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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!

93 Issues in this Publication (Showing issues 36 - 25) |

TN #36 Jicama - 1998-10-01

Jicama (Pachyrhizus erosus) of the fabaceae or leguminosae family is a short-lived perennial, often grown as an annual leguminous climbing vine, which during short days will flower, produce long, inedible pods, and develop tuberous roots. These are few in number per plant, usually spherical, but often lobed, and weighing several kilos per plant. The flesh of the root is white and crisp, even after cooking, and is covered with a tan skin or cortex, which is easily removed by peeling.

Jicama, (pronounced, HEE-kah-mah) also known as yam bean, originates in Meso-America and is naturalized in agricultural areas throughout the tropics. It is excellent for commercialization where markets exist, a useful home-grown crop for varying the diet, and a novelty vegetable for special uses due to its taste and crisp texture.

Cite this article as:

Price, M.L. 1998. Jicama. ECHO Technical Note no. 36.

TN #35 Quail: An Egg & Meat Production System - 1998-09-01

Many families in the tropics must assume a major role in production of their own foodstuffs. Incomes are so low that purchase of food competes with purchase of necessary items that cannot be hand-made. Most governments in the tropics do not have the resources to guarantee even minimum food to all of their citizens. Families in rural and urban situations often live in a minimum of space without soil that can be cultivated, or even a backyard in which a few animal cages can be placed. Such persons sorely need small scale systems that are in harmony with resources available.

Unfortunately, not enough study has been given to small-scale production systems. The small animals typically encountered on almost every small farm, chickens, ducks, geese, and rabbits, are still too large for many households. A small animal for a minimum sized system should produce food in units that can be eaten at one meal so that refrigeration is not necessary. Furthermore, such systems should use resources available to most families, including feeds that can be grown or purchased, cages that are home made, and systems of sanitation that
protect the health of the animals and the residents of the household. The development of such systems has not attracted serious investigators.

The system described here, based on the Japanese quail, Coturnix japonica, is based on sound published information on this species and its requirements, and on three years of experimentation with quail at the household level. All apparatuses described were built and used, and actual costs and yields are reported.

Cite this article as:

Martin, F.W., A. Martin-Davis, and A. Maffioli 1998. Quail: An Egg & Meat Production System. ECHO Technical Note no. 35.

TN #34 Banana, Coconut & Breadfruit - 1998-06-01

There are more than one hundred major species of fruits in the tropics, which make a very interesting contribution to the appetite as well as to good nutrition. These species vary in ecological requirements, in season of production, in yields, uses and, of course, in many other characteristics. The three fruits that are the subject here are outstanding fruits that are particularly important in feeding people. These fruits also produce a lot of food for a minimum of effort. In fact, they are practically staple fruits of the tropics. In contrast, mangoes are very important in the tropics, but are seldom a staple. Citrus fruits are varied, widely produced and enjoyed, but never a staple. These comments can be extended to many other fruits as well.

Probably the most important fruit in the tropics in terms of distribution, use and contribution as food is the banana (for purposes of this discussion, bananas and plantains will be considered together). The many ways these fruits can be eaten makes them a popular everyday food. Its primary nutritional contribution is calories (as starch and sugar).

The coconut is common and a daily food in some but not all parts of the tropics. It is well adapted and can be grown almost anywhere. The tree itself is versatile in its application and may be the most useful tree of the tropics. The fruit is used at all stages in unique ways, and is a significant source of protein and a major source of fat in the diet.

The breadfruit, aptly named, a staff of life in the Pacific. Its nature as a staple is the reason that it has been so widely introduced throughout the tropics. Normally seasoned, primitive and modern methods of processing have been developed, and native cooks find diverse uses for the fruit. Its contribution to the diet is principally starch, and ripe fruits are rich in sugar as well.

Cite this article as:

Martin, F.W. 1998. Banana, Coconut & Breadfruit. ECHO Technical Note no. 34.

TN #33 Winged Bean Recipes - 1998-04-01

Traditionally the people of Sri Lanka consume vegetable cooked as curries with the dietary staple, rice. Legumes, in general, play a vital role in Sri Lankan diets and they are being consumed as green vegetables or pulses. Edible legumes are excellent sources of dietary protein and oil. Nutritionists expect them to play an important role in meeting food needs, particularly proteins, at this period of food shortages and widespread prevalence of malnutrition. Immature pods of winged bean and to a lesser extent tender leaves and flowers are consumed by Sri Lankans as a vegetable. The potentials of the mature seed as a cheap source of protein and oil has not been exploited fully as yet for which research efforts must be directed.

The ambient temperature, rainfall and humid conditions in Sri Lanka are favorable for the cultivation of winged bean. By virtue of the fact that immature pods, seeds, tuberous roots, leaves and flowers are all edible and rich in protein, it is desirable for every one to grow this wonder plant as a backyard crop until a form of winged bean plant is breed suitable for large scale cultivation.

Cite this article as:

ECHO Staff 1998. Winged Bean Recipes. ECHO Technical Note no. 33.

