm work as well as be taught about the different systems and activities used on the farm. You will be expected to work hard, but as a reward you get to live in a beautiful rainforest and learn valuable skills! If you are a student there is also the possibility of getting credit for your time at the farm at your home university and the projects welcomes researchers as well as volunteers.
Some of the day-to-day activities you might take part in are:
- Planting seeds, mulching, harvesting, and drying cacao beans.
- Assisting researchers in their work with various rare strains of cacao.
- Maintaining and developing the genetic seed bank.
- Learning about applied biodiversity in sustainable agroforestry.
- Establishing nurseries on the farm or in local communities.
This is a very flexible project, which can cater to your personal project and interests if you wish to arrange for a prolonged stay. As a researcher, you will be largely self-directed, but there are always opportunities to take part in the activities on the farm. The farm forms an excellent base for students of agriculture, agroforestry, botany, biology, tropical ecology, ornithology, herpetology and permaculture.
Travel & Accom.
We can arrange for you to be picked up at the airport for an additional $50 USD. The location of the project is very remote and there are no roads leading to the farm itself. Access is by either canoe along the river or by trail. Once you have confirmed your place you will be given assistance to arrange your airport transfer.
As an intern you will stay in dorms and eat all your meals family-style together with the rest of the people on the farm. Accommodation is rustic but beautiful and there are plenty of communal areas to socialize with other participants, or just chill out after a hard day’s work. All buildings on the farm have electricity provided by renewable energy. The farm has satellite Internet powered by renewable energy, which is available at certain hours of the day. Internet access is provided free to all visitors with their own wireless equipped laptops.
- Minimum age 18.
- No previous experience is required but you are expected to be passionate about the project!
- Ability to take part in physical labour in a tropical climate.
- Necessary vaccinations, flight & visas.
- Full travel & medical insurance. Please see our info pages for more information and to get a quote.
Your trip will be complete with this list of the Top 5 Things to Do. Dive into the waters of the Belize Barrier Reef, or explore ancient Mayan Ruins. This beautiful country is one of our favorite travel destinations, and you will understand why by seeing all it has to offer.
Belize is one of the diving capitals of the world- and for good reason. The crystal clear water here is home to aquatic life ranging from colorful coral to giant whale sharks. It’s also home to the Belize Barrier Reef, a World Heritage Site because of its biological importance. If you’ve never dived, don’t worry. Diving in Belize caters to all experience levels. Become a certified diving expert or just take a one day outing with the kids (lunch is usually provided!). You simply cannot go to Belize and not experience the mysterious world underwater.
Explore Mayan Ruins
The ancient Mayan civilization left a lasting mark on this tropical country. Giant temples and structures that are thousands of years old still stand to amaze the present generation. Explore just a few kilometers outside of Belize city, or take a winding river trip to more remote archaeological sites. The most popular ruins: Caracol, Cerros and Lamanai
The Great Blue Hole
The Great Blue Hole is one of the most important diving sites in the world. This giant sinkhole houses large stalactites and animals, mostly sharks. Only more experienced divers can see it from fish-eye view, but any traveler can mark it off of their bucket list. Boat tours leave daily to this incredible site, or you can even affordably fly over it and see it from above!
Test your adventure spirit with an overnight trip to the world’s only jaguar preserve. Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar preserve is over 350 sq. km. of protected jungle. There are tons of trails and options to hike, where you will see all kinds of native animals and even signs of jaguars. You can make it a day trip, or stay in one of the facilities available for rent overnight for a magical experience.
This is one of the main reasons people visit Belize. This tiny fishing village is a historic center of the Garifuna culture dating back to the 19th c. Experience the vibrant, musical culture of these people and then retreat to a world-class resort at the end of the day. It’s quaint, charming, and very close to some of the most popular tourist destinations in Belize.
Project Fee - $450 USD / £350 GBP* for the first week - discounted to $850 for the 1st month, and $750 for each month thereafter.
* Currency conversions are approximate.
** All payments incur a 5% bank transfer fee
*** Includes admin fee ($250)
**** Places are confirmed with the 1st week deposit.
Project Fee - includes all food, accommodation, in-country support, project activities and transport from the local town to the project HQ.
What's not included:
Flights, insurance, visas (if applicable) and vaccinations. Full assistance will be provided in getting all these arranged if you opt for 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.