Eco-tourism Trips

paraglide

Journey to Togo

During January and February of 2015, we are excited to bring a group of volunteers to live and work on the InTerraTree site near Kpalime in Togo, West Africa. Volunteers will have the opportunity to work side by side with locals as together we create the ecovillage and education center that will be InTerraTree from the ground up. In addition to gaining hands on experience with ecovillage design, tropical agriculture, and natural building, volunteers will be immersed in Togolese culture and nature. Throughout the trip there will be opportunities for cross-cultural exchange and eco-adventure – be it building a traditional djembe drum or hiking through butterfly filled forests to an epic waterfall.

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Please visit the InTerraTree website to learn more. 

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Learn More

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Program Overview

Program Dates and Fees

We are offering two 3 week long volunteer programs this winter, with the option to participate in one or both trips.

Volunteer Trip Dates:

January 7-27, 2015DSCN0952

February 3-23, 2015

 
Program Fees:

A one-time $300 deposit is required in order to reserve your space on one or both of the InTerraTree trips.

Each 3-week trip costs $600 (so $1200 for both trips).

This price includes:

  • All meals and accommodations
  • All in-country transportation, including services to and from the airport
  • Necessary educational and building materials
  • Experienced educators and local guides
  • Cultural immersion activities and some excursions
  • 24/7 In-country support
  • A donation to InTerraTree to help us continue our work

Fees do not include airfare and passport/visa costs.

 

Check out our fundraising opportunities to fund your way to Togo!

The Project

This winter, an international team of permaculture designers, natural builders, and tropical agriculture experts will be gathering at the site of InTerraTree to team up with locals there as we create a thriving model for sustainable community development through cross-cultural creativity and collaboration.

We will be:26719_376780287291_607212291_4898407_5267919_n

  • Analyzing and assessing the site (20 acres of tropical forest)
  • Deeply engaging with locals and their culture to best understand their needs
  • Designing the site layout and architectural plans of initial buildings
  • Constructing permaculture gardens and sustainable food systems
  • Building primary infrastructure with natural materials/methods
  • Developing sustainable appropriate technologies for use in the community

We have decided to open up this dynamic and exciting process to a small group of outside volunteers. These individuals will be living on site, working directly with locals and our design/build team. This is an incredibly valuable educational experience to work with the best in their fields, participate in a design process, learn sustainable building/living skills, and engage with cross-cultural exchange on location in West Africa.

 

Your Education

Although no hands-on experience in sustainable design or build is necessary, we DSCN3835ask that volunteers express an interest in learning about the topics, methods, and processes at hand. We will work hard to ensure that learning opportunities for volunteers are made a priority and time is reserved for some formal teaching as well as classroom-like group discussions. However, please note that most of the education that takes place on the trip will happen through hands-on experience working directly with our experienced designers and builders.

We encourage volunteers to share their unique skills and gifts with the group, and to be proactive about ensuring their personal learning goals are met. We love questions, so please ask them!

A recommended reading list will be sent out via email shortly after your space is confirmed for the trip. Please take the time to use these resources to best prepare for your time in Togo.

 

The Ideal Volunteer26457_402584397291_607212291_5006175_7160955_n

This program is ideal for those with a strong interest in sustainable food systems, natural building, tropical agriculture, alternative development models, and cross-cultural exchange. It is also ideal for individuals who have completed a Permaculture Design Education course or an Ecovillage Design Education course, and are looking for the next step in their learning.

Regardless of experience level, we hope that all of our volunteers are engaged with the work, open to learning, culturally sensitive, and eager to explore the beautiful lands of Togo, West Africa!

*At least some proficiency in French is recommended.

 

 

Cultural Immersion

Community integration and celebration of local culture will be the starting point of your journey in Togo.

 

Community12316_394415647291_607212291_4950895_6464371_n

We highly value a type of travel that allows for integration with the local community, to break down cultural barriers and learn through cross-cultural exchange. Indeed, we believe that experiences immersed in another way of life are what can shift our worldview towards one of common understanding and appreciation for our global community. Coupled with creative ideas and dialogue, this where we will birth solutions to humanities’ current crises.

We are allowing our volunteers to dive as deep into this integration as they choose. An option for a homestay experience, lodging with a local host family, will be made available for a portion of your time in Togo. There will also be optional time for volunteers to visit the local town and dine out.

