Cocolandia
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Welcome!

Welcome to the cyberspace home of the tropical oasis known as Cocolandia! We are vegan fruitarians (and aspiring fruitarians) in the southwest of Ecuador that have come together in order to live as sustainably as possible with respect to the natural environment. We plan to achieve this by reforesting severely degraded land with fruit trees and numerous native and non-native support species in order to support our own health as well as the health of our habitat. To read our Vision and Mission, visit our About page.

For more information regarding the land, the current state of the project, how to Join Us, and more, continue reading below.

Project Updates at a Glance

This section will be periodically updated as the project progresses. To see archived versions, click here.

NOTE that the Cocolandia project is currently on hold due to multiple factors including lack of funds and lack of assistance. If you would like to donate to our fundraiser or Join Us and get the project started again, it would be greatly appreciated. To inquire about buying the land on which Cocolandia sits, contact us.

Currently, we are in the beginning stages of the reforestation and the renovation of the infrastructure. Food production from the land is limited to an abundance of coconuts (year-round) and a small quantity of mangos in January/February. Housing currently includes two bedrooms in the main house and a porch area in which one person can comfortably sleep in a hammock. Volunteers are welcome to set up a hammock between mesquite trees anywhere on the land – it rarely rains, and the biting bugs are few and far between for much of the year. There is currently electricity from the grid available via a single outlet at the house. We are looking to become energy-independent, so experience with installing/wiring solar panels is appreciated. The main challenges at this time are securing our day-to-day food supply by planting short-term fruit-bearing plants and developing the infrastructure and the soil so that we can begin planting long-term fruit-bearing plants (figs, dates, mangos…). At the moment, we are roughing it.

The Land

Cocolandia is located on a twelve-hectare plot of land that was formerly used as a monoculture coconut farm and cow/goat pasture. There is a river to the south that forms the Ecuadorian-Peruvian border, and there is a highway to the north. Neighbours’ farms occupy the adjacent lands. Over the past 150+ years, this tropical dry forest region has been ravaged by humans and is now almost completely devoid of trees. We will set in motion the gradual and systematic reforestation of the landscape over the next few decades by planting trees, shrubs, palms, and ground-covers in order to simultaneously accumulate organic material, reduce evaporation, and produce food. Cocolandia is fortunate to house a sizeable grove of mesquite trees as well as its 170+ coconut palms. Much of the soil is nothing more than gravel over solid rock due to decades of wind and (infrequent but torrential) water erosion of the topsoil exposed by repeated grazing. Much composting and mulching will be required before most fruit trees can thrive in this environment, so support species are crucial. There is irrigation to the coconuts and the mango tree, and the system can be expanded to reach the rest of the land when needed. There are two large hills divided by a gorge, and the land is otherwise flat excepting a small arroyo. We harmoniously share this landscape with a myriad of birds, bees, wasps, butterflies, grasshoppers, dragonflies (seasonally), ants, spiders, scorpions, snakes (very shy), lizards (including at least two tegús varanos and a large community of iguanas), bats, the occasional squirrel that darts among the coconut fronds, and more. All animals are comrades. The climate is warm and dry all year except for a short (and still warm) rainy season. The coldest we have seen is 17°C, the warmest 43°C. Temperatures typically range from 20°C to 33°C. This is an excellent location for many hot- and dry-climate fruits such as figs, dates, mangos, bananas, dragon fruits, watermelons, and much more.

Project Guidelines

We are a vegan and raw* fruitarian project. We have a zero-tolerance policy for carnism and all forms of exploitation of animals. That being said, we do not discriminate based on ethnicity, body type, gender, sexual orientation, neurotype, age, fruit preferences, legal status, country of origin, presence/lack of thumbs, or other attributes that bear no relation to the quality of an individual’s character. No shirt, no shoes, no problem. All vegans with an interest in contributing to the project are welcome to apply to Join Us. Individuals are not subjugated to the interest of "the group" or dysfunctional collectivist ideologies. We do not use synthetic or (non-human) animal-derived fertilisers or fumigants on the land, and we aim to minimise our use of non-renewable resources such as single-use plastic. Mind-altering drugs of any kind are not to be used on the premises. For more information on proper Cocolandia etiquette and the agreements that we make as members and volunteers, see our By-Laws page (which is forever a work in progress).
*It is advisable to avoid leaving fruit in the sun.

