Developed over 12,000 years ago, agriculture is one of the oldest and most essential industries in the world. Things like animal domestication, crop fertilization, and irrigation revolutionized the nomadic hunter-gatherer society into larger, more established civilizations. Even in our highly technological and globalized economy, agricultural techniques and local food sourcing are vital cultural discussions. Agricultural volunteers are needed to help improve and facilitate these operations, especially in less industrialized regions. Furthermore, agriculture volunteering incorporates a variety of fields, from farming to biology to conservation.
Why Volunteer Abroad in Agriculture
Agriculture volunteer opportunities provide participants with a wide array of placement options. Farming placements, for example, may focus on specific crops, such as corn or coffee production, or specific animals, like dairy farms. Volunteers have a lot of freedom to pursue their passion within the field, whether it’s genetics and breeding, agroforestry and conservation, permaculture, or even fair trade practices. Agriculture volunteering can also be an excellent source of physical activity and outdoor adventure for international volunteers, not to mention the satisfaction they’ll gain giving back to the community and helping locals take control of their own survival and sustainability.
Agriculture volunteering placements can be found almost anywhere in the world, but the highest concentration of programs are found in Ecuador, Kenya, Costa Rica, Thailand, and Nepal, where agriculture plays an enormous role in daily life and society as a whole.
Ecuador. Located on the northwest coast of South America, Ecuador, and the neighboring Galapagos Islands, are rife with agriculture volunteer opportunities in everything from organic farming and agroforestry to fair trade development, sustainability, and community development. The number of agriculture volunteer programs available in Ecuador is truly staggering. On their free time, volunteers can enjoy the nation’s incredible coastline and biodiversity in its rainforests, or tour the capital city, Quito, and learn to speak Spanish.
Kenya. This developing nation is bordered by Tanzania to the south, Uganda to the west, Ethiopia to the north, and Somalia to the east. Kenya, and Africa as a whole, has experienced a lot of devastation due to soil erosion, deforestation, pollution, drought, and desertification. Whole herds have been lost to starvation, contributing to the problem of low food production as well. Volunteering in agriculture in Kenya is a great way for volunteers to lend a hand in rural communities, by spreading awareness about sustainability practices or even teaching children about farming practices for crops like bananas, avocados, mangoes, and coffee. There are also agriculture volunteer opportunities which involve contributing to fair trade practices.
Costa Rica. This gorgeous Central American nation is a popular choice for agriculture volunteering abroad, especially in the realms of coffee and sustainability. Volunteers can gain hands on experience in eco-agriculture by directly helping local families who live on farms or learn about different methods of sustainability, such as biogas, solar power, and composting. As an agriculture volunteer in Costa Rica, you could even live in the middle of the rainforest and assist farmers whose crops are targets for protected wildlife.
Thailand. This country has it all: pristine beaches, ancient forests, striking ruins, and plenty of projects for volunteering in agriculture. Eco-agriculture is a popular type of volunteer work in Thailand, given the high volume of tourists in the area. Volunteers can work on animal farms, helping to feed, bathe, and raise different kinds of animals or work in vegetable gardens helping the nomadic hill tribes near the Burmese border.
Nepal. Bordering India to the northeast, Nepal is especially in need of agricultural volunteers to help spread sustainability awareness and improve cultivation methods. Protecting the environment from the degradation of harmful pesticides and other chemicals is a high priority, and raising farming standards in general. These types of agriculture volunteer opportunities connect agriculture directly with local empowerment, especially for native women.
Volunteering in Agriculture
Many of agriculture volunteer opportunities give volunteers a well rounded experience abroad and most do not require previous experience. Volunteering in agriculture can last anywhere from one week to one year, and may require between four and six hours of work per day.
Organic Farming. By far, the most prevalent type of agriculture volunteering abroad is in helping local communities through different types of farm work. Volunteering on coffee farms is popular in Costa Rica and Kenya, where volunteers help with every aspect of production, including planting, harvesting, and distribution. Volunteers can also work in vegetable gardens abroad or choose an animal farm where they can help feed, breed, bathe, and raise various species of animals, such as cows or horses.
Sustainability. Eco-agriculture is another popular choice for volunteering in agriculture, with deep connections to overall conservation goals. Tourism, natural disasters, lack of resources or education, and changes in climate can all contribute to unsustainable agricultural practices. Lots of agriculture volunteer opportunities focus specifically on improving agricultural techniques and conducting research in order to create a sustainable future for those in need.
Agroforestry. Deforestation is a global epidemic, occurring rapidly in places like South America and Indonesia. Volunteers are needed to help spread awareness of the importance of these ecosystems, plant trees to reforest areas, cut and maintain trails to aid in conservation efforts, and many other activities to counteract unsustainable logging interests. Fair Trade Development. As the less labor intensive and more political/social side of agriculture volunteering abroad, fair trade volunteers work around the globe to make sure that producers are receiving fair treatment and compensation for the fruits of their labor. Volunteers also help promote good relations among farmers, exporters, and consumers, and bring awareness to the interdependent nature of these relationships.
Hands-On Experience. Working on a farm and creating a connection to the land itself is one of the most rewarding activities there is in terms of physical and mental health, and the health of the community. Agriculture volunteers have the opportunity to really dig in to the ins and outs of the entire process, including prepping, planting, fertilizing, harvesting, and more.
Community Development. You are what you eat. Agricultural volunteering abroad is one of the most important ways you can contribute to the survival and empowerment of local communities and the global community at large. Agriculture volunteers put into place sustainability practices that will, hopefully, last for decades to come.