26457_402601462291_607212291_5006476_8126550_nIn addition to bonding with the local community, another goal of this trip to form a community fellow volunteers working on the InTerraTree site. Understanding that the symptoms of culture shock are very real, throughout the trip we will be providing support for those who need it. We will be frequently holding spaces for group volunteer discussions around what we are experiencing, any issues that may arise, and causes for celebration. By supporting one another we can ensure that everyone has a safe and meaningful experience.

 

 

 

 

African Arts

Shop Drum Circle Full2The organization we have partnered with over the last four years through our sister organization, Drums for Development, is based outside of Kpalime in Togo and is called Centre Des Hommes. This is a non-profit artist cooperative that specializes in traditional West Africa handcrafts, including djembe drums, batik artwork, wood carved jewelry, and more. (See drumsfordevelopment.org for some examples of their work.) Members of this group are also skilled West African musicians and dancers.

reise 801We are now working with Center Des Hommes to create InTerraTree, a place where the artists can live together in a sustainable community and support themselves by sharing their work with the world - through education, an eco-lodge, and the sale of their art.

Working with such a group of artists to build the site, it is needless to say that throughout your time in Togo there will be incredible opportunities to experience the richness of local creative culture. We will be visiting Centre Des Hommes’ shop in Kpalime and arranging optional arts education workshops for volunteers.

 

You will have opportunities to:Cristina et autres 079

  • Build your own djembe drum
  • Take drum lessons with master drummer Senam Tsogbe
  • Make your own batiks
  • Learn African song & dance
  • Watch performances by the area’s best artists

*Cost of materials for the Djembe drum-building workshop is not included in the trip price.

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Location

The InTerraTree site is located just north of Kpalime, Togo – right where the city limits end and the lush forests of national preserve land begin.

 

So where is Togo?

Togo is a tiny country in West Africa, just togo mapnorth of the equator and bordering Ghana to the west. Only 30km wide, many by-pass this former French colony. But those that do miss out on the fascinating mix of Old French colonialism and traditional African culture. In a country where women on the street sell typical African fair such as yam, cassava and plantain, they can also be found selling more cosmopolitan baguettes, croissants and pain au chocolate. Voodoo finds its roots in the region with washing powder and clothes vying for position with traditional fetish medicines, remedies and offerings for sale in local markets. Many of the towns and cities have architecture reminiscent of Paris or Nice side streets, yet paths covered in terracotta red dust and the tropical climate remind you that you are in Africa.

kpalimeThe Ewe is an ethic group located in Togo, southern Ghana (Volta Region), and southern Benin. Richly alive, Ewe culture abounds with unique traditions and an intact religion organized around a creator/creatress deity, Mawu and Lisa. The Ewe have developed a complex culture around drumming. Ewe believe that if someone is a good drummer, it is because they inherited a spirit of an ancestor who was a good drummer. Music and dance are a force in cementing social feeling among members of this society.Groupe de percussion Kpalimé PRESENTATION CENTRE DES HOMMES

Togo’s environment is tropical, with a good growing season and a nation mostly dependent on agriculture. The climate is dry with characteristics of tropical savanna. December and January fall 
between the countries two rainy seasons (so you should be staying dry during your travel!) Plus it is the warm season during this time of year, with temperatures reaching (but rarely exceeding) an average high of 32 °C (90°F).

Few volunteers make it to this forgotten country, so support is welcomed. At least 32% of the country lives below the poverty line, yet Togo is wealthy in nature, cultural arts, and community. At InTerraTree we want to find paths toward sustainable development that celebrate Togo’s wealth. 

 

Language

As a French speaking country, volunteers wanting to practice their French have found the right togo flag
place. The villagers will mainly speak their local dialect of Ewe as well as French. French is the national language yet the country has about 44 different African dialects! Although we recommend volunteers have some proficiency in the language, do not worry if you don’t speak French as many of our trip leaders are fluent and on hand to help at all times! 

 

Eco-tourism

Amazing waterfalls and lush mountain forests full of butterflies 12316_394415302291_607212291_4950869_6548252_nwait volunteers during one of our g
roup hikes.  During the trip there will be an opportunity to hike up Togo’s highest mountain, Mount Agou. And, if condition permit, there will be the chance to paraglide all the way down!  A once-in-a-life-time experience, sailing in the wind over forests of green and Lake Volta in the distance is not to be missed!DSCN0210

Plus, the organization we partner with for our paragliding adventure has a social mission too – for every tourist they take paragliding, they bring one local villager for free!

