Every Dollar Goes a Long Way in Africa

And with just $3000 we can begin developing the remainder of the 20 acres of land for the InTerraTree site. Please give what you can to help us build the ecovillage and education center in Togo, West Africa. Your contribution will go a long way in breaking ground on a new kind of development model - one that empowers communities and celebrates local culture.

$ USD
Program Overview

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June in Togo –  Mission: Rainy Season

Program Dates and Fees

This June we are returning to InTerraTree for a rainy season adventure. This will be a two week intensive immersion experience in Togo, West Africa. 

Volunteer Trip Dates:

 

Trip Postponed: Next volunteer trip dates to be announced

We ask participants to schedule their arrival in the Lome International Airport one day prior.

 

Registration and Payment Deadline:

 

Trip Postponed: Next volunteer trip dates to be announced 

 

Please register for the trip as soon as possible, as spaces are limited and you will need time to prepare for the journey.

 
Program Fee:

 

The total cost of the two week June program is $800 USD. Payments can be made online through PayPal, after completing the registration form.

This price includes:
  • IMG_8618All 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.

 

Don't forget to check out our fundraising opportunities to help fund your way to Togo!

Learn more at www.interratree.com/fundraise

 

 

The Project

 

June 2015 trip participants will pick up where our winter volunteers left off, designing and implementing sustainable solutions on the InTerraTree land and in the surrounding community. Volunteers will be working side-by-side with experienced permaculture educators as well as local villagers, bring together a harmony of modern design science and deeply rooted practical knowledge.

 
What has happened so far?

 

IMG_8701During the winter volunteer trips we focused on establishing a good relationship with the surrounding community. We formed a local team to help with planning and executing work. We did detailed community assessment and village mapping, in the spirit of appreciative inquiry. We established a working base camp, completed initial build projects on the site, and cleared the upper half of our land for swale and tree planting work.

We also constructed a composting toilet on a plot of land given to us by the chief of the village of Kpime-Seva. On the same piece of land, we turned trash into function and art, while educating village school children. With their many hands and feet we made a cob and plastic bottle bench, with village trash stuffed into the brick-like bottles. Future plans for "The Chief's Plot" include the construction of a central permaculture demonstration site, which is perfectly situated in a highly visible spot near the heart of the village.

Additionally, we taught numerous classes to Togolese villagers, with subjects in permaculture, global warming, composting, and much more.  

 
What are we going to do next?

 

IMG_8463The rainy season is a magical time in tropical West Africa. The land literally comes to life - with vibrant green vegetation, birds and butterflies filling the air, and soil turning into a rich black mulch. This is the best possible time to plant, and we are going to take advantage of it. During the June trip we will be learning about edible plants and food forest ecosystems as we plant all over our land!

We will also be using this unique season to study water management, how water flows on our land and how we can direct this flow to best meet our needs. As one of the most valuable resources on the planet, this is a critical skill for humanity to learn.

In permaculture, we stress the importance of storing water high on the slope and directing down the land into pools and swales to feed the plants and prevent soil erosion. Despite intense cultivation on the hillsides throughout Togo, these intelligent management practices have yet to catch on. Every year, as soon as the rains hit, soil slides off the hills and into rivers, which quickly become undrinkable. With more and more farms using chemical fertilizers and pesticides on their fields, the problem is worsening dramatically. Simply put, the water is being poisoned.

This June we have an incredible opportunity to show a different possibility. We can show how to implement creative solutions to keep the land and our communities healthy. We have the chance to change the way agriculture is done in Togo.

 
Are you ready?

 

Do you want to be a part of this important work? Well, then get ready for an adventure, because the rainy season is intense. It is magical, but intense. 

IMG_8110We need people who have an openness to going with the flow (no pun intended) and can handle challenges as they arise (and inevitably they will). So called "Africa time" is real. Despite everyone's best intentions, things simply take longer in a country with limited resources and a more laid-back culture. The best strategy is to approach it all with a sense of adventure and fun!

Although no experience is necessary, we ask that volunteers have an eagerness to learn about sustainable food systems, natural building, tropical agriculture, alternative development models, and cross-cultural exchange. If you know nothing about these topics now, a little research time spent before the trip will go a long way once on the ground in Togo.* This trip is also ideal for individuals who do have experience in the topics at hand. This is the place to be if you have completed a Permaculture Design Education course or an Ecovillage Design Education course and are looking for the next step in your learning.

 

In every step of your preparation, our team is available for questions. Just email volunteer@interratree.org

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

 

Cultural Immersion

 
IMG_7856At InTerraTree, we see the world today as having two dominant cultures.

