Chaya Forest Farm - Milpa of Sarteneja in Belize



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  • Description


    Blue and green... that's my life in Belize. I'm a captain on my traditional belizean wooden boat running sailing expeditions on Belize's beautiful waters, since many years, we are a registered Tour Operator with the Belize Tourism Board.

    When not living on my boat looking for adventures to share with guests/passengers, I go to my farm in Sarteneja (North East of Belize) where I plant fruit trees, mahogany, chaya, cassava, plantain, banana, , usually when tourism season is slow (hurricane season).
    For 7 years I lived at Backpackers Paradise, a hostel-camping in Sarteneja, extended it and ran it... I have built a nice workshop and a house on top and planted many trees...I left that place in 2015 and it's now all behind...

    Also I'm very involved in boat construction which is unique in Sarteneja. I have designed my boats and built them with professional boat builders of Sarteneja. I developed some ideas and applied them on my own boats, bio-epoxy and mahogany planting. I call this: Sustainable Wooden boats of Sarteneja. Check on the web for it.
    I can mention I'm a graphic/web designer and I use open source software and Linux, which is part of my environmental and social ideologies. I have read Chomsky, Jared Diamond, Lévi-Strauss, etc. I can pretend I'm an open mind, I'm free, and like many Huguenots of my ancestors... I fled oppression of Europe and France 17 years ago... and I'm here in Belize to be integrated in the culture and the environment I have chosen to live in. I have lived in Lesser Antilles between 2001 and 2005, on a small boat and sailed to Canada, Québec, Tadoussac. I'm French but I feel from the Americas, where I'm intended to live (I have Canadian nationality also).

    I'm interested in local medicinal plants and try to learn about them and use them for myself. One of my favorite medicinal plant that is growing abundantly on my farm and that I drink frequently is Strong Back (known here in Sarteneja as Pega Pega because the little beans stick to your clothes). Desmodium adscendes is a cure for Liver ailments like hepatitis, cirrhosis and it is sold in Western countries in vial for lots of money... and yes, it's just growing everywhere here for free !
    The best book to have in Belize is the "Rainforest remedies" by Rosita Arvigo. I will share it with you to discover new interesting plants that are growing around.
    For me it's really important to understand that modern science is just an other way of knowledge. Progress is subjective. I'm looking to be an open mind, aware, awake, curious, be a positive critical mind.

  • Type of help

    Type of help

    General Maintenance
    Cooking / shopping
    Help with Eco project
    Helping with Tourists
    Art project

  • Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    Life on the sea on a traditional boat in the beautiful waters of Belize and traditional small scale farming in north Belize (the family farms are called milpas). Sarteneja has a soil and environment like Yucatan. It is flat, top soil is poor and bed rock not deep. Sarteneja is unique and authentic. I know most of the people and fishermen of Sarteneja, we have very similar life, except they fish all day long and have a big family to sustain and share their space, a dozen of them sometimes, on a way smaller traditional boat than mine. I know them on the sea, I know their boats, their harbors, the waters where they work to fish, and we see each other again back to Sarteneja, our village, our home. And this is my pride, this is my honor and I'm blessed by this people, lots of respect and gratitude and joy always. I will be Belizean Nationality officially hopefully next year.

    You will learn from a strong community of fishermen and milpas farmers of Belize.

    My priority is to give jobs to the people from the village. Then you will learn from them, as I do.

    Sarteneja is not a touristic destination, apart from Backpackers Paradise, which I used to run.

  • Help


    I would need help for cleaning, general maintenance, cooking, on the boat, if this happen and on the farm where I will built a composting toilet, and a second cabin for hosting. Lots of trees to trim. I have a friend worker from the village doing the real work which is bush/weed control, "tchap con machete". You can learn that if you want, but you will need few months of hard labor if not years... No other one than a born central-american can do that hard work.

