The first objective is to arrive in Ecuador. It is important for all to research specific requirements regarding travel to Ecuador from their respective countries! Cover all aspects, such as providing proof of onward travel and booking appropriate flight or bus tickets out of Ecuador for this purpose. For example: most airlines allow 24 hours to cancel a flight, which one may book the day of one’s departure from home and then cancel upon arrival (an other options, some of us used, is BestOnwardTicket); or one may choose a lower-risk option by purchasing a (non-refundable) bus ticket to Peru or Colombia in advance. Another method for providing proof of onward travel is to print a “fake” return-flight ticket. This is something that every traveler must research for themselves shortly before their departure as airlines can and do change the design of their tickets without notice. These examples open up one’s actual return/travel-on date options for a potential longer-term stay, but note that travelers utilise any option at their own risk. In general, we recommend that each individual utilise whichever option is most comfortable for them while facilitating a quick and safe journey.
The Terra Frutis project is located in south-eastern Ecuador, 18 km from Gualaquiza, on 136 hectares (330+ acres) of land which slopes upward towards a mountainous western border, with the eastern border being the Zamora river and then two smaller streams along the north and south as general locations for the other respective borders. The elevation is 720 meters at the river. The majority of the land is between 730-900 meters, and the top of the mountain is about 1200 meters.
Most of the food forest project is located on land used until some years ago as a cow pasture (in other words: grass). Right now there are about 40 hectares of open pasture land that we are systematically clearing and re-planting with food forest pioneers. This land can/will be re-forested with trees, shrubs, vines, and herbs that provide food in a sustainable way, using agroforestry practices that work with and encourage local wildlife species. There are also bamboo forest sections, which can provide supplemental material for numerous residences and utility buildings.
The land is reachable by pick-up truck on the recently completed road and driveway. To get to/from the town of Gualaquiza involves a 40 minute taxi ride, or a 40 minute walk to a nearby village and then a 20 minute bus ride. The bus from/to there is less than $1, catching a return taxi from there is $1 per person.
We send detailed directions to newcomers.
You are welcome to set up a tent, hammock, or other temporary accommodation. Or we likely have a space available in existing structures. We do not charge for staying in these structures, but we do charge $10 per calendar month (not pro rata) to rent a mattress (includes use of a no-see-um proof bug net) if desired. We have: showers, hot water, washing machine, blenders, dehydrator, cooking stove, freezer, fridge, internet, hot tub. We also have a community center building for recreational activities or hanging out.
Food from the land
At the moment, we usually have more than enough bananas (several cultivars) all year round.
Some fruit trees are starting to produce: jackfruit, marang. Often we have plantains, rough lemons, biriba, naranjilla. Seasonally you may enjoy peach-palm, abiu (March/April), peanut butter fruit, (a small amount of) mandarins. Sometimes papaya, pineapple.
We are constantly planting and have planted hundreds, of fruit-bearing plants throughout the property including: durian, mangosteen, mamey sapote, salak, soursop, white sapote, sugar apple, atemoya, sugarcane, blackberry jam fruit, tree tomato, and more.
Beside fruits, we have a fairly good amount of katuk and turmeric, sugarcane, a little bit of taro and some cassava. Sometimes: tropical lettuce, cucumber, squash, sweet potato, (cherry) tomato, ginger, jute mallow, corn.
It is currently not possible to get a healthy diet 100% off the land. So you’ll need to buy food.
Our diet is vegan, whole plant foods, mostly raw fruits and some vegetables. You will fit in well here if you eat a raw vegan or raw till 4 style diet.
We have running water from a (year round) small spring on the land. We filter it with a ceramic 1 micron absolute water filter.
We use a composting toilet system much like that explained in the “Humanure Handbook“. We use food scrap and humanure composting as it is very effective and requires very little labour compared to other methods. In the future we hope to experiment with a biodigester, which can create biogas for a number of purposes and also yields excellent compost.
Local Fruit Prices
Here is an idea of local fruit prices. Naturally, those are subject to changes due to season, availability,…
- Avocados: 2-3 for $1
- Papayas: 1 for $0.75-$1.50
- Pineapples: 1 for $1.50-$2
- Regular bananas: 20-25 for $1
- Oritos (small bananas): 50 for $1
- Oranges: 6-10 for $1
- Passionfruit: 6-10 for $1
- Mangos: 2-4 for $1
- Watermelons: 1 for $3-$6
- Lettuce: $.50-$1/head
Seeds, Cuttings and Grafted Plants
We encourage you to bring exotic fruit genetics, as we are starting a biologically-diverse food forest which requires lots of fruit trees that we can’t source locally. Please check out our Plant Gift List.
Temperature is fairly steady throughout the year. The warmest month of the year is November with an average temperature of 23.8°C (73.84°F). The coolest month is July, when the average temperature is 22.1°C (71.78°F). Overnight lows tend to range from 16°C to 20°C. We have rarely seen as low as 13°C.
The roads in the area are fairly conducive to biking around town. The last 4 km to the land are more difficult and would require a mountain bike.
ATMs, banks and money
There are Visa and Mastercard ATMs in Gualaquiza. You can potentially also start an account at the local Bank of Loja (or another bank of your choice) and transfer some money there (again, the currency used here is the U.S. dollar).
Hospital Misereor in Gualaquiza is a very modern and well-equipped hospital. They have a natural birthing room. Most healthcare/treatment is free there. Purchasing travel health insurance is not required. No vaccines are mandatory for traveling to Ecuador. Yellow fever/malaria/leishmaniasis/etc are not problems in this area. There is a (low) risk of chikungunya and dengue. There is a risk of contracting parasites from food and water in this area, it is very cheap to be tested for them in Gualaquiza. There are both natural and more conventional treatments for parasites easily accessible.
Is it possible to make money there?
One can make money through a valuable artistic and creative endeavour or even manual labour. One can make an online income. We host the Amazon Fruit Festival which employs some community members. There are also some other (low) paid positions through Terra Frutis. Also, there are some English teaching opportunities in the area, but only for those who are skilled at speaking Spanish, and the most money comes from private lessons. If you wish to make money here, it is necessary to study Spanish seriously and to have an entrepreneurial spirit. Cost of living is cheap here, and $1200/year is all you need if you are frugal and resourceful.
Visa and immigration
A three-month visa is extended free to foreigners from many countries, including USA. It can be extended to six-month for approximately $130. Please note that unlike, say, Costa Rica, Ecuador does not have a “perpetual tourism” option wherein you can continually renew a standard tourist visa and legally live there indefinitely.
If you have a college degree you can get a professional permanent residency visa – no proof or work or income required, only the college degree and some other paperwork. The fee for this visa is $500. A police report/identity history/etc must be procured from your original area of residence, and this is valid for only 3 months. An apostilled copy of your degree/transcript/etc are other requirements – you can do a google search to find the exact process, or contact an immigration attorney.
Another option is to invest $35k in a CD or business in Ecuador, or $40k in a piece of land/real estate.
A couple can have a baby in the country, and then both parents can apply for permanent residency based on their relationship to the child who will be a naturalized Ecuadorean citizen. Or, one can marry a Ecuadorean citizen.
All of these options require paperwork to be completed perfectly, and many long bus rides to the capital, delays, red tape, etc. It is often easier to pay an attorney or immigration facilitator ($500 or more) to do it all for you.
See also: “Ecuador Immigration! How to stay legally” on our YouTube channel.