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Project WOO and Bona Fide Permaculture Farming: Updates from Central America

So finally, we made it to the ocean. The group was overjoyed, and understandably so, given that our only contact with large bodies of water has been Lake Atitlan. Our contact organization is Project Woo, an organization focused on community-driven development and regulating the effects of Volunteerism. We started off our week by helping some local fisherman haul in their fish nets. Unfortunately there were only eight or so fish in the net, so haul may not be the right verb. Regardless, the rest of the week went swimmingly (pardon the pun). We baked pastries, learned how to surf, and spent a morning running activities for the local children at the beach. An early morning hike up The Giant´s Foot provided a great view of the beach… and of Ben´s phenomenal dance moves. We finished off the week with some Nacatamales and toasted cheese-bagel-donut-thingies that all the Carpe students helped make. Our next stop is Project Bona Fide, located on the island of Ometepe, situated in the middle of Lake Nicaragua.

we spent the week and a half after Project WOO at Bona Fide permaculture farm, on Isla Ometepe. It's a volcanic island made up of two volcanoes, hence the two boulders. And they were some niiiiiiice boulders!

A typical day at Bona Fide consisted of getting up at six, starting work at seven, eating breakfast at eight, and doing three more hours of work from nine until noon. In addition, we sometimes had activities or kitchen duty in the afternoons, which made for long days and curiously early bedtimes.

Bona Fide is a permaculture farm, which means quite a few things. Basically, permaculture is a way of life (not just an agriculture method) that maximizes efficiency and minimizes waste. For example, instead of toilets we did our business in compost latrines. The solid waste was used as fertilizer, and the liquid waste was used as a nitrogen-rich way to water the plants. The farm was definitely difficult to get used to. In some locations, there were so many bugs that you had to cover your nose to keep from inhaling any. It was difficult to keep clean, simply because nothing was truly inside and nature got all over you whether you liked it or not. But after a stressful first few days, we came to like it.

The most major activity that we did over that week and a half was the seed exchange, which Bona Fide had been planning for weeks. They are partnered with a local organization called Project Mano Amiga, which is an agricultural and health education center for the community. Once a year, Bona Fide puts on a community-wide faire that raises awareness about the new agricultural practices that take place on the farm as well as expose the community to new foods and ways of preparing food. It was a small affair–just a couple of booths and a piñata for the kids–but it was a labor of love on everyone's part.

As a farewell, we prepared pizza for all the farm's volunteers, which numbered about thirty people. It was a true hippie party, with crazy dancing and singalongs and all-natural pizza. I even enjoyed washing dishes! That was probably a onetime thing, though. Even now, group members are starting to think about returning to Bona Fide. I'd do it just for the sunsets.