Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) is a legume with edible beans, grown throughout the tropics as a green manure/cover crop. Cowpea thrives in hot climates with annual rainfall of 750 to1100 mm. Once its roots are established, it is quite drought tolerant. High rainfall, however, adversely affects cowpea due to waterlogging and increased disease incidence. At ECHO’s demonstration farm in Florida, which receives nearly 1400 mm annual rainfall, cowpea often grows poorly during the rainy season (June through September). For a high-rainfall area, you could consider more moisture-loving legumes such as velvet bean (Mucuna pruriens) or rice bean (Vigna umbellata), but seeds of these may not be as widely available as cowpea. Here we summarize what we learned after trialing a few cowpea varieties for their potential as cover crops during our rainy season.
Have you checked out the Conversations section on ECHOcommunity.org? A conversation in May centered around emergency gardens, especially in light of COVID-19 quarantines/shut-downs. An ECHO network member who works in Guatemala asked for ideas for growing nutritious plants in limited space.
ECHO is implementing some stylistic updates! You may have noticed that our logo and website, ECHOcommunity.org, have been redesigned. Similarly, we are updating our technical publications. Future editions of ECHO Development Notes (EDN), Technical Notes (TN), Best Practices Notes (BPN), and Research Notes (RN) will be released with their new formats.
Rev. J. Scott Martin, PE, Vision of Community Fellowship (Regional Coordinator for SE USA and Latin America) and Jeff Collins, owner of Henderson Cricket Farm (near Lancaster, Kentucky, USA)
If you read about alternative sources of protein you will likely encounter many suggestions that insects could serve as a viable and ecologically friendly alternative to conventional animal protein (e.g., poultry, beef, pork, fish) (Adámková et al., 2017). Insects require less grain and produce less methane (a greenhouse gas) than traditional livestock (Rumpold and Schlüter, 2013). When I read just such an article, I began to wonder if insects could be a practical source of protein for people in the tropics. More specifically, I began to wonder if house crickets could be raised on a small scale as a sustainable protein source in urban settings, given the practical, regulatory, and social obstacles likely to be present in many cultures.
In order to investigate the question, I partnered with Henderson Cricket Farm and began to read about and experiment with growing crickets in my spare bedroom. I also asked my organization’s contacts in Nicaragua to investigate requirements for importing live crickets. We discovered a cricket protein producer in the neighboring country of Costa Rica, and are now in the process of establishing our own live colony there with hopes of one day exporting crickets to Nicaragua.
ECHO recognizes climate change as a profound reality faced by small-scale farmers. Many of our publications have focused on helping farmers cope with related challenges such as heat and drought.Increasing farmer resilience and minimizing risk have been key elements of the practices we have written about over the years. We encourage “no regret” strategies, approaches that steward the land well and improve livelihoods, regardless of whether or not farmers face immediate changes to climate (Flanagan, 2015). However, we also view farmers as having an integral role in mitigating some of the driving forces of climate change—something we explore in this article, which is the first of a two-part series. Part 1 explores principles that are foundational to the strategies that we will present in Part 2, in the next issue of EDN.