|Amaranth to Zai Holes, Ideas for Growing Food under difficult Conditions (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization, 1996, 397 p.)|
ECHO is a nonprofit, interdenominational Christian organization which serves to strengthen the work of both missionaries and national churches as they reach out to those who are farming under difficult conditions. Our aim is "to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up" (Ephesians 4:12). We also gladly help other individuals and groups who are doing similar work (e.g. national extension agents and scientists). ECHO does not send out workers; rather, we assist those who are already in the field by serving as a technical resource.
TECHNICAL INFORMATION AND EDN.
ECHO serves as a technical resource for people who help people grow food. Each week we receive 20-35 letters from around the world requesting information, seeds, or contacts in a particular field. Our library and files are used to answer your questions whenever we can; we may also refer you to individuals, publications, or organizations that specialize in your area.
Our quarterly technical networking bulletin ECHO Development Notes (EDN) is available in English and Spanish. This network has grown from 35 people in 1981 to over 4000 people in 140 countries today. Recipients are agricultural development workers, missionaries, health workers, teachers, managers, scientists, and others who devote at least part of their time to helping small farmers make a living under difficult conditions. Martin Price wrote EDN from 1981 until Laura Meitzner joined as co-editor in January 1995. Updated indexes of EDN are available upon request. Back issues of EDN can be purchased (this book contains #1-51).
Your letters relating your experiences is one primary way we learn of new ideas to share with others through EDN. Though we are able to quote from only a small number of the letters we receive, you never know when something you say might be shared with others in our network. If for some reason you do not want to be quoted in EDN or if you wish to place any restrictions on ECHO referring to your work, please note this in large print at the top of each letter.
EDN is copyrighted. However, we always gladly give permission for non-profit organizations to quote, abstract from, or reprint in whole or in part occasional EDN articles in their regular newsletters. Consider this a blanket authorization for such use. (For-profit users wanting to quote more than a few paragraphs or anyone wanting to regularly publish EDN in another language, please write for permission.) We do have two requirements for any use of our material. 1) Mention that the source is ECHO Development Notes, giving the date of publication and address. Be clear whether you are quoting directly or abstracting. 2) It is very important that you delete any reference to free seeds. We grow enough seed for our own network of development workers, but not for large numbers of people beyond that. There are so many farmers in the world that we limit our free seed distribution to people working with church and mission agencies or development, educational or research organizations. Others can purchase seed for $2.75 per packet, postage included. If you want to include offers of seed, contact us to see whether we might happen to have an extra large amount. We might give permission for another newsletter to extend our offer to their own network of development workers, or we might have enough to be able to sell you a modest quantity of seed to distribute.
SEEDS. We maintain a small seedbank with over 125 active accessions of hard-to-find plants with great promise for people growing their food under challenging environmental conditions. We specialize in tropical plants which are particularly hardy (to drought, heat, flooding, etc.) or valuable to nutrition (high in particular nutrients). Write us for a current seed list. We do not carry common garden seeds available through commercial suppliers. See the chapter on Germplasm for details on ECHO's seedbank.
VIDEOS. We produce videos on technical subjects of interest to people in our network. This is "training" for you while you are serving in the field. We currently have series on tropical fruit crops, root crops, and urban gardening. Write for current information. Please indicate which video format you use: NTSC (N. America, Japan and parts of Asia, and wherever exported); PAL (UK, parts of N. Europe, Asia, and some anglophone African countries); and SECAM (France, eastern Europe, and some francophone African countries).
CREDIT CARD ORDERS. Most of ECHO's services providing seed and information are sent free-of-charge to our overseas network. However, there are times when payment is required, e.g., purchase of books or video tapes, phytosanitary inspections, third party purchases, etc. We will not accept any check that is not written for US funds and on a bank located in the USA (otherwise the bank charges are prohibitive). On the other hand, it is easy to accept payment via Master Card or Visa from anywhere in the world. So ECHO spent the $1,000 needed to purchase an EMS (Electronic Merchant System) allowing us to accept credit card orders. All we need from you is a letter giving your Visa or Master Card number, the card's expiration date, and a note from you giving us authorization to charge on your account.
