There have been exciting developments in the world of WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms) this month. The movement, which began in 1971, and links people who want to volunteer on organic farms or smallholdings with people who are looking for volunteer help in 100 countries worldwide, has united under the banner of the “Federation of WWOOF Organisations (FoWO)” and launched a website.
There has never been a formal organisation to represent the interests of WWOOF worldwide – or to answer the myriad of requests from journalists, potential co-ordinators, volunteer groups or other organisations … or indeed to respond to the occasional complaint. Rather, there have been two websites – wwoof.org and wwoofinternational.org.
Whilst this system has served many adequately for a long time – it has not always been effective and has certainly caused confusion for some. As the internet has expanded and global trading intensified so the pressure to resolve these issues has mounted.
The seeds for change were sown in September 2011 when WWOOF groups met up for their third international conference in South Korea. A key issue raised at this meeting was that for WWOOFers wanting to visit farms in countries with no national group (known as the “independent” countries) and for potential hosts who lived there – there were 2 lists they could sign up to – each with slight variations in their offer; but fundamentally similar. The time had come to combine the lists to make life simpler for everybody. And so – a resolution was made to create a Federation.
From now on FoWO will be the first port of call for the public looking for general information about WWOOF and for individuals seeking to establish new national WWOOF organisations with the Federation’s support and approval. By September 2013 we anticipate the integration of the two independent host listings will be complete, with a new independent host platform being launched which will be owned and managed by the Federation. Furthermore the Federation has a part-time administrator who will be able to assist its 12 directors in responding to requests and shaping services for the future. She will be joined by a new co-ordinator for the Independent listing when it launches.
For hosts and WWOOFers alike this momentous event in the history of WWOOF may not have much significance. They will still need to register with WWOOF in the country in which their farm is based – or where they want to visit. But – for those within the management of WWOOF worldwide it is a true cause for celebration. For the first time national WWOOF groups will have an official, democratic membership organisation whose stated mission is to: “unite, promote, protect and support the WWOOF movement around the world.” Long may it prosper!
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