> There is the overarching and rapidly spreading modern culture (also known as the industrial, consumer, westernized, or McDonald culture).

> And there is the indigenous or traditional culture(s) that came before all that. We say "culture(s)" because this is not really one culture in the same way that modern culture is the same everywhere you go, but rather, the hallmark of this culture is its incredible diversity.

What we provide at InTerraTree is a place for the two cultures to meet face to face. As a volunteer on one of our trips you will be living in a close community of people from around the world as well as local villagers who have many of their traditional ways of life still in tact.

More than just meeting and walking away, however, at InTerraTree these two cultures meet on a piece of land to create something new together. Hard working hands and creative minds bring visions to life in ways that have never been done before.

We are actively creating NEXT CULTURE.

 

Next culture brings together the best of modern and indigenous culture, showing what is possible through collaboration. We need next culture to enact solutions to humanity's greatest crises. 

Your registration fee, in part, helps to cover the expenses of local participants so that they can participate in a program that they would otherwise never be able to experience. For many of our local community members, the program is even more life changing than for our foreign volunteers.

Living in a small group with a diversity of backgrounds and world views is not always easy. We ask that volunteers be sensitive to the customs and traditions of our Togolese community members. (Don't worry, we will give you a full briefing on what these are when you arrive in Togo.) We also ask that volunteers be sensitive to the often very wide economic gaps that exist between foreign and local participants. We request that you leave your larger electronic items at home. (There is no electricity or wifi on site anyways!)

It is best to come with a genuine openness to learn from the culture of the local community and a willingness to share your own culture as well. We encourage you to bring your musical instruments, crafts, stories, and games from home. These give light to rainy afternoons! 

 

Language Lessons

 

As a unique part our volunteer program will be hosting regular Ewe language lessons. Ewe is the local language in the region of Togo where InTerraTree is located. We have found that knowing even the most basic Ewe phrases goes a long way in terms of connecting with the local community. You will be amazed how much a villager's face lights up if you say hello in his or her mother tongue. After centuries of French colonialism suppressing the Ewe language, as well as other traditional languages in West Africa, it is an important part of our work at InTerraTree to celebrate the native way of communicating.

 
IMG_8235Arts Immersion 

 

Many of the Togolese members of our team are master West African artists and musicians. Throughout the trip you will have the opportunity to experience their work and learn it yourself, if you choose.

We will spend time visiting their shops in Kpalime and hosting art exhibitions on site. A very special part of our volunteer programs is the traditional West African music and dance performance towards the end of your stay in Togo. This is when you will be able to experience rhythms and steps that have been crafted over hundreds of years. Join in the fun if you like!

 

Additionally, InTerraTree is offering the two following art workshops for our June trip. The cost for building materials is not included in the total trip fee: 

 - Djembe Drum Building ($100 USD for materials)

 You will begin with a rough carved piece of iroko wood, used specifically for its lively sound and spiritual qualities. Then, with the help of master drum builders, you can carve the base into village scenes, African animals, adinkra symbols, or whatever creation you desire! The drum is finished with an African goatskin head and secured with an intricate tying method.  

 - Batik Making ($10-30 USD for materials)

Using the centuries old method of wax dyeing, batik artwork is handmade in multiple layers. You can follow a traditional pattern for your batik, usually depicting scenes from daily African life, or draw up whatever your imagination likes. If you need help, a batik making professional be there to guide you through the vibrant dye colors for painting and steer the hot wax across the canvass. 

 

 

IMG_8675

 

Location

 

The InTerraTree site is located just north of the small city of Kpalime, Togo. The closest village to our land is called Kpime-Seva, with a population of about 200 residents and the village warrior chief still residing. The waterfall that feeds the river running through our property is just a short hike uphill.

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.

The 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.

 While the northern region of Togo approaches desert-like dryness, the south and coastal regions are dramatically more wet. Tropical jungle of palm and banana dominate the rolling hills of the south. In the south there are also two rainy seasons, from March to early July and from the end of September to early November. Days are typically 27 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit) to 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit).

Few visitors 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.

 

 IMG_8690

Language
 

As a French speaking country, volunteers wanting to practice their French have found the right 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! 

As a unique part our volunteer program will be hosting regular Ewe language lessons. We have found that knowing even the most basic Ewe phrases goes a long way in terms of connecting with the local community. You will be amazed how much a villager's face lights up if you say hello in his or her mother tongue. After centuries of French colonialism suppressing the Ewe language, as well as other traditional languages in West Africa, it is an important part of our work at InTerraTree to celebrate the native way of communicating.  

