Farming has never been my strongest suit, having been a city boy most of my life. But developing a green thumb or any other farming skill can take you places. It also paves the way for a unique and authentic experience with a place and culture.
WWOOFing is one of the best ways to live and learn in organic farms anywhere in the world. The name is taken from WWOOF, or the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, an international movement that links volunteers with organic farms and growers.
The premise is that you’ll help out on the farm in exchange for free accommodation, food, and lots of cultural and educational experiences. If you’re lucky, some farms will offer some cash and time to explore local sights. Your host will make sure you’re comfortable and safe as a token of your hard work.
If you’re up for the challenge and a new way of seeing the world, Southeast Asia offers plenty of opportunities. The region has the friendliest climate and terrain for heavy farm work, and the practices and traditions are so diverse that you won’t mind staying for a long time.
Here are top five SEA countries for aspiring WWOOFers:
Permaculture, a set of sustainable farming practices centered on land-based communities, is a growing movement in Cambodia. Organic farms are always on the lookout for anyone willing to help. You’ll not only learn essential skills in growing organic produce, but you will also be sharing your time and effort to help various local causes led by reputable NGOs.
Find the most current list of WWOOF hosts in Cambodia here.
If you’re up for backbreaking work in the rice fields or helping save heirloom crops from extinction, the Philippines is an ideal choice. The country is rich in arable flatlands and organic farms, many of which are accessible tourist destinations. What’s more is that you’ll get a chance to work with people from around the world since it’s a go-to place for farm volunteers.
Here’s a preview of WWOOF-certified hosts in the Philippines.
Indonesia is one of the first countries in Asia to adopt organic farming. As home to over 300 ethnic groups, it’s no surprise that the archipelago is teeming with indigenous farming cultures. In recent years, various NGOs and government agencies have made big efforts to support sustainable, ethical, and organic agricultural practices. And the best way to contribute to this and experience it first-hand is by volunteering on a farm.
Check this list for more information about WWOOF hosts in Indonesia.
While the demand for organic food in Malaysia is growing, farmers are struggling with the supply. Partly because of the cost and manpower required to keep the farm operational and productive. Currently, the adoption rate among farmers is low, but several WWOOF hosts can offer a full experience. Here’s the list.
Thailand is famous for its dazzling beaches, but its peaceful backcountry is also worth visiting. It also has one of the most organized and diverse WWOOF exchange in Southeast Asia. Discover this charming country while learning to live off the land by volunteering as a farm hand.
Here’s a map of Thailand’s WWOOF-certified farms currently in search of volunteers.
Remember, you don’t have to go abroad to be a WWOOFer. It only provides a cheaper and more immersive alternative to traveling. If working on any organic farm seems like an appealing idea to you, and you think you have the skills and mentality to do it, reach out to your area’s local WWOOF office and have your placement arranged.
A unique and rewarding learning experience awaits. Grab the change while you still can.
After graduating from university, Nikolaj went off to backpack across South East Asia to recharge himself for the next chapter of his life. Realizing there was more to explore, he ditched his return flight home and decided to wander some more. While he sees backpacking as an expression of freedom, Nikolaj gets easily attached to a place, and stay there longer than usual. Over the course of three years, he’s had several jobs, usually at hostels where he stays, bookstores, and restaurants. He’s met people from all walks of life and still keeps in touch with them. If he has time to spare, he reads and writes voraciously, much of which is dedicated to this blog.