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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!

98 Issues in this Publication (Showing issues 101 - 92)

Bamboo Load-Centered Wheelbarrow - 2023-12-20

A standard wheelbarrow, with the wheel at the front, places about half the weight of the load on the operator. A load-centered wheelbarrow places the wheel in the center of the load, shifting 90% or more of the weight to the wheel instead of the operator. This allows the device to be used for distance hauling on narrow paths.

The load-centered wheelbarrow is an ancient Chinese design. Cargo was placed around and above a large (about 1m diameter) wheel. This allowed operators to transport heavy loads (including passengers) many kilometers on narrow footpaths. ECHO developed a design that is scaled down to use a bicycle wheel. This load-centered wheelbarrow can be built with bamboo or other locally available material. 

 

Animal Production Litter Systems - 2023-11-21

Litter systems are an approach to hygienic, integrated animal production in which animals are raised in an enclosed space on a floor of organic bedding. Systems with thick bedding material are sometimes called deep litter systems. Litter systems allow you to prioritize animal health by providing conditions like those in animals’ natural environments. Litter systems also help capture animal waste and convert it to usable forms for crop production. 

Animals can be kept on a litter system for part or all the production cycle depending on the farmer’s context. These systems do not produce as much as industrial systems but can be more profitable for small-scale farmers by reducing both risks and costs. ECHO is aware of litter systems for pigs, rabbits, poultry, and ruminants.

 

Black Soldier Fly Larvae Production - 2023-06-09

This guide expands on a summary by Chalermliamthong and Trail (2021) of the black soldier fly larvae production system at the ECHO Asia Small Farm Resource Center in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The production system there serves as an approach for scaling up larvae production as an alternative protein source to fish and soy meals for agricultural livestock feed. The authors encourage adaptation to fit needs, resources, and constraints of your local context. The end of this article includes some considerations for household-level operations.

Integrated Pest Management - 2022-05-20

The current global situation calls for a multi-pronged approach to pest management. To be widely applicable, this approach must provide farmers with options to control pests at various scales of production (from small farms to very large operations) with a diversity of resources. Integrated pest management (IPM), a strategy based on farmer innovations, is highly adaptable to specific contexts and reduces dependency on pesticides while still recognizing their use. 

IPM is a management approach that focuses on the larger system and aims for long-term prevention of pests using a combination of preventative and suppressive control strategies. An individual farmer’s IPM plan should constantly improve as it cycles. This article will address each stage in the cycle of improving your IPM plan.

 

Small-Scale Nursery Management - 2021-03-29

Cultivating plants, sharing seeds and cuttings with neighbors, and seeking better crop varieties are as old as agriculture. We use the word “nursery” for places where we care for and nurture things that are precious and vulnerable, like children and plants. Creating habitats to grow healthy seedlings is an integral part of the farming cycle, an important contribution to a thriving community, and both a rewarding and challenging business opportunity.

A nursery can be as small as a farmer’s seedbed for the immediate planting of a single crop, or as large as a complex business with hundreds of species and varieties for sale to the public. This Technical Note describes important aspects of planning and running a small nursery to supply trees and other perennial plants for personal or community use. Content is targeted towards agricultural practitioners working with small-scale farmers in tropical and subtropical climates. Included in the document are comments and insights from people with extensive experience in operating tree nurseries in parts of Central Africa (Roy Danforth), Madagascar (Dan Turk), Guatemala (Dwight Carter), and Haiti/Nicaragua/Indonesia (Rafael Flores).

 

Earthbag Seed Banks - 2020-06-29

Seed storage in the tropics has been a frequent topic of ECHO publications and trainings due to its importance to the smallholder farmer. Access to quality seeds is imperative for agronomic and horticultural crop production. While on-farm seed saving benefits the smallholder farmer, cooperative seed storage through the creation of seed banks bolsters farmers at the community level.

Seed banks provide secure structures for seed storage, while also serving as genetic repositories for important plants in the community. Centralizing the seed saving process also allows for cooperative investment in appropriate technologies and data management. As members of a community learn these management skills, they are empowered to save seeds themselves.

Seed preservation in the tropics is rife with difficulties due to high temperatures and humidity, so investing in worthwhile storage technologies is instrumental in smallholder communities. Of course, the process of establishing a seed bank involves community buy-in, stakeholder cooperation, and resource investment. While the social elements of seed banking are important, thisTechnical Note focuses on earthbag building techniques as a resource-effective means of establishing a seed bank. ECHO has now installed earthbag seed banks at two of its global offices: one in Thailand and one in Florida. This publication will outline the benefits of earthbag seed banks, as well as how to get started with your own project.

100-Fold Vegetable Gardens with Low-Cost Wicking Beds - 2019-07-23

I discovered 100-fold gardens while researching ways to irrigate plants directly in the root zone. I wanted to know how to practically and affordably control some of the variables that influence plant growth, such as water availability and soil fertility. I read about “wicking beds,” which are watered from below as water moves up towards plants’ rooting zone from a reservoir lined with plastic. Watering from below prevents water loss while maintaining constant soil moisture and supplying water and nutrients in accordance with plant needs. 

Wicking beds are a way of maximizing vegetable production on raised beds, but many people do not have a prior understanding of wicking in the context of gardening—so I call my version 100-fold gardens.

What’s Inside:

Introduction

Benefits of 100-Fold Gardens

Constructing a 100-Fold Garden Bed

How Wicking Beds Work

Variations of Wicking Beds

Conclusion

 

Parasitic Plants in African Agriculture - 2019-03-21

This Technical Note provides an overview of parasitic plants of agricultural significance in Africa. Parasitic weeds cause drought stress and stunted crops. Affected plants include cereal grains (e.g., sorghum [Sorghum bicolor] and maize [Zea mays]) and grain legumes (e.g., cowpea [Vigna unguiculata]) that farmers rely on for food. Damage to these and other crops is generally heightened by low soil fertility and drought stress, conditions that are faced by many African smallholders. Parasitic weeds can lead to severe yield losses, making them an important constraint to food security in many areas.

What’s Inside:

Introduction

Stem Parasites

Root Parasites

Summary of Control Options

 

Vacuum-Sealing Options for Storing Seeds - 2019-01-07

Two broad categories of seeds exist, referred to as recalcitrant and orthodox. The former must be kept moist and planted soon after they are collected; large-seeded fruits such as mango and avocado are typical examples. The second type of seeds are discussed in this document. Orthodox seeds are generally smaller than recalcitrant seeds and represent almost any grain, legume, or vegetable crop. Orthodox seeds can be dried and stored for extended periods of time—often for many years, depending on the crop and storage conditions.

This document presents ways to remove air from seed containers, for the purpose of extending the viability of stored seeds. The technologies presented here are most relevant to community-level seed banks or development practitioners looking for options for storing small volumes of high-value seed for planting. They would not be practical for storing large quantities of grain for human or animal consumption. With the exception of commercial vacuum sealers, the technologies presented are inexpensive, and many can be constructed with local materials.

What's Inside:

Bicycle pump vacuum sealer

Syringe vacuum pump

Brake bleeder vacuum pump

Kitchen food sealers and related items

 

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