You may contact ECHO by letter, telephone, fax, or electronic mail. E-mail and fax provide us with almost instantaneous communication. However, always include your postal address on your fax or e-mail message. Occasionally when we try to reply to requests electronically, the messages are returned, leaving us no way to contact the individual. Also, ECHO cannot afford the high cost of responding by overseas fax. If you want an immediate reply by fax, please include a master/visa card number, expiration date and your signature authorizing us to bill the card for the overseas call. Otherwise be sure to include your address and we will reply by airmail. You may also access our technical information on our Web site, http://www.xc.org/echo.
We welcome you to visit us! Your visit benefits ECHO, and we value every opportunity to meet people in the ECHO network and learn more about your work. A few slides of your agricultural work would be welcome. You should plan about an hour for a tour and up to two hours for conversation/consultation about your work. Arrange your visit as many weeks in advance as possible. (Members of the public who are not working overseas are also welcome to visit our farm for an informative tour. These tours are offered every Tuesday, Friday, Saturday at 10 A.M.) If you would like to study while here, plan on a day or several weeks. We do not have a formal program, but provide the opportunity and environment in which to learn, including our specialized library and demonstrations of new plants and techniques on our farm. Many key resources are for sale in our bookshop. This is open to those who are working (even a small amount of their time) with small farmers or urban gardeners or have firm plans to do so. If you only have a day to study, you will likely spend it jotting down notes about books you would like to obtain and photocopying items of interest. Most longer-term visitors spend mornings at hands-on projects around the farm with the interns and the afternoons studying. Write for more information. ECHO is in the middle of a popular area for tourism, particularly in the winter months (November-April) when the weather is very pleasant. Fort Myers has a major airport, served by many airlines, and is 3 hours by car from the Miami airport. Though we can meet you at the Fort Myers airport, there is no public transportation in our rural area. You may want to bring or rent a car if you wish to stay more than a few days. If you need a time of "technical refreshment," plan a visit.
ANNUAL AGRICULTURAL MISSIONS CONFERENCE. This conference, begun in 1994, is open to anyone doing or preparing to do agricultural development work in a third world setting. It is held around the beginning of November every year. This is a time for people from around the world to get together for networking, learning from several keynote speakers and other people in the field, attending workshops on the farm, and using our library. Many conference delegates really appreciate the opportunity to exchange experiences with other people who do similar work and understand the challenges. Watch EDN for conference announcements, or write to receive information about the next one.
SOME THINGS ECHO DOES NOT DO.
We sometimes receive requests for things which we cannot do. It will save us needless correspondence if you read this section carefully. We do not: offer money to carry out any project or cover any travel expenses; suggest contacts to find funding; help in locating a place to study or provide scholarships; arrange schedules, write supporting letters to an embassy, make contacts or help in any other way in conjunction with a visit to this country; or give away anything that has not been mentioned as free in EDN.
We do not provide seeds for farmers' gardens. What we do offer is a single packet of seed for a plant new to your area, not readily available through seed catalogs, for you to try on an experimental basis. You can save your own seed after that, if the plant does well, and never be dependent on anyone for that seed again. (Please do not write for a supply of common temperate vegetable seeds.) There are so many millions of farmers in the world, it is obvious that our small organization cannot help them all directly. We must channel our help through people like you who work with organizations that in turn help peasant farmers or urban gardeners. Please do not give our address to private farmers. If you need help in answering their questions, please write us yourself.
Each year we hire six recent college graduates as interns (plus one special internship in public relations/non-profit organization management). They must have a strong Christian commitment and a desire to work with small farmers or urban gardeners in the third world, as it is a training opportunity for them. The interns have major responsibilities for operation of the seedbank and farm. Only U.S. citizens or others with papers authorizing them to work in the U.S. can be considered, unless an overseas sponsor handles all financial details. Interns are given housing and paid a modest salary. After their year on ECHO's farm, they have a three-month overseas experience, usually in Haiti. After that, many continue on to graduate school, while others take positions with agricultural missions or development organizations. Let us know if you have job openings which could be filled by a graduated intern.