Food / Amenities

There is an abundance of coconuts available to members and volunteers. Coconuts harvested oneself are gratis, and coconuts harvested by workers or as part of a cooperative harvest for the purpose of selling may be purchased by members/volunteers at a reduced cost. In January/February, the single mature mango tree bears (exceptionally delicious) fruits that are shared by all members/volunteers. As the food production from the land is not yet sufficient to feed several fruitarians, it is highly recommended to buy food in town. The town of Zapotillo is approximately 45-60 minutes away on foot. Hitchhiking is usually easy, and taxis pass by throughout the day. Fruits available in town vary by season and day of the week. The main market day is Friday. Typical prices are below.

– Mango (Mangifera indica): 3-7 for $1.00 (depends on size, season)
– Manguita / Mango Ciguelo / Mango de Cerdo (Spondias dulcis): 10 for $1.00
– Ciguela (Spondias purpurea): 20 for $1.00
– Pitahaya (Hylocereus undatus): $1.00 each
– Pitahaya Amarilla (Hylocereus megalanthus): $0.75-$1.00 each
– Papaya (Carica papaya): $0.50-$2.00 each (depends on size; local are cheaper)
– Sandía (Citrullus lanatus): $1.00-$4.50 each (depends on size; local are cheaper)
– Melón (Cucumis melo): $0.75-$1.50 each (depends on size; local are cheaper)
– Banana (Musa acuminata): 12-15 for $1.00 (Cavendish)
– Uva (Roja, Verde, Negra) (Vitis sp.): $2.20-$2.75 per kg
– Fresa (Fragaria sp.): $2.75 per kg
– Tomate (Solanum lycopersicum): $0.55-$1.10 per kg
– Tomate de Arbol (Solanum betaceum): $0.10-$0.25 each
– Pepino (Cucumis sativus): 3-4 for $1.00
– Aguacate (Persea americana): $0.25-$0.50 each
– Aceituna (Olea europaea): $4.50-$5.00 per kg
– Coco (Cocos nucifera): $1.00 each
– Chirimoya (Annona cherimola): $1.50-$2.50 each
– Guanábana (Annona muricata): $2.00-$5.00 each
– Naranja (Citrus X sinensis): $0.04-$0.10 each
– Mandarina (Citrus reticulata): $0.05-$0.25 each
– Limón (Citrus sp.): 20-40 for $1.00
– Piña (Ananas comosus): $0.75-$1.50 each
– Manzana (Malus pumila): $0.20-$0.25 each
– Pera (Pyrus communis): $0.25 each
– Kiwifruta (Actinidia deliciosa): 5-7 for $1.00
– Granada (Punica granatum): $0.50 each
– Granadilla del Monte (Passiflora ligularis): 5-7 for $1.00
– Maracuyá (Passiflora edulis f. flavicarpa): 5-10 for $1.00
– Babaco (Vasconcellea X heilbornii): $1.25 each
– Achotillo (Nephelium lappaceum): 20-30 for $1.00

Fresh juice is available at either of two juguerías in the market. Fruits offered as juice include naranja, piña, tomate de arbol, fresa, mora, melón, papaya, and manzana. Prices range from $2.50 to $3.00 per litre. There is also a woman in town that juices fruits for immediate consumption. She offers naranja, toronja, manzana, piña, and sometimes pepino, papaya, mango, and melón. This juice costs $2.00-$2.50 per litre. One can also bring her fruits from the market to juice for a small fee (usually $1.00 per litre).

There is currently no laundry area, shower, or sink on the land, but these are available for use at the neighbouring farm (a very short walk from the house). This water is pumped from the river and may or may not contain chemical fertilisers, fumigants, sewage, parasite eggs, Vitamin B12, and so forth, so filtration may be desired before drinking. We use a composting toilet system much like that explained in the "Humanure Handbook" as well as sheet mulching with food scraps as it is very effective and requires very little labour compared to other methods. New arrivals are requested to bring their own bedding, though we do (usually) keep a spare set. Housing currently includes two bedrooms in the main house and a porch area in which one person can comfortably sleep in a hammock. Volunteers are welcome to set up a hammock between mesquite trees anywhere on the land – it rarely rains, and the biting bugs are few and far between for much of the year. Electricity is available via a single outlet at the house.

Seeds, Cuttings and Grafted Plants

We encourage you to bring exotic plant genetics, as we are starting a biologically-diverse food forest which requires lots of fruit trees and support species that we can’t source locally. Please check out our Plant Wish List.

Medical Care

Medical care from public hospitals or "health centres" is free of charge in Ecuador. No insurance is required. Private clinics do charge, but minor injuries (lacerations, for example) can be treated for much less than in the United States. Zapotillo has a government-funded (public) centro de salud as well as a privately-owned 24-hour emergency clinic. For major surgeries, it's usually necessary to travel to Macará or Loja. In general, medical care in Ecuador is of similar quality to that of the U.S. and Europe. Those with existing medical conditions are advised to bring any needed medical supplies, as the local pharmacies may not (almost certainly do not) stock vegan versions.

