If you are interested in sustainable living, improving your Argentine Spanish skills at an affordable cost, and enjoying vegetarian food in the otherwise carnivorous country of Argentina, you could do no better than to land at Gaia, an ecovillage a couple of hours outside of Buenos Aires.
Founded in 1996, the 20-hectare community is situated on the grounds of a former dairy farm. A handful of friendly, if militant, full-time residents and their frequent visitors stay in comfortable eco-friendly mud houses. Three on-site windmills provide electricity (even Internet access) and food and water are heated with solar power. A laborious method of turning compost into electricity is also in place. Fruit and vegetables practically grow themselves in the rich soil, which requires no tilling thanks to traditional sustainable agricultural practices.
Permaculture & Organic Seeds
The eco-friendly lifestyle known as ‘permaculture’ is an Australian-born 30-year old science of living in harmony with the environment. Residents enjoy modern conveniences, but have no need for outside electricity, water, or gas.
As genetic engineering of crops increases worldwide, Gaia aims to serve as a storehouse of genetic information contained in organic seeds. The community guards 220 species of food and medicinal plants, including a 2,400-year-old variety of vitamin-rich quinoa.
Volunteering & Visits
Volunteers are required to to stay a minimum of one month. They devote four hours a day, six days a week helping plant and cultivate trees and crops, construct natural buildings, and aid in other maintenance. Another two hours a day are required for daily chores such as cooking and cleaning. A small fee (which may be waived for volunteers from poor countries) helps to cover food costs.
Guests are welcome to stay at Gaia for a daily fee with no volunteer responsibilities. Those passing through the area, interested in taking an educational day tour and enjoying a healthful lunch can just go for a pre-arranged day visit.
Additional courses in sustainable agriculture, communal living, natural permaculture-based construction, indigenous song and dance, and aromatherapy are also available.
Ecovilla Gaia was the first town in the country to produce 100% of its own clean, high-quality and low-cost electricity.