Program promotes environmentally responsible tourism with unforgettable results

“Eco-tourism”- the latest buzz word in the travel industry – what does it actually mean? In a nutshell: many travellers have turned to environmentally responsible tourism in favour of more meaningful experiences abroad. For some companies, this has become an enormously profitable industry, encompassing everything from water purification tablets in lieu of plastic bottles to luxury cruises through the Galapagos Islands.

However, despite what the glitzy new eco-tourism industry portrays, sustainable travel is nothing new. One of the trailblazers of the experience-meets-environment movement is World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), founded in the United Kingdom in 1971. WWOOF facilitates communication between twenty-somethings (or thirty or forty-somethings) eager for real world experience and global organic farms in need of labourers. Since the 70s, WWOOF has grown into a world-renowned organization, with chapters in over 30 countries, and organic farming opportunities available on virtually every continent.

So, why spend your next vacation farming instead of touring the capitals of Europe? Except for a nominal membership fee for the WWOOF chapter of your choice, it’s free! Young adults and students perform farming duties in exchange for living expenses with their host farm and family. And beyond that, WWOOF participants – affectionately referred to as WWOOFers – gain practical skills, receive cultural education, and quench their wanderlust.

A day in the life of WWOOFer is typically comprised of living with a host family, sustainable living practices, and farm work that includes gardening, harvesting and construction. In many host countries abroad, North Americans and Europeans must often adapt to different social customs and standards of living. WWOOFers are also privy to unique off-the-beaten-track travel experiences. For instance, one WWOOFer in Japan noted that while living on an indigenous reserve for his placement, he “saw a part of Japan that few people do.” This is an experience that isn’t in any travel brochure.

And for organic enthusiasts without the desire, time, or money to travel internationally? WWOOF Canada provides opportunities across the country with over 900 organic farms ranging from large scale commercial establishments to remote agricultural areas. In fact, approximately 30% of Canadian WWOOFers are Canadian citizens. For as little as one week, Canadian students can and live on an organic farm and learn sustainable living principles. Many WWOOFers – in Canada and abroad – often pursue careers in the multi-billion dollar organic industry. Others modify their lifestyles to be more environmentally conscious. All of them leave with real world experience.

But WWOOF is more than just an adventurous outlet for ambitious youths. During the past 40 years, WWOOF has invigorated the global organic farming industry, and has done so sustainably. WWOOF Chile alone, for instance, links WWOOFers with over 100 potential host farms throughout the country, increasing their production and linking them to the global organic movement. The exponential growth of the organic farming sector – particularly in North America – demonstrates the shift of agri-business toward the sustainable living practices that WWOOF promotes.

WWOOF is gaining prominence on university campuses, social media forums, and with environmental groups. Young people are afforded a unique glimpse into the wider world. Organic farms are given the opportunity to prosper in the 21st century. This much is clear: WWOOFing is more than a by-product of the booming ecotourism fad – it’s a sustainable way of life.

Source / Fuente:

Author / Autor: Roxanne De Souza

Date / Fecha: 04/09/11

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