ECHO is located on a 12.5-acre demonstration farm, which features many of the plants and several technologies you read about in EDN. The farm is used as a teaching tool, for seed production, and in explaining to visitors some of the challenges faced in food production overseas and the work of ECHO. Of our four greenhouses, one is reserved for seed testing and plant propagation, one houses plants which require trellises, one simulates a "rain forest" climate and plants, while the other is a model "semi-arid" greenhouse, used to grow some of the plants adapted to very dry conditions. We have several kinds of animals-- usually a few sheep, goats, bees, rabbits, chickens, ducks, and occasionally quail, guinea pigs, a pig, or a water buffalo. There are demonstrations on aquaculture, rooftop gardening, and various planting systems. Most of the plants in ECHO's seed catalog are grown on the farm at some point during the year.
ECHO is located about 30 minutes from the coast of southwest Florida. We receive almost daily rainfall and thunderstorms through the hot, humid summer months, and flooding can be a severe problem. Winters provide a beautiful temperate growing season, but occasional frosts or freezes require us to watch the weather reports closely and protect the sensitive tropical plants on cold nights. Our soil is basically sand, and we have serious problems with nematodes. Growing food in Florida's variable climate and poor soils is excellent training for the conditions the interns may encounter when they go overseas.
ECHO is supported entirely by donations and an occasional grant. Our annual budget in 1996 was around US$500,000. We do not ask or expect donations from the EDN network, though we have appreciated it when some have included ECHO in their giving. [Note: ECHO cannot provide funding to other organizations.]
ECHO would like to collaborate closely with groups seriously interested in urban gardening. Acres of "land" are represented by flat rooftops in tropical cities. Gardens can be on the rooftops of institutions, such as schools or orphanages, or homes. Something with so much potential is worth considerable effort to find a way around any technical, social and economic problems. If you might be interested, send a note describing your urban ministry and we can correspond from there. Also let us know if you are planning a Small Farm Resource Development Project. We always appreciate hearing from you about your implementation and adaptation of ideas written in this book and future issues of EDN.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF ECHO (BY MARTIN PRICE).
ECHO began its current ministries humbly in 1981, staffed by myself, my wife Bonnie (as a volunteer), one intern, and sometimes a few faithful volunteers. Every question answered or receipt acknowledged was done personally by myself on a typewriter. In 1996 we have 9 permanent staff members and 7 interns. Volunteers donate over 9000 hours of time each year. Office work is facilitated by 11 computers. All these people and resources are here to serve you in the name of Christ as you serve others.
Soon our tiny overseas network began sending in technical questions. To help with answering, twice a week Bonnie would take a stack of books to a store six miles away to photocopy the pages I had selected. When the ministry was new, we were unsure what the need overseas would be. I remember calling my intern during our first vacation to see whether any overseas mail had arrived. At first we received perhaps 20 letters a month. Now we regularly receive 20-35 letters from around the world each week, and one staff member spends most of his time answering the requests.
The occasional visitors who came by for a tour sat around our kitchen table to see our first slide presentation projected onto the freezer door. We called it the "appropriate technology projection screen." Now ECHO has become something of a tourist attraction and is also in demand for school tours. In 1995, over 6000 visitors took our educational tours. Visitors now view a slide program in our bookstore/visitor reception center.
Some years we lost most of our tropical plants to "unexpected" freezes. The most important and sensitive plants are now protected in 4 greenhouses, and a new irrigation and freeze protection system will allow us to plant tropical trees in areas which suffered regular cold damage without protection.
After our first year, one missionary asked if he could spend a few weeks at ECHO studying before going overseas. Now we have seen folks stopping by for a day, a week or even for several months of hands-on study on the farm in preparation for their work in many of the 140 countries in ECHO's network. A special benefit for those who work at ECHO is that we have gotten to know and now count as friends so many of you.
God has greatly blessed our first fifteen years. Now we are evaluating ways to be of even greater service to you in the coming years. We have several ideas. However, we are determined to not jeopardize the quality of our present set of services in order to add new ones. Our annual agricultural missions conference, a missionary-in- residence program (in which someone from the field stays at ECHO for a month or more while on furlough to assist in a special project and mentor the interns), launching a collaborative initiative with Living Water International as an aquaculture resource, and making our technical information electronically accessible are recent areas of expansion. We appreciate your feedback on how we are currently serving you, and how our assistance may be improved.
ECHO only has an impact on the world as we are able in some way, great or small, to help you to have a more effective outreach. ECHO's staff and Board of Trustees is committed to do all that we can, with God's help, to help you to be an even greater blessing to a hurting world.