Conservation Volunteers

Nile River 1

EcoTours & Travel Uganda is  a startup, but the brainchild of the nonprofit ‘Organic Perspectives’ that has run community forestry and sustainable household energy projects with rural smallholder farmers in Uganda’s remote countryside (Kamuli and Buyende) over 6 years. Our engagement in the travel industry is simply about bringing more stakeholders in what we do. See Our Story.

Our Volunteers Program, therefore, is synonymously about the work of Organic Perspectives.

If your goal is to gain hands-on, grassroots experience while sharing your skills to help local farmers conserve the environment in a rural community context, then our project is right for you.

Our Work:

Our reforestation project involves an incredibly high level of local farmers’ participation through community-led “Project Extension Groups” (PEGs). Our tree project’s organizational structure will show you the role of PEGs and how we establish our presence or new PEGs in local communities. More information on our tree project is on this page, or you can read about our overall activities.

Once our PEGs are instituted, these serve as the same framework for rolling out activities on sustainable household energy—such as orientating farmers on household biogas and improved woodstoves, and the actual signing up of local households for the construction of biodigesters and the dissemination of improved woodtsoves. Generally, if you choose to work with us on this component, you will often find yourself training other prospective biogas/improved woodstoves users right from the backyard of a local household that already has a completed biogas digester.

The agroforestry project has been running since 2007, and the sustainable household energy component since 2010 in both districts. With our expansion and scaling methodology simplified through PEGs, we are aiming (2013 onward) to replicate our work across Kamuli and Buyende (that’s, 19 sub counties making up 110 Parishes and 1,293 villages) and to expand to new parts of Uganda. As such, we will need the help of both short and long-term volunteers all year round.

Why We Need Volunteers?

Our team is small and we can’t afford hiring local staff, yet the farmers we work with have a really big need for new ideas and experiences on the social and environmental challenges they face.

How you can help—skills needed?

Our work addresses a wide scope of social and environmental constraints facing rural farmers. Volunteers from different educational backgrounds will usually find their skills to be transferable to one or more areas we are working on. However, here is how you could engage with our activities:

1) Renewable and efficient biomass energy technologies. You could, for instance, work with our team on biodigesters, or you could bring new experiences to the local farmers themselves on other forms of renewable and efficient household energy technologies. Currently, we are constructing biodigesters; all of them exclusively designed to use cow dung as feedstock and installed only in households that have at least 2 zero grazed cattle or 5+ cattle on semi-intensive grazing. We are also disseminating improved woodstoves from ‘Envirofit International’ and ‘The Paradigm Project’.

Those with specialist expertize in household biogas could train either our team or our masons on alternative biodigester designs (including smaller sizes) and alternative feedstock (e.g. biodegradable waste) that could enable even those households without cattle to use biogas.

2) Agroforestry. Though primarily about tree planting, this work is ultimately aimed at improving rural farmers livelihoods through sustainable agriculture. So, any knowledge and training you could bring to our team or the local farmers on organic gardening, horticulture and just about everything in agriculture will be useful. In particular, farmers are very curious on learning about new species that could improve their agriculture systems (e.g. fast-growing woody trees), or new ways of using old species (e.g. peramculture, composting/natural fertilizers and organic pestcides).

Another need in our agroforestry project is that of having farmers put skills to work in their fields the way we train them at our community nursery sites. We are a small team with limited resources, so our training usually ends at community nursery sites. However, when time comes for the farmers to take the saplings to their farmlands, often there are variations in the application of systematic agroforestry technologies (i.e. planting methods, spacing and species used). But our experience shows that practical examples with a few farmers (e.g. where one farmer effectively uses hedgerow intercropping in his garden)  inspire the others to do the same.

As volunteer, you can help by working directly with individual farmers to plant trees in their farmlands! May be you could even be able to lead a fundraiser to help a local village without a single water source acquire one! Local farmers in many of our target communities have to walk nearly 3km to access water for drinking and watering their saplings.

Training and orientation?

Our team will provide an orientation session on our work, the demographics of local communities you will be volunteering with, and we will work with you to build an activity breakdown to include the aspects you would like to handle and where we could share.

Depending on your area of interest and experience, basic resources e.g. agroforestry manuals and leaflets on our current sustainable household energy work (household biogas and improved woodstoves) will be provided.  You will generally be working alongside our team in all community training sessions, but in your personal outreach to individual farmers—e.g. when giving hands-on guidance in the field—you will often work alongside the farmers themselves.

Timeline and Scope of Work?

Our work is ongoing. You can choose to volunteer for one week or a number of weeks. We will work with 2 – 5 PEGs per week, depending on the scope of training being delivered or the hands-on help required for the farmers.

Program Fees?

Our  target communities are the remote communities of Kamuli and Buyende where deforestation has been pretty drastic. These are distant areas and we do not have a project travel budget.

We ask for your contribution toward fuel and vehicle maintenance, and to help us arrange your accommodation and meals. You will not be paying to volunteer (and there is no application fee) but for your direct participation expenses. The fees below will cover your accommodation; 3 meals per day; internet access at our office; a local mobile phone sim card and project-related travel.

.                          1 week        2 weeks       3 weeks      4 weeks       5 weeks      + additional week

4 – 20 people:    $150 pp      $250 pp       $350 pp      $450 pp       $550           $100

One person:       $ 300          $450            $600           $750            $900           $150

Note:

1 We could get you discounted air fares and travel insurance—through our Good Network!

2) If you’d stay with a local family (free accommodation but subject to availability), you will contribute only $80 per week for project-related operations and $60 per week to the host family.

3) When you need to be picked at the airport or to be dropped off on your way back, this is a distance of 180km between Entebbe and Kamuli and could cost well over $150 (one-way). We encourage you to make use of our own 7-seater van and only pay for fuel ($80 one-way).

Please see also our Volunteers Manual to acquaint yourself with Uganda and our project locations.

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