TN #32 Protection of Plant Genetic Resources - 1998-01-01

The first section of this note focuses in on a new technology, called the ‘technology protection system’ by its developers and ‘terminator technology’ by its opponents. This technology illustrates the potential for patents to impact society at the fundamental level of food production.
The implications to humankind, especially to those producing food in the developing countries of the world, are significant; it behooves missionaries and development workers to be aware of what is happening in the area of patents and the protection of plant genetic resources. The second section provides a broader base of information on related issues such as the rights of plant breeders, seed companies, and nations in regards to plant materials.

Cite this article as:

Cox, D. 1998. Protection of Plant Genetic Resources. ECHO Technical Note no. 32.

TN #31 Rooftop and Urban Gardening - 1996-01-01

What can a family do if the national unemployment rate is over 50%, wages are a dollar or two a day, prices of food are increasing and may at times be even higher than in the USA, they have neither savings nor credit and there is no governmental safety net?

For many, an option of last resort is to find a piece of land somewhere and try to grow enough to at least keep the family alive. But how does someone in an urban area with nonexistent financial resources get land to cultivate?  Often, the best option is to go beyond the frontier of where commercial agriculture has gone–essentially to some place that people with money do not want.   

Such land has many disadvantages. It is typically remote from markets, which means prices for produce are very low and agricultural inputs expensive. Often there is environmental damage when steep hillsides are cultivated or forests are cleared to make way for crops. Yields are low and uncertain due to infertile soils and unreliable rainfall. Farming in these situations is difficult!

What’s Inside:

  • Shallow Bed Gardens
  • Tire Gardens
  • Shallow Pool Gardens
  • Wick Gardens
  • Urban Agriculture Resources

Cite this article as:

Price, M.L. 1996. Rooftop and Urban Gardening. ECHO Technical Note no. 31.

TN #30 Chickens: Improving Small-Scale Production - 1995-01-01

Domesticated food producing animals in the world outnumber the human population, two to one. There are thousands of animal species in the world, yet, only a few have been successfully domesticated on a permanent basis and none within the last 2000 years. In fact, five species (cattle, sheep, goats, chickens, and pigs) comprise over 95% of the world's farm animals and all five1 are found in the humid lowland tropics. Of all traditional smallscale animals in the tropics, however, chickens are by far the most common --- as indeed they are worldwide.

The purpose of this paper is to help Third World families alleviate hunger and poverty by improving small-farm poultry production.

Cite this article as:

Bishop, J.P. 1995. Chickens: Improving Small-Scale Production. ECHO Technical Note no. 30.

TN #29 Small Farm Resource Development Project - 1993-06-01

During the course of each year a number of individuals working in community development spend some days studying and planning at ECHO. In reality their felt need is not so much for a bit more knowledge (study), but for a project plan for how they are going to proceed to help local farmers.

A number of such visitors have told me that the single most helpful thing I shared with them during their visit is the concept of the Small Farm Resource Center. The central idea is that development organizations wishing to develop projects to do with the production side of agriculture have little choice but to do their own experimentation. Although many might wish it were so, no expert can come into your community and confidently tell you what new crop or technique you can successfully use or grow. Such an expert can suggest many things to try, but seldom can one safely begin talking farmers into adopting them tomorrow. (Thankfully there are agriculture-related projects that work in any climate and serve as initial projects while varieties and production techniques are screened and adapted. Examples would be veterinary work, post-harvest handling and processing, or appropriate technology-based projects.)

Cite this article as:

Price, M.L. 1993. Small Farm Resource Development Project. ECHO Technical Note no. 29.

TN #28 Forages - 1993-04-01

If the small farm is to be a permanent source of food for its owners, it must be managed in a sound fashion that provides a constant source of nutrients, fuel, construction materials, etc. without damage to the land or its productive capacity. Forage crops are important to the small farm as one element of the production system because they can utilize lands that are not easily used for other crops, they can grow rapidly and often can be produced continuously, they serve as principal sources of feed for a number of different kind of animals, and thus indirectly as sources of meat, milk, and eggs. They are inexpensive crops to grow and usually easy to produce.  Furthermore, grasses are useful in preventing erosion, and legumes can increase the nitrogen available in the soil for other crops.

Cite this article as:

Martin, F.W. 1993. Forages. ECHO Technical Note no. 28.

TN #25 Agroforestry Principles - 1992-01-20

In simplest language, agroforestry is the production of trees and of non-tree crops or animals on the same piece of land.  The crops can be grown together at the same time, can be grown in rotation, or can even be grown in separate plots when materials from one are used to benefit another.  However, this simple definition fails to take into account the integrated concepts associated with agroforestry that make this system of land management possibly the most self-sustaining and ecologically sound of any agricultural system.  Thus, a second definition of agroforestry would be the integration of trees, plants, and animals in conservative, long-term, productive systems.  Agroforestry can be considered more as an approach than as a single, finished technology.  Although several finished systems have been devised and tested, such technology may require adjustment for particular situations.  The flexibility of the agroforestry approach is one of its advantages.

What’s Inside:

  • Rationale for Agroforesty
  • Definitions of Terms
  • Benefits of Agroforestry
  • Components of Agroforestry
  • Starting an Agroforestry System
  • Sources of Seed and Information
  • Photos of Principle Tree Species

Cite this article as:

Martin, F.W. and S. Sherman 1992. Agroforestry Principles. ECHO Technical Note no. 25.