ECHO offers many species and varieties of underutilized food plants likely to grow well under difficult growing conditions. Many of these species may be new to you - we are here to help you choose the species that will best suit your needs and your area.
Always begin with your local surroundings - this is the best place to start! Observe the crops that are growing locally, those sold in the food markets or those that your community members grew in the past. Use this as a guide to evaluating plants with similar requirements. ECHO encourages study, experimentation and cooperation with local/national agricultural organizations prior to establishing any large-scale plantings.
Here you will find several resources and suggestions to help you in the decision making process. ECHO has several documents that are helpful as an introduction to plant and seed selection for agricultural development. We encourage you to read these helpful materials to help gain perspective and avoid some of the common pitfalls.
NOTE: Beyond avoiding the risk of total planting failure, small trials allow you to evaluate the "weed potential" of certain species in your area. Watch the planting carefully the first few seasons to make sure it is not likely to become a problem plant. Unfortunately, one definition of a weed, "plants which thrive under stressed conditions, often with high seed production," fits some of the plants in ECHO's seedbank. We are very aware of this risk and have in fact eliminated certain species from our seedbank when the danger of introducing a weed seemed too great. However, hardy plants which can establish themselves may be a great blessing in many situations; for example, it is difficult to imagine a tree which could become a pest in certain areas of Africa or Haiti with severe fuelwood shortages. Sending out only small trial packets of seed is another safeguard against introducing a weed, as too-aggressive plants may be identified and controlled easily in a small area. Finally, remember that the plants in ECHO's seedbank are commonly accepted food plants somewhere in the world, even if very localized. In this, too, there is a measure of safety as we can all learn and benefit from the years of plant selection by people in other parts of the world.
Selecting the Best Plants for the Tropical Subsistence Farm
Introducing New Seeds Overseas