There is a place called Project Bona Fide (http://www.projectbonafide.com/) on Ometepe a well known center for permaculture (Permanent Culture) education and community development. Permaculture is defined in the Wikipedia Article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permaculture) as an approach to designing communities and agricultural systems that mimic the relationships found in the natural ecologies. The main goals are to reduce reliance on industrial systems of production and distribution, minimizing waste and the demand for human labor or energy, produce a high density of food and materials with minimal input, etc. I found out about Bona Fide while reading through the Wiki article into the Nicaragua Section (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permaculture#Nicaragua) and noticed that they are among one of the main learning centers in Central America not to mention a great group of people.
Tours: Join us for a 2 to 3 hour guided tour through a working sustainable farm that focuses on Permaculture a design principle and approach to everyday life that integrates plants, landscapes, structures and animals to enhance environmental sustainability within a permanent, sustainable agricultural and cultural system. Learn about soil management, waste water management, energy efficiency, our use of solar & wind power, inter-planting, agro-forestry, layering methods, water catchment systems, how to discourage ravenous insects and how to support wider varieties of birds, insects and animals on a farm all while maximizing food production. After the tour enjoy a full traditional Nicaraguan lunch prepared with products from the farm and a chance to meet the locals.
Accommodation: there are plenty of places to stay in Balque but I like Finca Madalena which is a farm located near Balgue on Ometepe Island in Nicaragua. You can sign up for tours at Finca Magdalena which is a 15 minute walk from Bona Fide and has dorms for $2.50 or private rooms from $8 in a farmhouse on an organic coffee plantation, set on a hillside with gorgeous views of the volcanoes, lake, gardens, and sunsets, complete with hammocks, internet, and trails for exploring. Website: www.fincamagdalena.com with full meals from $1 to $4, and cheap beers and rum (I spend about $10 per day).
Volunteers: support a variety of projects including; natural building, tree propagation, gardening, irrigation, cooking, planting and community projects with the local community. Please check out www.projectbonafide.com/faq.html for more information or email me directly.
Community work: there are also many opportunities to work with the local community through projects like Café Isabella (http://www.projectbonafide.com/news.html) open-aired feeding center is crowded and lively as mothers weave around children handing out vitamins, peeling eggs, wiping off milk mustaches and trying to keep a hold of the growing excitement. There is also Café Infantil (http://www.projectbonafide.com/cafeinfantil.html), a Children's Nutritional Program's aim is to address vitamin, mineral, and protein deficiencies in children during their period of greatest mental and physical development. Café Infantil operates in the rural community of Balgue in south-west Nicaragua where malnutrition is a limiting factor in the mental and physical development of school-age children. In the three to six-year age range, the program is currently helping 70 children, six days a week, with a daily serving of fresh milk, eggs, multivitamins, tooth brushing* and sanitation education.
How to get here: if you’re not already in Central America you can fly into Managua, Nicaragua or San Jose, Costa Rica depending on flight prices and how much time you have. From the states most people pay around $300 roundtrip. I can give you exact direction to the island – just send me an email with your specifics (email@example.com). Once you get to Ometepe you can take a taxi or bus to Balque and ask to be dropped off at the road to Finca Magdalena. There will be a sign on the main road and it’s a 15 minute walk from there. For further information or directions you can email me or call (505) 8901-5782 or visit our website: www.projectbonafide.com/faq.html.