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Permaculture Site Manager JOB Opening in Coastal Ecuador!

Project: Third Millennium Alliance

Posted by Benjamin Bowman over 7 years ago

We are looking for the next site manager for our permaculture project, rainforest reserve, and ecological research station.

Please visit our website for a better formatted version of this job description:

Job Description: Permaculture Project Manager and Intern/Volunteer Coordinator

Summary: 18-month paid position to manage a small rainforest reserve in coastal Ecuador and coordinate the intern/volunteer program at the research station inside the reserve. The ideal candidate is a versatile and resourceful leader, age 24-32, with field experience and/or food-growing experience, fluent in English and at least proficient in Spanish, with a lot of initiative and passion.     

Background: A few years ago a small group of American and Ecuadorian conservationists founded a nonprofit organization, purchased several hundred acres of rainforest and cloudforest in coastal Ecuador, and established an ecological reserve. In the middle of the reserve we built a sustainable research station, which is affectionately called the Bamboo House. Despite the fact that it was all built by hand-tools and from native bamboo sustainably harvested from the site, it is a grand and airy and surprisingly comfortable structure, with 6 bedrooms, a balcony lined with hammocks, and a view overlooking the river valley. The Bamboo House is a center for sustainable systems research, permaculture & agroforestry experimentation, and biological investigation. We work with interns/volunteers from foreign countries and with the nearby rural community. Interns come to design and implement projects either in the reserve itself or in the community, which is 3 km down the road. The three founders of the organization (called Third Millennium Alliance) work as volunteer, part-time directors. We are looking to hire a reserve manager/intern coordinator to handle affairs in the reserve so that we can be most efficient and effective in our broader administrative responsibilities.

Location: In Ecuador, in the coastal province of Manabi, in the cantón of Jama, about 10 km inland from the Pacific Ocean, about 3 km from the small agricultural community of Camarones. 

Job Responsibilities:

  • Administrative/Office-work (20%)
    • Advertise internship program by maintaining the internship page of our website and posting internship opportunities to relevant online forms, directories, and listservs
    • Receive, process, and respond to intern applications
    • Produce weekly and monthly accounting of expenses
  • Leadership/Personnel Management (35%)
    • Coordinate the arrival and reception of interns at the reserve
    • Conduct a 4-5 day orientation program for incoming interns
    • Show people the ropes during their first 3 weeks (note: most interns stay for 10 weeks).
    • From weeks 4-10, sit back and assume the role of advisor/facilitator. The idea is for interns to assume responsibility for their own duties, projects, and other activities. Realistically, this is perhaps best thought of as a goal towards which we may strive, although not one we should necessarily expect to reach.
    • Coordinate the flow and maintain cohesion between the many characters passing through the reserve: other staff, directors, interns, visiting scientists & long-term research residents, tourists, and other guests
  • Site Logistics, Maintenance, and Development (40%)
    • Coordinate food/supply runs from the nearest town, which requires transport logistics and basic petty-cash accounting
    • Although your job is to make sure that interns know how to maintain many of the systems themselves, the buck stops with you on making sure everything is running, such as: making sure plants are watered (during the dry season), the house is kept clean and in good shape, the compost is taken out, the water filtration system is working, the cat is fed, etc.
    • The house and site are living entities, constantly evolving into yet more functional, comfortable, self-sufficient and sustainable systems. When you are not otherwise occupied with office work and leadership duties (i.e. on-and-off throughout weeks 4-10 of each session) much of your time and energy will be devoted to brainstorming, prioritizing, designing/planning, and realizing additions and changes to the existing infrastructure
    • Manage emergencies (medical or otherwise) should they arise
    • Just keep an eye on things – not only in and around the research station, but also other activity in the reserve
  • Community Relations (5%)
    • Keep up good lines of communication and maintain a good cooperative relationship with our neighbors in Camarones
    • Be the representative of our organization in the community  

Training: You’ll receive 10 weeks of unpaid training as a participant in our winter intern session, which includes a Permaculture Design Course. During this time you will have ample opportunity to acclimate to the site and learn from the outgoing manager as well as from at least two of the founders/directors.

Support: One or several founders/directors will periodically check-in at the reserve and probably spend an average of 10 days per month in the Bamboo House. Lastly, our local staff will be on-site 3 days per week. In other words, you’ll have a lot of help. But we’d love for you to grow into an efficient and resourceful leader that can handle most affairs on your own.

Both of the two previous site managers were accompanied by their significant others, who are invited to live at the reserve and work on whichever projects they are attracted to, free of charge. As the latter and current of said managers, I can testify that this support and companionship are invaluable. This job is exhilarating, stimulating, exciting, and absolutely exhausting. There is a constant flow of people. Most of the folks who come through are easy to live with and are pleasant company. That said, it is a limited social landscape with few long-term confidants. Inevitably, some people will challenge your patience. Having someone in whom you can intimately confide and with whom you can process your experiences makes a world of difference.


Term: Ideally, this is for an 18-month commitment, although a one-year commitment may be acceptable. What is absolutely critical is that that you stay true to your commitment and don’t ditch-out early. We’ll be making many of our plans (both organizational and personal) under the assumption that we can count on you. You’ll be given a month of half-pay vacation during the middle of your term (probably December), so that you can go home or travel elsewhere and re-charge your batteries. You’ll be expected to be on-site 22 days per month, on average.