    My main project on the farm is about CHAYA (the maya spinach). I want to find a simple way to process the forest of Chaya i have planted over the years (a super food, native to here) and be able to promote it to export it. I would like to learn more about the different ways of preservation. I'm a Chaya activist, and talk about it to everyone. It is an underestimated exceptionally nutritive green leaf. It has to be cooked before eating. I eat it everyday when I have it. I practice the spreading of chaya and it's promotion all over Belize and in Guatemala. I believe it is an "open-source" plant, that it could be sold with the stem and duplicate everywhere... for free... A very deep and interesting project indeed.
    I also planted moringas trees that can give a pepper taste to dish. And I want to spread an other easy growing and nutritive plant: calaloo, or amaranth, more famous for it's culinary advantage.

    I would appreciate volunteers that have consistent knowledge of nutrition, cooking, preservation of food etc.

    The help will be:


    -take care of chaya plants and plant more plants from the stems when good humidity conditions are expected.
    -harvest Chaya leaf from the stems
    -think about how to process chaya, cook it, find a way to preserve it.

    -trim fruit trees
    -clearing of organic matter, rocks
    -clear bush and weed

    I'm dedicated to work with my friends from the village, and my first priority is to participate to local economy, activity, then subsequently, the heavy/important work will always be made by myself and workers from the village. I wont replace the labor/work for people of the village by volunteering. It will be a parallel activity. (Just to be mentioned, working in Belize is illegal for foreigners, and i think it make sens...).

  • Languages spoken

    Languages spoken

    French English Spanish

  • Accommodation


    On my boat I have individual beds, a double bed cabin, kitchen, toilet. On my farm I have a little shack enough to live, minimalist but convenient. This will evolve in time. A tent is available.
    For now we will share a space with hammock for myself and a mattress for the volunteer. The screened cabins is rudimentary but it offer a 360 panoramic view on the farm and jungle. Wood board floor and a tilde counter for cooking that is also a cement locker.
    The farm is off the grid, I use a solar panel from the boat and a battery to charge usb and have LED lights. I use rain water for washing, and refill purified water in the village.

    My plan is to built a composting toilet and add an other private cabin in January 2019.

  • What else ...

    What else ...

    Lots to do around. Sarteneja is unique. Authentic. You can visit Shipstern Nature reserve, enjoy the water front, the bay of Chetumal, and the friendly village. You can take the bus to visit Lamanaï Maya ruins.
    I will show you around, and especially the boat builders that are my friends.

  • A little more information

    A little more information

    • Internet access

    • Limited internet access

      Limited internet access

    • We have pets

    • We are smokers

  • How many Workawayers can stay?

    How many Workawayers can stay?


  • ...

    Hours expected

    Maximum 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week

Minimalist design of a cabin. I'm proud of it, exactly what I needed.
The cabin I built is open, breezy, light, like living in the bush ! Easy to cook and lockers to put stuff. Safe. Great, I love it more than any other house I have lived in. It's the definition of simplicity and efficiency. No waste of material !
The magic of this place is the Maya well, with fresh water available all year long.
The best way to reach the farm that is out of the village. Bicycle, easy, it's all the way flat dirt road.
I have planted many Moringa trees, they grow very fast and make shade, and the biomass produced is good to fertilize the soil.
My farm was just jungle or bush, 10 years ago... But it was a peanut farm 30 years ago... The forest of the Mayan is never resting, it keeps growing. Then to plant fruit trees and give them a chance to take over, we have to clear, but wild jungle will remain the most important around.
Myself passing the reef at Glover's Atoll through the narrowest cut in the reef ever ! Sailing !
My fleet ! Two beautiful wooden boats that we have built in Sarteneja. Part of my project "Sustainable Wooden boat of Sarteneja". This is my home and my business.
On the public pier of Sarteneja, with few vessels, all built in this amazing and authentic village. We just installed a new wooden mast, in the traditional way, with my friends of Sarteneja. What a glorious day !

Host ref number: 298428554423