ECHO Asia Notes is a quarterly technical e-bulletin containing articles of interest to agriculture and community development workers in Asia.

This list contains articles from ECHO Asia Notes, many of which have been translated into regional languages.  

73 Issues in this Publication (Showing issues 35 - 30)

Livestock Integration on the Tropical Smallholder Farm - 2018-05-30

This article is from ECHO Asia Note # 35.

One of the best things that you can do to complete your sustainable farm or garden is to balance it with a small livestock unit. Livestock integration is fundamental #10 in my book Sustainable Agriculture in the Tropics.  If you read ECHO Asia Notes, chances are good that you are involved in some way in farming or gardening. Livestock will produce low cost, high quality fertilizer, while also yielding food to eat or clothing material to wear. Although scientists have attempted to replicate the benefits of traditional integrated livestock systems, the quantified results are not always easy to show in field trials.

Putting Biochar to Use at the Edge: Quality, Soils and Measurement - 2018-05-30

This article is from ECHO Asia Note # 35.

Dr. Michael Shafer is a retired Professor of Political Science from Rutgers University in the USA who founded the Warm Heart Foundation in 2008. After first learning about biochar at an ECHO conference in 2013, Warm Heart began to design and test improved low-cost, low-tech biochar-making equipment for smallholder farmers. In 2017, the Warm Heart Biochar Team won the World Energy Globe Award (Thailand) for the development of a model, village-scale biochar social enterprise. The Team has just launched a social enter-prise to sell farmers’ biochar products under the brand name “Rak Din.”

In this article, Dr. Shafer shares his experience with the actual use of biochar in the devel-oping world. He aims to refocus the study of biochar, moving it from academic laboratories to the messy context of farms in the developing world. He hopes to reassure “boots-in the-mud” development practitioners that they can make, use and even test biochar in the field.

Op-Ed: Forage Plants for Improved Human Development - 2017-12-11

This article is from ECHO Asia Note # 33.

I read David Price’s concerns about promoting invasive forage plants in Asia Note #25 [Eds’ Note: AN #25 was written in response to AN #23] and would like to respond based on my own experience and observations.  

My reply will be based on the following principles:

  1. It is moral to help poor farmers as much as practicable.
  2. The primary aim of human activity is the betterment of the human condition.  Thus, preservation of the natural environment is NOT necessarily the primary aim of development activities. 

I have been promoting the use and expansion of all of the species listed by David to smallholder farmers for, in some cases, the last 45 years. I wish to address the concerns David has for each of the species listed in Asia Note #25. I live in northern Thailand now, so I will use local examples, but the comments should apply equally as well to most of the humid and sub-humid tropics.

An Innovative, Inexpensive, Environmentally Friendly Method to Pasteurize Mushroom Media in the Tropics Using a Styrofoam Box - 2017-12-11

This article is from ECHO Asia Note # 33.

Summary

Mushrooms such as oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) are usually grown in plastic bags filled with organic material that may include organic farm wastes. That material must be sterilized (heated to temperatures above 100°C) or pasteurized (heated to a lower temperature, 60°C or higher) to prevent contamination by germs, viruses and fungal spores. However, sterilization and pasteurization are challenging for small-scale farmers because of the energy requirements. Normally, small-scale farmers use a drum sterilization method, during which water is heated until it boils. Farmers must buy or collect the firewood to heat water (an expensive and/or labor-intensive task). Charcoal is even more costly to buy or to make. Also, results of drum sterilization can be inconsistent, depending on the device used and quality of the fire wood. 

The new, easy-to-build piece of pasteurization equipment introduced in this article is inexpensive, long-lasting, easy to prepare, and does not need fossil fuel energy. The pasteurization process does not need monitoring, so it requires less labor. 

The aim of this article is to encourage other development workers and local farmers to continue these early experimentations to improve the device or other similar ones so that they become useable in their own different environments, with an aim of helping small-scale farmers save energy and money when growing mushrooms.

Comparing Locally Available Waste By-Products as Feedstocks for Gasifier Cook-Stoves - 2017-08-15

This article is from ECHO Asia Note # 32.