Work/Vacation Schedule: Most weeks you will not have days off, although some will be lower-key than others. In an average week, you will spend 1.5 weekdays in Pedernales, doing shopping and administrative computer/internet work. The rest of the week and the weekend you will be at the reserve. Weekends you can usually take it easy and go for a hike, read, work on small personal projects of interest, cook extravagant meals etc. But, you are still the staff on duty, and responsibilities will occasionally assert themselves during this downtime.

In terms of actual time off, the first three weeks of a session are quite draining, but if you orient everyone well, then you’re usually able to take a long weekend away at this point. Otherwise, you are free to travel during the breaks between intern sessions (1.5 – 2 weeks), and have the option of taking the whole month of December off at half-pay.

Dates: The winter training session starts January 8th and runs through March 22nd. Your employment would begin April 1st 2013 and run, ideally, through the end of October, 2014. The most important (i.e. short-handed) months will be June-August and Sept. 15 – October 15th

Pay: $500 per month, which may not be much by US standards, but you’ll be living large by Ecuadorian standards, especially considering that your lodging and food are already covered. The founders/directors have been living on far-less pay than this for the last few years, so we consider this sum to be more than fair. Minimum wage in Ecuador is $250-280/month and almost all of our neighbors in Camarones live on quite less. All full-time staff, foreign and local, are paid the same amount.

Off-time/Recreation: There are many little beach towns/surf towns within a short bus ride away, where there is a small but thriving community of expats, backpackers, surfers, etc. A lot of people spend their off-days in the well-known beach towns of Canoa and Mompiche, or the quieter seaside village of Cojimies.


Skills Needed:

  • A tolerance for rugged living conditions – namely, living in a house in the middle of the woods, off the grid, in a developing country. (Note: notwithstanding, herpetologist Paul S. Hamilton called the Bamboo House the “Ritz” of biological research stations, and according to opinions of many people, including the writer of this job description, the Bamboo House is one of the most pleasant places a person could ever hope to live).
  • An attention to detail and penchant for organization, in all things from accounting to building design
  • A passion for natural beauty and the outdoors
  • Physical fitness, emotional strength, resourceful, creative mind, with an aptitude for problem-solving
  • Socially comfortable and able to effectively deal with diverse personalities, both international and rural Ecuadorian
  • Laid-back and patient, but also task-oriented and detail-oriented…as in, you say you’re going to undertake a task, then you not only do it but you do it well. Words need to be followed up with action
  • An appreciation for rural life in a developing country, and the ability to not only communicate but also to build real and positive relationships with the people in the local community
  • A working knowledge of permaculture (if you don’t already have this you can study up and you’ll get a crash course during your training)
  • Even if you don’t consider yourself a “handy” person now, you will after a year with us – it is a skill that anyone can acquire
  • Although you will mostly be sharing the Bamboo House with several other people, there will be occasions when you have to spend the night in the house alone, and you will need to feel comfortable in this type of situation.


Previous Experience Necessary

  • You must be able to speak Spanish proficiently. By proficiently, this means at least being able to hold a conversation and give/receive basic instructions. This is the minimum language requirement. Greater ability would be a big help, and fluency would be dynamite.
  • Some kind of field experience, especially if had to do with growing food and/or “working on the land,” or at least significant hiking or field research. Previous permaculture or organic agriculture experience and/or NGO experience is a big bonus.



Conclusion: From someone who has given his heart to this project and has spent most of his days living and working in this reserve and in this region for the last few years, I say this to you with total honesty: this is one of the most dynamic and rewarding and challenging and exciting jobs a young-ish adult could ever ask for. For anyone who wants to be at the forefront of the global sustainability and/or ecological conservation movement, this is it. With the experience you will gain, the contacts you meet, and the glowing recommendation that you will receive from our organization, you will have your choice of eco-related jobs waiting for you after you finish. 


How to Apply: First, thoroughly review our website and blog and read through all of the documents on the internship page. If you are gung-ho interested in the position, send an email to [email protected] with the subject heading “RESERVE MANAGER/INTERN COORDINATOR (Your Name)” You can attach your resume if you already have one, but more importantly, we’d like to hear you speak in a more genuine, non-resume-ish voice and touch upon the following questions:

  • What stage of life are you at right now?
  • What kind of relevant experience do you have?
  • Why do you want this particular job?
  • What kind of ecological or permaculture experience or education do you have, in any? Have you ever grown your own food before?
  • How much time have you spent in Ecuador and/or other tropical/developing nations?
  • How would you describe your interpersonal style?
  • How would you describe your working demeanor, handiness, etc.?
  • How is your Spanish?

Then, if we think it may be good fit, we’ll set up a few Skype conversations. We will be reviewing applications on a rolling basis, but hope to make our decision soon. We look forward to meeting you and joining forces with you, and we’re excited to offer you this opportunity.

P.S. When sending your application, please don’t address any of us as Mr. or Ms. or whatever—those titles are reserved for our parents. Our first names will do.


Jerry Toth
Director, Jama-Coaque Ecological Reserve
Third Millennium Alliance
Jama, Ecuador
[email protected]

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