ATMs / Banks / How can I make money?

The town of Zapotillo has a BanEcuador where one can start an account, and there is a Banco de Loja ATM that (supposedly) accepts any Visa debit card. Certain tiendas (small stores) in town have partnered with Banco Pichincha for withdrawals and deposits, but one must travel to Loja or Machala to open an account. Members of at least six months (after approval) are entitled to 5% of net coconut profits. If one has marketable skills, it is possible to work an online job or find odd jobs in town such as selling handicrafts.

What To Bring

Bring durable long-sleeved shirts and trousers for work. Many of the local plants produce an abundance of prickly seeds that scratch skin and adhere to clothing. Note that polyester and other synthetic fibre clothing often does not do well in this climate; being less breathable, it’s prone to mould/mildew and subsequent mould/mildew stains. Comfortable, natural-fibre clothing (cotton, hemp, jute, coconut, banana…) performs very well.

A flashlight or headlamp, preferably with high-quality NiMH batteries (such as Panasonic eneloop) and a charger.

Work boots are recommended. Mesquite thorns can and do puncture thin-soled shoes. It is possible to purchase work boots in town, but if you require larger than size 43 Euro (~10 US), it’s advisable to bring a pair of Wellington-style calf-height rubber work boots (a.k.a. "wellies") with you, as the stores here do not sell them in higher sizes.

Running shoes, sandals, quality knee-high socks, shorts, and a general hygiene kit (including preferred soaps, shampoos, and so on if you're into that) are things to consider, as vegan and environmental products are not commonly sold here.

Your electronics: there is an import tax on electronics here, and as a result prices are often 35-100% more than they would be in many other countries. Depending on where you are coming from, you may want to bring an electrical adapter. The electrical outlets here are 127V/60Hz and compatible with North American plugs.

A wide-brimmed hat is very helpful for working in the direct equatorial sun.

A Spanish-English dictionary or similar materials (common phrase book, book on verb conjugations) will help with your Spanish language studies.

Bring money in smaller values: $1 bills or coins, and $5s, and $10s. $20s are okay but harder to break unless you are making a large purchase, and bringing $50s or $100s is ill-advised, as they are most difficult to change out.

If you are flying from the USA (or other country), there may be items that we wish to ship to you and have you bring. For example, personal items that would be too expensive to ship down, or tools that are easier to find in the USA or Europe. If you have any luggage space for small items, please let us know, as we always have at least some small list of things that are useful to bring along! Of course, seed and plants are always welcome.

Depending on your sleeping preferences, you will likely want to bring or purchase a yoga mat or mattress, along with a light sheet/blanket or a sleeping bag. The hammock life here is also quite pleasant, so that is a viable option. For the true fruit bats, there are plenty of mesquite trees in which to sleep.

If you bring bug-netting (as part of a tent, hammock bug-net, et cetera) the holes should be 0.5mm across or smaller (normal mosquito nets are 1mm) as some of the biting insects, though usually few, are much smaller than mosquitos. Simple rectangular/bed-shaped bug nets are available for purchase in Ecuador.

Suggested:

  • Earplugs – The river and local animals can be loud.
  • Swimwear
  • A yoga mat
  • A reusable water bottle
  • Your musical instruments
  • If you are picky with water you may want to bring a (backpacking) water filter.
  • Reusable shopping bag(s)

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/university degree you can get a two-year professional temporary residency visa – no proof of work required, only the college degree, proof of income (can just be monthly deposits into a bank account, not necessarily from work) and some other paperwork. The fee for this visa is $500. A police report/identity history/et cetera must be procured from your original area of residence, and this is valid for only 3 months. An apostilled copy of your degree/transcript/et cetera are other requirements – you can do a web search to find the exact process, or contact an immigration attorney. After 21 months on the temporary residency visa, you can apply for the permanent residency visa more or less the same way.

Another option is to invest $35k in a CD or business in Ecuador, or $40k in a piece of land/real estate. Keep in mind that the $40k value of the property must be tax-appraised, not market rate. A property might sell for $40k but only be tax-appraised at $25k, so this would not qualify you for residency. You’d have to build a house on it in order to raise the value to over $40k.

A couple (non-residential okay) 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 natural Ecuadorian citizen. Or, one can marry a Ecuadorian citizen.

All of these options require paperwork to be completed perfectly and many long bus rides to the capital, delays, red tape, et cetera. 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 Invidious.