We also encourage our volunteers to take advantage of free time on the weekends to explore the country. Lome, the capital of Togo, is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in West Africa, with ruined castles, cocoa and coffee plantations, and not to mention the beautiful windswept beaches of the south. Beaches are back-packer friendly and it is possible to have bonfires under the stars. 

 

Accommodations

Lodging

 

26719_376641907291_607212291_4898126_4773690_nYour home away from home in Togo will be on the InTerraTree land. Located outside of Kpalime, InTerraTree finds itself right where the city limits end and lush national preserve land begins. This is a unique opportunity to deeply connect with the beautiful tropical forest site that will be the main focus of your volunteer work.

You will be living closely with the other volunteers, forming a tight community as you explore, dine, and work together in West Africa. Our leading team of ecovillage designers will also be living on the site, presenting the opportunity for deep conversation and exchange with some of the most creative minds in the sustainability field. Togolese locals will frequently be visiting the site, however we are allowing volunteers to dive as deep into integration with the surrounding community as they choose. An option for a homestay experience, lodging with a local host family, will be made available for a portion of your time in Togo. There will also be optional time for volunteers to visit the local town and dine out.

On-site volunteers will have the option to stay in a bunkroom (please note there is limited space) or in a camping tent. Volunteers wishing to stay in a tent are asked to bring their own or request a tent be provided for them by the time of final payment, December 1st.  All volunteers will need to bring their own bedding (sleeping pad, sleeping bag/blanket, etc.) A complete packing list will be sent out shortly after your space on the trip is confirmed.

Please understand that you will be staying in West Africa, a country with little material wealth. Your accommodations will be basic, similar to a camping experience. It’s all an adventure right! 

Volunteers requiring different accommodations may contact our volunteer manager for options by emailing volunteer@interratree.org OR by calling 781-244-0484.

 

Food

Given the country’s diverse history, Togolese cuisine is often a combination of African, DSCN3880French, and German influences. Roadside stands can sell a variety of foods: groundnuts, omelettes, brochettes, corn-on-the-cob, baguettes, and cooked prawns. We encourage volunteers to try something new! Staple foods in Togo are similar to those in the rest of the region, including maize, rice, millet, cassava, yam, plantain, and beans. We are fortunate that the InTerraTree land already grows wild fruit plants, such as banana and avocado. Although we will be greatly expanding the gardens as part of the volunteer trip, there are already small growing spaces to provide us with a fresh supply of vegetables. We will do our best to provide volunteers with a balanced organic diet of vegetables, meat, grains, and fruit. Please note any dietary requirements on your application form.

Cooking will be communal experience, in an outdoor kitchen. Volunteers and trip leaders will rotate preparing 3 meals a day through out the week, honing our culinary skills and learning about native ingredients. Don’t worry if you don’t have much cooking experience, we will show you everything you need to know! 

Opportunities to eat out in restaurants and with local families will abound. The Ewe are very welcoming to guests!

 

Safety

12316_394415637291_607212291_4950894_4924258_nVolunteers will have 24/7 in-country support throughout their time in Togo. From the moment you land, there will be an escort to transport you to the InTerraTree site and back to the airport at the end of your stay, if you choose. On the site, you will be living with a group of fellow volunteers, greatly limiting the chances of safety hazards. As with any time traveling in the Global South, volunteers should bring few valuable possessions and keep their passport safe at all times. The easiest way to stay safe is to be smart!

A certified Wilderness First Responder will be living on-site, and a medical first-aid kit will be kept accessible. In the event of an emergency, there are several medical centers located in Kpalime, a relatively large city near the InTerraTree site. We strongly encourage volunteers to acquire travel health insurance for their trip.

Understanding that the symptoms of culture shock are very real, throughout the trip we will be providing support for those who need it. We will be frequently holding spaces for group volunteer discussions around what we are experiencing, any issues that may arise, and causes for celebration. By supporting one another we can ensure that everyone has a safe and meaningful experience.

 

 

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One of the greatest resources available to humankind today is our diversity of culture. With incredible technologies that allow us to communicate globally instantaneously or travel around the world in hours, we are connected like never before. With this ability comes tremendous responsibility to preserve and share that which makes us unique.

– Nick Joyce, Founder