ECHO Tech Notes are subject-specific publications about topics important to those working in the tropics and subtropics. Our material is authored by ECHO staff and outside writers, all with experience and knowledge of their subject. These documents are free for your use and will hopefully serve a valuable role in your working library of resources in agricultural development!

90 Issues in this Publication (Showing issues 92 - 83)

TN #92 Bamboo for Construction - 2018-05-17

Many plants deemed as invaluable for the smallholder farmer offer nutritious food for the family, fodder for animals, or timber for construction. Remarkably, bamboo offers all three of these assets from the same perennial plant! This Technical Note will focus on how to most effectively harvest, preserve and use bamboo as timber for construction purposes.

What’s Inside:

  • Introduction
  • Plant Description
  • Harvesting
  • Preservation & Post-Harvest Treatment
  • Construction
  • Conclusion
  • References and Resources

TN #91 Underutilized Crops for Small Farm Abundance - 2018-02-09

Traditional diets included a wide variety of ingredients from myriad wild and domesticated plants. Regional cuisines were shaped by native species in their local environment and by gradually-adopted plants from distant places. The modern global food system and market pressures have reversed this trend, so that today’s diets rely on a dwindling number of crops for a growing number of people. This has profound effects on health and leads to dependence on unstable commodity markets. Malnutrition and food insecurity are critical issues for society’s most vulnerable citizens.

This Technical Note (TN) will explore the unique plants that are used around the world to add variety and dependability to diets. Some species are wild or naturalized and can be found in forests, fields, and wetlands. Some are old cultivars of widely grown crops that have fallen out of use. Others are popular in one part of the world, but could be a valuable contribution to diets around the globe. Many have multiple uses and benefits. An essential part of ECHO’s mission is to make seeds or cuttings of these traditional plants available to at-risk communities.

This TN addresses underutilized crops from the perspective of the smallholder farmer and community-based development worker. It will not discuss national and international policies, or international genetic preservation efforts. It will discuss underutilized plants and climate change from the perspective of local- and farm-level resilience, but will not examine global mitigation and adaptation implications. Livestock, aquaculture, or marine species are not addressed in this TN.

What’s Inside:


Benefits and Abundance

Challenges, Concerns, and Cautions

Selecting Underutilized Plants

Evaluation and Promotion of Underutilized Crops

TN #90 Low-Budget Research Ideas - 2017-09-29

As an organization that equips people with informational resources to reduce hunger, ECHO values the role of science in validating agricultural practices. Over the years, we have received numerous inquiries from university faculty and students looking for ways to do research that benefits small-scale farmers. Since funds for such projects are often limited, this document focuses on topics that can be researched with minimal cost. 

Many of the ideas presented here can be researched in a small laboratory in a northern climate. Others may require travel to a tropical or subtropical setting, or procurement of plant material from someone working in the appropriate climate. How could you have such an opportunity? One possibility is to see if your institution has special ties to an overseas college or community. Perhaps you know a development worker in another country who faces the problem you are pursuing, and you could arrange to spend some time there. 

What’s Inside:


Category 1. Topics: Do These “Solutions” Really Work?

Category 2. Work Out the Details References

TN #89 Women and Agriculture - 2017-06-06

A version of this material first appeared in EDN 134. Gender dynamics in relation to agriculture is a big topic, and one we had not previously written about in EDN. In recent years, widespread attention has been paid to the disparity that often exists between men and women when it comes to agriculture and access to related resources. I talked to several members of ECHO’s network (who are also former interns and staff members) to get their input, based on their experiences in a wide range of cultures and communities. This TN also incorporates feedback from other members of our network. Let us know if you have thoughts to share after reading it!

