This page was once called ¨The Dream.¨

Sueño de Vida is no longer ¨just a dream.¨

It is positive change, happenning now.

Sueño de Vida is a nature reserve, permaculture farm, natural building project, and education center dedicated to forest restoration and sustainable living.

Our Mission is nothing less than a full ecological regeneration of our land

and to serve as a model for the transmission of ideas and actions that make regeneration possible.

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We are located in the sub-tropical cloud forest of northwest Ecuador.

This region is part of the Choco forest, biologically renowned for its remarkable diversity of flora and fauna and unique endemic species. The thirty acres of land encompassing our project, although verdant and beautiful, has suffered degradation from logging and cattle farming. Much, much more of this land was once forested, teeming with life, sequestering carbon, and breathing oxygen.

And it can and will be again.

We are creating a tropical garden of Eden from a ¨green desert¨of pasture—one seed, plant, and tree at a time.

In the two short years we have been working on this land it has perceptibly changed. In the areas we are cultivating, now fruit, nut, and timber trees pepper the once monochromatic landscape with varied color and texture. Their foliage provides shade and habitat, their flowers color and nectar, their fruit food for wildlife—and us!

New birds, butterflies, bees, and other seed-bearers and pollinators come here to feed and take shelter in their branches. In the areas we are presently leaving alone, the pace of natural regeneration is quickening. Woody shrubs and tall pioneers seemingly sprout up overnight. Even more species of wildlife, swarms of insects, the frogs and lizards that eat them, and the owls and large birds that eat them in turn, are returning home.

To accomplish our mission. we

  • Cultivate parcels of environmentally degraded land with a wide variety (polyculture) of pioneer species, fruit and nut trees, legumes, and timber carefully sected to rebuild soil structure, accumulate nutrients, sequster carbon, provide food, and restore wildlife habitiat.*

  • Care for our cultivars organically without herbicides, fungicides, or other chemicals.*

  • Allow other areas of land to regenerate without intervestion in order to observe natural patterns and learn from them.*

  • Work closely with neighboring allies in restoration work to share seeds, plants, ideas, observations, and plans for action.

  • Offer courses and work exchange opportunities where participants learn how to transform a love for nature into effective action in a rural or urban context.

  • Host retreats and nature-immersions where we take visitors on led tours of sustainable farms, artisan chocolate makers, and regenerating forests so they can experience first-hand the mutual benefits of conservation and simple living.

*For more details on the diverse plants we cultivate and the agro-forestry methods we use, continue reading to the end of this page.


To minimize our personal footprint on the land, we

  • Maintain our human habitat in a small, contained zone independent of municipal water supply and the power grid.

  • Build our home and structures with primarily local, natural, and recycled materials.

  • Create our own systems for rainwater catchment, waste compòsting, and greywater use using the natural contour and geography of the land to our advantage.

  • Grow our own energy staples, nutritious foods, and medicinal herbs like banana, plantain, yuca (cassava), camote (tropical sweet potato), malabar spinach, albaca (tropical basil), lemongrass, cinnamon, and more.

  • Utilize old-fashioned methods of food preservation such as fermenting, salting, pickling, drying, canning, and making jams/marmalades.

  • Hand-wash and sun-dry our everyday clothes

  • Take advantage of the tranquility and absence of distraction to immerse ourselves in our changing landscape.

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About us…

Prior to pioneering a large-scale natural restoration, Kristen studied history and economics at American University, became a senior certified yoga teacher with fifteen years of experience, led clean-ups of local parks and rivers, and taught gardening workshops to children and adults in community centers around Washington, DC. She was known for her lead-by-example style of activism and especially for her “guerilla gardens,” burgeoning green spaces she created in derelict lots. Now she “guerilla gardens” on another level by reforesting hectares of degraded land. Kristen contributes articles to permaculture7sustainability websites and is writing a cookbook cum stories on the foods of the cloud forest she loves to grow, harvest, and eat.

