Tropical Agriculture Development I - The Basics
Those interested in preparing for short/long-term involvement in agricultural development internationally are encouraged to participate in this one-week course held at various times throughout the year. Course participants will gain an introduction to aspects of poverty and community development and an orientation to ECHO. They will also receive instruction on proven agricultural principles/practices and practical techniques, systems and technologies to meet agricultural and nutritional needs of small-scale, impoverished farmers. Course content is presented from a biblical perspective.
As a Christian non-profit organization based in Southwest Florida (Fort Myers), ECHO exists to maximize the effectiveness of those working with the poor internationally. We do this by providing agriculture-related technical support services to missionaries, development workers and national church leaders in as many as 180 countries. As the majority of the world’s poor live in warm climates, ECHO’s resources apply primarily to the tropics or subtropics.
We have found there are several agricultural development-related questions and issues that are dealt with by nearly everyone who studies at our campus. What are some principles I should be aware of in doing community development? What should I know about poverty mentality that would help me better understand the people I am trying to help? What are some key concepts regarding soils and gardening that would help me teach others to grow food plants in the tropics? What are some proven techniques or crops that I could introduce in my project area that could really make a difference in the lives of the poor?
In too many cases, these issues are not addressed until a development practitioner has already made mistakes and encountered setbacks in their projects. Often, these mistakes could have been avoided. For instance, a basic understanding of how conditions close to the equator differ from those in more northern latitudes can help North American gardeners avoid the mistake of assuming that the plants they are familiar with "back home" will succeed in the tropics. This course is designed to equip participants with a foundational understanding of tropical agriculture and community development, as well as with some specific agricultural technologies that have significantly improved the lives of smallholder farmers in many parts of the world.
Who the course is for:
This course will especially benefit those who are considering short- or long-term involvement in international agricultural development work. It can also be of benefit to those who have been on the field doing development work for a few years but who would like to take a step back and re-evaluate their approach. Those who could benefit from this course include short-term or career missionaries, international project volunteers (e.g. Peace Corps), leaders of relief-oriented organizations, or missions committee leaders of churches involved in agricultural projects overseas.
What is offered:
This course covers a broad range of topics relevant to those starting out in agricultural development in a tropical environment. The purpose of this class is to expose you to several different ideas and concepts. Although a significant amount of time will be spent looking at examples on the ECHO Farm, given the breadth of topics covered, extensive hands-on farm work should not be an expectation of taking this course.
ECHO does not currently offer visa invitation letters for classes in the United States.
Anyone needing a visa in order to attend any of our courses must have their visa in place at least 30 days prior to the start of the class. This policy is required in order to allow sufficient time for processing applications and to give individuals that might be on our waiting list ample time to make travel arrangements.
17391 Durrance Road
North Fort Myers, Florida 33917
The closest airport to ECHO is RSW, located in Fort Myers, Florida.
Registration Fee $645.00
Registration fees include:
- The week-long course,
- Meals (starting on Sunday night through Friday dinner)
- Housing for Sunday night - Saturday morning
Housing will be dormitory type. We have very limited facilities for couples to share their own room. We are not able to assure accommodation those with special dietary needs or food allergies, please plan accordingly.
Cancellation Policy - ECHO Classes
Payment for ECHO classes is required at the time of registration. Due to the nature of the class, we require at least 2-weeks notice of cancellation to receive a full refund of your fees. If less than 2-weeks notice is given we will be unable to issue any refunds.
These courses are interest-driven, therefore we reserve the right to cancel an course due to lack of interest. Should a cancellation be necessary, we will do so at least two weeks prior to the first day of class.
Suggested items to pack:
It is always a good idea to bring a jacket or sweater. As there will be time built in for being on the farm and possibly working with our interns, bring a set of clothes that you don't mind getting dirty. A hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, water bottle and insect repellent would be good to include in your luggage. It may also be helpful to bring a flashlight to use in walking around campus after dark.
Roland Bunch wrote a book called "Two Ears of Corn", which gives a great overview of concepts to consider in undertaking any development project. (This book is currently out of print.)
"Agriculture Options for the Small Scale Farmer" published by ECHO. It is a compilation of information available in the first 100 issues of ECHO Development Notes.
Amaranth to Zai Holes can be accessed online; it summarizes information from the first 51 issues of our quarterly publication, ECHO Development Notes---the link is: Amaranth to Zai Holes
General schedule for each day
7:00-7:45 AM Breakfast
8:00-10:00 AM Teaching session
10:00-10:30 AM Break/networking time
10:30-12:00 PM Teaching session
12:00-1:30 PM Lunch
1:30-3:00 PM Teaching session
3:00-3:30 PM Break/networking time
3:30-5:00 PM Teaching session
6:00-7:00 PM Dinner
7:00-8:30 PM Teaching/discussion session (there may not be a teaching/discussion section every evening)
Daily themes and session topics
(Note: This schedule may vary slightly from class to class.)
Monday: Foundations of Tropical Agriculture Opening
- ECHO staff devotions, welcome, introductions, ECHO history/mission/services
- Challenges facing the small scale farmer (these will be addressed in subsequent sessions throughout the week)'
- Overview of tropical agriculture- climate, crops, geography, tour of agroecological zones represented on ECHO's Global Demonstration Farm
- Understanding the poverty mentality
Tuesday: Soil and Water
- Introduction to soils and soil life
- Land care and soil restoration
- Water for agriculture
- Building soil fertility with compost and vermiculture
Wednesday: Plants for the tropics
- Underutilized Tropical Crops
- Harvesting & Using Underutilized Tropical Crops
- Survey of Tropical Fruit
- Activity options (technique workshops, staff consult or library study time)
Thursday: Farming Practices and Systems
- Basic botany for gardening
- Principles and practices of a small scale farm
- Animal production systems
- Urban agriculture
Friday: Tools for Development
- Appropriate technology survey
- Seed resources
- Principles of community development
- How to join and contribute to ECHO's network
- Closing remarks