In many developing world households, meeting the daily energy needs required for cooking is burdensome and costly. Fortunately, low-cost cooking methods that require less fuel while burning more cleanly and efficiently are becoming available at the household level. One such method is the household gasifier cook-stove, designed to convert small amounts of carbon-based solid biomass (usually from waste or low-cost material) into combustible gases used for cooking (see Dr. Dussadee’s work for information on how gasifier stoves work (2013)).

Inexpensive Mass Propagation Techniques for Introducing Improved Potato Varieties in the Tropics - 2017-08-15

This article is from ECHO Asia Note # 32.

Dr. Tapani Haapala

Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) contain high-quality food properties and are very good protein and energy sources on a daily per hectare basis of production (Frusciante et al. 2000). Potatoes are grown mostly in cool climate areas. In the tropics, they easily suffer from several different kinds of stress related to hot climate, which sometimes ends up causing problems such as attacks of fungal diseases. New potato varieties that are better adapted to hot climates could enable development of potato production in the tropics and could potentially provide livelihood opportunities for small-scale farmers. However, providing enough stock material to meet the potential need could be challenging.

Creating a Low-Cost Seed Dryer for Use in Local Seed Banks

This article is from ECHO Asia Note # 31.

Saving your own seeds can be a cost-effective way to access crop seed for future planting and to help maintain the planet’s plant biodiversity. Whether you plant your own saved seeds, give them away to friends and neighbors, or distribute them through your organization, the ability to effectively harvest, clean, prepare, dry, and store seeds is important to help maintain seed germination and viability. This note will focus on the importance of drying seeds to proper seed moisture content, and will provide details about two low-cost seed dryers that we have built and use at the ECHO Asia Impact Center Seed Bank. 

 

Feed Options for Ruminants in the Tropics

This article is from ECHO Asia Note # 31.

The amazing multi-stomached ruminant comes in many forms, with varied nutritional requirements. Ruminants are even-toed, cloven-hoofed, four-legged, cud-chewing mammals of the suborder Ruminantia (within order Artiodactyla). Cattle, water buffalo, goats, and yaks are some of the ruminants found in Southeast Asia.

Many options are available for feeding ruminants on the small farm. Before selecting a feeding strategy for your situation, be sure that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. Every farm is unique, and farmers must determine the most appropriate and cost-effective techniques for their needs.

 

Soils of Mainland Southeast Asia

This article is from ECHO Asia Note #30

Editor’s Note: Peter is a freelance consultant based in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with a M.Sc. in Agriculture from Leipzig, Germany. Peter is a former researcher in “The Uplands Program,” a collaborative research program between Hohenheim University (Germany), Chiang Mai University (Thailand), and others. Contact: peter.elstner@gmx.net)

We have been looking for a reference guide to the soils of Southeast Asia for some time, and in the past have had to rely upon the fragmented soil classifi cations provided by most Southeast Asian countries. Those guides tended to include old data and were certainly not interactive. In this article, Peter Elstner explores the digital soil map of the world and the resulting seven major soil classes of Southeast Asia. Soils are the backbone and foundation for all sustainable agriculture and development, and knowing the type of soil in your community is essential for knowing the types of crops, development, and land use that can occur there. Be sure to check out the Reference Soil Groups (starting on page 6). We hope that this guide will inspire you to explore the digital soil map and learn more about the soils in your area.]

This report describes and analyzes the soil distribution and characteristics of the main soil types in Mainland Southeast Asia (MSEA) that comprise the countries of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam (Map 1).

Permaculture in Development

This article is from ECHO Asia Note #30

The word permaculture is mentioned with increasing frequency in speeches, books and magazine articles on sustainability and food security. What is permaculture? Is it a movement? A philosophy? Simply a set of design tools? In this article, I answer the above questions by looking at permaculture from a variety of angles. First, I briefl y describe permaculture’s history, underlying ethics, and key principles and common practices. Then I discuss common criticisms of permaculture and explain the underlying perspective that shapes its use in addressing a community’s food, water and shelter needs (i.e., the lens through which a permaculturalist views development). Finally, I share how permaculture has infl uenced my own life and work, both as a Christian and as an agriculture development worker.


Regions

Asia