Juan also lived in the D.C. area, honing his building skills while quietly formulating the idea to return to his native country to “make a real difference” in the world. Once back in Ecuador, he found his niche constructing ingenious, sustainable, earthquake-resistant structures with local bamboo that utilize natural land features like slope and contour to bring water in and take waste out with minimal environmental impact. His low-key, managerial style is the perfect foil to Kristen’s passionate delivery on topics of agro-ecology, food production, local economies, and community resiliency. Juan loves taking care of trees, baby birds, our horses (Queen and Prince) and our doggies (Ganja and Bandida) with equal love and attention to all.

More on what we do…

The rest of this page is dedicated to explaining how we apply the principles of permaculture, agro-ecology, and natural building here at Sueño de Vida to create a place of enduring beauty and productivity. If, after reading this page so far, you want to know more about how to visit us and see it all for yourself, go on to Retreats and Experiences, Accomodations and Attractions, and How to Get Here. If you´d like to volunteer, check out Helping Out. Or, read on for not-overly-technical but in-depth descriptions of the ideas we put into action.

Here is the list (updated monthly) of all the plant species we have currently in cultivation.

Our Food Forest

  • avocado

  • achotillo/lychee

  • arazá (tangy mango-like native fruit, excellent for sauce, chutney, and yogurt smoothies)

  • albaca (tropical variety of basil)**

  • ájo de monte (garlic-tasting leaf that grows on a vine)

  • banana^ (several varieties)

  • borojó* (creamy purple natice fruit, tangy, excellent for juice, marmalade, sauce, and energy bars)

  • breadfruit/frutipan

  • cacao (heirloom, hybrid, and regional "cacao de selva" varieties*

  • calamondine (small kumquat-like fruit)

  • camote/tropical sweet potato)^

  • coconut*^

  • coffee

  • cardamom**

  • canela shishpingo **(spicy, cinnamon flavored leaves)

  • cayenne pepper (ahí)**

  • cotton

  • cinnamon**

  • chicle (small, sweet, candy-like fruit, also useable glue-like sap)

  • citrus--several varieties of orange, tangerine, lemon, and lime

  • guanabana/soursop* **

  • guava*

  • guayabilla (bright orange native fruit, excellent for marmalade and combining with cacao nibs or dark chocolate)

  • hierba luisa robusta** (lemony-tasting leaves used for tea)

  • inga/guayaba/ice-cream bean (large brown pods filled with edible sweet white pulp, also fixes nitrogen in soil)

  • jabicotaba* (sweet, tangy, cherry-like fruit, excellent for juice, marmalade, sauce, and cordials)

  • lemongrass**

  • macadamia^*

  • mango

  • mangosteen*

  • malabar spinach*

  • milagrosa/miracle berry* (small, sweet fruits with creamy texture)

  • nutmeg**

  • nuez pili (nut tree from the Phillipines, similar to Brazil nut)^*

  • naranjilla

  • plantain (several varieties)^

  • pineapple

  • passionfruit/maracuya

  • pumpkin

  • parsley**

  • papa del bosque ("potato" vine)

  • pimieta dulce (sweet pepper leaf)**

  • reina claudia (sweet plum)

  • rumbai (Burmese grape)

  • salak (Malay snakefruit)

  • taro (papachina)^

  • ticaso/satchainchi* (star-shaped nut high in omegas)

  • yuca (cassava)^

  • zapote (sweet orange fruit with the texture of mango and flavor of honeydew)

    *high concentration vitamins, minerals, and/or antioxidants/"superfood properties"

    **medicinal properties

    ^energy/calorie staple

    ^*protein and/or fat source



It's a deeper calling I have, deep in my DNA...and I think it's the same for everyone, that we were put on this earth to be be caretakers, to nourish this beautiful garden... that's why humans were created, to be the caretakers of this planet. And I think we'll come to our true joy when we embrace that as a species. That's my dream. And as long as I'm here, I'll keep dreaming."

--Sun Ray Kelly, natural builder, Gardener of Eden