TN #88 How to Build a Kerosene Fired 180 Egg Incubator with 12V Air Circulation - 2003-01-01

Although this document will tell you how to build a particular incubator that I have used for several years, the ideas presented here should assist in building an incubator of any capacity. The orientation here is toward solving the problems in building a kerosene fired incubator in general. Furthermore, artificial egg incubation requires three pieces of equipment: the incubator, a hatcher, and a brooder. This document only covers the incubator I use, the bottom part of which could be used as a hatcher but ideally a separate hatcher should be used. Once hatched, the chicks need to be kept warm at 32° C (90° F) for two weeks or more in a brooder. Presumably the reader is already familiar with the brooding phase of chick raising as that is where most folks begin: with day old chicks from a hatchery. Before investing too much time and effort in construction you need to know this incubator requires good carpentry skills, preferably a table saw, and battery powered drill / screw driver. You will have to have access to acetylene welding equipment or someone who can fabricate for you the fuel tank and chimney. There are a number of items that may be hard to get other than from the sources I used in USA cited at the end. Building this incubator takes me a month. Finally, my hatches run 40 – 60%, below the 70 - 80% a good incubator should produce but comparable to my hens’ performance. 

What’s Inside:

  • Introduction
  • Step -by-Step How to Build
  • Incubator Operation
  • Hatching
  • Conclusion
  • Source of Materials

TN #87 Seed Drying Cabinet - 2002-01-01

Seed storage is often a problem in the tropics. However, if seeds can be properly dried, they will remain viable for a longer period of time. The seed drying cabinet described here can help improve the viability of seeds in storage.

What’s Inside:

  • Introduction
  • Description
  • Diagram
  • Observations

TN #86 Forage Cutter - 2002-01-01

This simple forage cutter provides a mechanism to chop tough grasses or other forages to make them more palatable and digestible for livestock. This results in more efficient food conversion for animals and reduced wastage. It can also be used to chop materials for compost, silage, vermiculture, etc.

What’s Inside:

  • Introduction
  • Materials
  • Description

TN #85 Briquette Presses for Alternate Fuel Use - 2000-01-01

Briquettes made from materials that cost little or no money to obtain, such as old newspaper or unutilized plant waste, can be a cost-effective alternate fuel to charcoal or firewood.  This could alleviate the harsh pressures put on many forests for providing enough fuel energy to meet people’s needs.  At the same time, it could prevent the wastage of materials that still have value, so they will not be ‘thrown away’, discarded as litter, or left to rot. Many different methods and technologies exist for pressing briquettes, each with its own unique advantages and disadvantages.  This document describes the process of making briquettes and two designs for briquette presses.

What’s Inside:

  • Introduction
  • The Briquette Process
  • Bottle Jack Briquette Press
  • Lever Arm Briquette Press

TN #84 Understanding Salt-Affected Soils - 2016-08-17

Farmers and gardeners in semi-arid and arid regions of the world face two associated but separate problems, which limit the crops they can grow and the yield of these crops. The underlying problem is lack of rainfall needed for growing plants. The second is accumulation of salts in the root zone. The two are interrelated, but do not necessarily occur together.

Plants need a certain amount of soluble salts, but excess salts in the root zone reduces plant growth by altering water uptake. When the salt content of soil water is greater than that of the water inside the plant cells, the plant roots cannot absorb the soil water. They may even lose water to the soil. Excess soil salts can also cause ion-specific toxicities or imbalances. In some cases, the cure for these problems is to simply improve drainage. However, salinity problems are often more complex and require proper soil management as well as use of salt tolerant crops.

What’s Inside:

  • Introduction
  • Formation of salt-affected soils 
  • Soil remediation
  • Soil management 
  • Plant management
  • Measuring soil salinity

TN #83 Agriculture Extension with Community-Level Workers: Lessons and Practices from Community Health and Community Animal Health Programs - 2015-11-04

Active learning and exchange of knowledge are key to farmer adoption of beneficial agricultural innovations.  Community health worker (CHW) and community animal health worker (CAHW) programs have led to a rich body of knowledge about extension, much of which is applicable to efforts aimed towards small-scale farmers. Drawn from the literature on these programs, this document captures key lessons and practices relevant to developing, implementing, and sustaining effective community agriculture extension endeavors.  The objective of this paper is to inform and strengthen agricultural extension programs that provide services through community-level workers.