 
 
IMG_8636Eco-tourism
 

Amazing waterfalls and lush mountain forests full of butterflies characterize the region surrounding InTerraTree.  Sunrise hill climbs, yoga under the mango trees, and refreshing dips in the river on our property are just a few of the outdoor activities that await you inTogo. During the trip there will be an opportunity to hike up Togo’s highest mountain, Mount Agou. The higher you climb, the more untouched you will find the communities. And near the summit, the hundred-year old villages are constructed entirely from stone and bright red earth as they hung the mountainside. These architectural feats remind one of medieval European villages dotting green slopes.

 

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

 

IMG_8668Lodging

 

Since it will be the raining season during the June 2015 trip, participants will be living in a permanent building close to the InTerraTree land. Our international community of foreigners and local Togolese will be living together, sharing meals, chores, and sleeping space. While we love camping out on the land, for comfort and safety we will need a strong roof over our facilities. One of the benefits of this living situation, however, will be that we are closer to the Kpime-Seva village center, enabling us to engage with more locals and participate in village events and ceremonies with greater frequency. 

 

IMG_7752Therefore, for the June volunteer trip you will not need to bring a tent. But if you have one you would like to bring and donate to the project, it would be greatly appreciated. During our dry season program this is the primary form of housing, so the more tents we have, the more local villagers we can invite to join our community in the future. You will need to bring your own bedding, including pillow, linen or sleeping bag, mattress pad, and bug netting. A complete packing list will be sent out via email shortly after your registration. 

Please be understanding that living accommodations in Africa are very different from what you may be used to at home. Togolese generally only go inside their homes to sleep, as all of daily living activities - cooking, bathing, and eating - happen outdoors. Volunteers will want to pack sun protection and a bug head net, as well as a rain jacket and boots. Think of it like a camping trip!

There is no electricity on the InTerraTree land and most likely none in the building we will be staying in. We ask that volunteers leave most of their electronics at home, but for charging camera batteries we will make routine trips into town. The one nearest public wifi connection is in Kpalime, about a 30min moto ride from our land.

This is a rare opportunity in the modern age to fully immerse yourself in the African way of life, without technological distractions. Our suggestion is that you take advantage of it by staying off line. Trust us, it is worth it. If you want to let family and friends know of your safe arrival, one of our program leaders would be happy to send an email to loved ones back home for you. Just ask.

 

IMG_7826Food

 

Cooking and eating will be a communal experience on the trip. Although we will be guided by villagers through the basics of Togolese, everyone will have their turn in the kitchen to lend a hand. Don’t worry if you don’t have much cooking experience, we will show you everything you need to know!  Meals are generally eaten on mats outside, with our whole community sitting in a circle to enjoy the food and conversations together. Clean up too is communal. However, for hygiene reasons, we ask that volunteers bring a personal plate and eating utensils. You will be responsible for washing these at the cleaning station and keeping tract of their location.

 

IMG_8023So, what is the food like in Togo?

It is good! Given the country’s diverse history, Togolese cuisine is often a combination of African, French, and German influences. Roadside stands sell a variety of foods: groundnuts, omelets, brochettes, corn-on-the-cob, baguettes, and fried plantains. The national dish is called fufu. All volunteers will have the opportunity to pound fufu, or cassava mash, with the traditional heavy wooden mortar and pestle. Meals in Africa generally consist of a starch (maize, rice, millet, cassava, yam, plantain, and beans) matched with a tasty sauce of vegetables and protein. The fare is simple and often vegetarian. Although we will be eating mostly African cuisine, we encourage participants who enjoy cooking to share one or two of their favorite dishes from home with us during the trip.

While we will make ever effort to include an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables in our meals, understand that the typical African diet is lower in these foods than what you may be accustomed to. Malnutrition is a far more prevalent problem than lack of food in this region of the world. Volunteers used to a nutrient dense diet may wish to consider bringing their own vitamin supplements. 

During the June trip, we will be working to construct a large vegetable garden on a plot of land the chief of Kpime-Seva gave us in the heart of the village. So very soon we will have an abundance of our own veggies to harvest both from the InTerraTree land and this village demonstration site!

Just let us know on your registration form if you have special requirements. We can easily accommodate those who are vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free.

 

For hygiene and safety reasons, participants will need to bring their own water bottles and filtration methods for the trip. We recommend the LifeStraw brand, but pump filters and purification tablets are also fine. 

Bon appétit!

 

Safety

IMG_8168 

Volunteers 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, participants 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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