Sunseed Desert Technology was set up in 1986 in an abandoned village in the semi-arid region of Almeria of southern Spain. The project now has four houses in the village and can cater for up to thirty-two volunteers.
Sunseed is a lively international community of volunteer staff and volunteers. We participate and learn together to develop, demonstrate and communicate low-impact living. Situated in a beautiful valley we are off-grid and water sovereign and committed to environmental stewardship.
We have four traditional Andalucian houses located in a conservation area. These are used by the project for accommodation, offices, workshops. Facilities are very basic; there are no mains services. Photovoltaic panels provide electricity, Solar panels are used for water heating, and water for washing is pumped via a ram pump from the river that flows all the year round in the valley. Drinking water has to be brought by van 12km away from a public fountain in a nearby town.
Our living conditions are determined by the limited resources available and the semi-arid environment.
We aim to live with the least detrimental environmental impact. We garden organically, use solar power for all our electricity and to heat water. We cook in our solar ovens or on a gasifying stove. In the colder winter months we use a thermal mass stove to heat our main house and provide hot water.
Water is pumped from an ancient irrigation channel by means of a water powered ram pump.
All our organic waste goes back into the ground as compost or into composting toilets and we re-use or recycle most of our other waste.
We have a waste water purification system that separates grease and impurities to allow cleaner water to be delivered back to the river. For this reason we have a no chemical policy.
Our food policy reflects the need to consider where food comes from and to consider not only it’s carbon footprint, or the use of chemicals but, also, how it may affect the country of origin’s food sovereignty.
Sunseed is organised into 9 departments. Communication, Education, Facilitation, Organic Gardens, Eco-construction, Sustainable Living, Drylands Management, Maintenance and Appropriate Technology. Each department has a coordinator with occasional assistants.
Sunseed Trust Ltd is a registered British Charity. The trustees (or governing body) ensure that the vision of the Trust is carried out. They are ultimately legally responsible for everything the charity does. This includes policies, finances, staffing and assets. The Trustees are responsible for the selection of coordinators and their subsequent reapplication for their post.
The volunteer staff are responsible for the day-to-day running of the project, implementing Sunseed’s mission.
At Sunseed we aim to live ,experience and learn together ways of walking lightly on the earth. It is a place where individuals are able to realise and fulfill potential and where passion, adaptability and trust are values that support us achieve our mission.
To realise, demonstrate and communicate low-tech and accessible hands-on skills toward achieving a more low-impact way of life.
Sunseed as an Educational Project
Our values of using low impact and appropriate methods and technologies make Sunseed an interesting place to be and learn. Volunteers and volunteer staff learn and participate together how to create a smaller environmental footprint. Alongside this there is a journey of ‘invisible learning’. By stepping outside comfort zones and supporting a communal way of life volunteer staff are exposed to and enabled to live a more successful low impact way of life .
The following points apply to all Voluntary Staff positions at Sunseed Desert Technology.
Living at Sunseed as a community member means more than simply doing your job well, you will be expected to put your environment first and personal needs second.
You will be expected to take a full part in community life, relevant meetings and to assist in areas that are outside the specific duties of your post.
All staff participate in the planning and implementation of tasks in their department and contribute to the overall longer-term strategic development of the project.
All staff are responsible for supervising volunteers from different backgrounds, including those on placement projects appropriate to their department.
All people staying longer term at Sunseed assume wider responsibilities associated with the smooth running and general harmony of the project. These include a share of all communal duties such as cooking and cleaning and they also involve setting a good example in areas such as enthusiasm, safe practices, punctuality and socialising.
To support Sunseed’s mission there are various policies (food, chemical, drug), procedures (grievance) and agreements (communal) in place.
Health and Safety
Sunseed expects all its staff (and volunteers) to consider Health and Safety in
all aspects of their participation; to take care of their own safety and that of all other volunteers; and to co-operate with the organisation so as to enable it to attain high standards of health and safety in all its activities.
This is of the utmost importance for staff involved in supervising unskilled volunteers in potentially hazardous situations.
General Skills, Abilities and Knowledge Profile
- Commitment to Sunseed’s mission statement
- Commitment to Environmental Stewardship and social change.
- Willing to share knowledge and ideas and encourage learning, teaching and integration.
- Ability to give short talks and guided tours
- Willingness to live simply and to community living
- To uphold and follow the policies of Sunseed
- Ability to be flexible and co-operative and be prepared to contribute in all areas of the project as needed
- Ability to co-ordinate and supervise both short-term volunteers and those doing long term projects
- To ensure tools and equipment are well managed, cleaned, repaired
- To take part in events and support community projects
- To take a full part in the life of the community and fair share of chores
- To attend any community meeting
- Able to plan ahead and manage resources
- Able to manage a budget and create
- Friendly, collaborative and welcoming attitude to all volunteers
- Able to interact effectively with a wide range of people
- Some knowledge of Spanish language
- Good spoken and written English
- If over 25, a full driving license valid for driving in Spain
Conditions of Employment
- Currently, financial remuneration for Coordinators is set at 45€ per week, or 180€ per month. We consider this a small subsistence allowance. The benefits of being at Sunseed as a Voluntary Staff member include full board (vegetarian meals and a basic room), a beautiful and inspiring landscape, and a warm, supportive and diverse community. The minimum length of contract for a coordinator is normally 12 months. The maximum number of times of renewing your contract is first year plus 2. You will be entitled to 2 days unpaid holiday per month worked (24 per year total), plus coordinators collate paid public holidays (usually 13 in total).
- The Assistant position is remunerated with a small stipend of 40 euros every 3 months to cover the very basic needs and expenses that can incur. All food, accommodation (shared room), and amenities are provided (internet, soap, eco-detergent, etc.). After an initial 3 months period there is a chance for both parties to reaffirm the agreement. The role is intended to introduce the assistant to living and working at Sunseed, as well as to learn the skills required to become the coordinator, which is the main reason the role exists. The assistant will be supporting the coordinator of the department in the morning. In the afternoon, the assistant can focus on a personal project that benefits Sunseed ideally in the same department or in a different department. This would have to be agreed upon with the coordinator. The assistant is free to take holidays when needed and in accord with the coordinator of the department. Furthermore, assistants are encouraged to look at other ways they can earn money whilst staying at Sunseed.
- Living on the project involves a commitment that extends far beyond the specific duties of your post. You will be called upon to assist in areas that are outside these and can include anything from greeting new volunteers, rodding blocked pipes to digging out the irrigation. There is a rota for coordinators for duty weekends, these days can be taken in lieu as paid holidays.
- All staff at the Project are covered by emergency medical EU-resident visitors to the Project are asked to bring an authorised E111 form or equivalent to cover possible local medical attention and to have up to date tetanus jabs.