English (en) | Change Language

Amaranth to Zai Holes CoverAMARANTH TO ZAI HOLES; Ideas for growing Food Under Difficult Conditions  (1996)
Laura S. Meitzner and Martin L. Price

This is a book of practical ideas. It is written for people who help those who live and make their living under difficult conditions in the tropics and subtropics. What should a development worker do to assist a community? There are no simple answers, but there are many possibilities--plants, techniques, and technologies--which hold potential. For fifteen years, ECHO has sought out information on these ideas for the quarterly networking bulletin ECHO Development Notes (EDN). Many people have contributed their insights to share with our network of over 4000 people in 140 countries. If you are interested in improving the lives of small farmers, we welcome your active participation in our network.

This book is based on the first 51 issues of EDN. The ideas in EDN come from questions or experiences of field workers, the scientific research done in support of their work, and many newsletters from around the world which ECHO's staff monitor for worthy items. This collection is not intended to be a complete handbook. There are important topics which are not mentioned, and in many cases you are referred to other resources for background information or specialized details.

 

More and updated information is available in Agricultural Options for the Small Scale Farmer and in ECHO Publications.

Over 140 issues of EDN have now been published. 

The complete Amaranth to Zai Holes can be downloaded here or download a selected chapter below.

 

ECHO library copies can be viewed on-site in Florida or Thailand.   A 2001 Video about ECHO, produced by The Visionaries, can be viewed online.

 

Amaranth to Zai Holes Chapter Grouping

First       Second     Third      Fourth     Fifth      Last      

44 Issues in this Publication (Showing issues 2001 - 1200)

About Amaranth to Zai Holes - 1996-10-19

This is a book of practical ideas. It is written for people who help those who live and make their living under difficult conditions in the tropics and subtropics. What should a development worker do to assist a community? There are no simple answers, but there are many possibilities--plants, techniques, and technologies--which hold potential. For fifteen years, ECHO has sought out information on these ideas for the quarterly networking bulletin ECHO Development Notes (EDN). Many people have contributed their insights to share with our network of over 4000 people in 140 countries. If you are interested in improving the lives of small farmers, we welcome your active participation in our network.

This book is based on the first fifty-one issues of EDN. The ideas in EDN come from questions or experiences of field workers, the scientific research done in support of their work, and many newsletters from around the world which ECHO's staff monitor for worthy items. This collection is not intended to be a complete handbook. There are important topics which are not mentioned, and in many cases you are referred to other resources for background information or specialized details.

Since no innovation can be guaranteed success in any location, ECHO encourages development workers to be experimenters. Trying ideas which have worked elsewhere and testing plants which are appreciated in another part of the world are first steps toward discovering something valuable for your own situation. As you read these chapters, some ideas will strike you as promising for your region, while others will not be applicable in your site. What is accepted in one area will be rejected in another. Keep in mind that the world is a very, very large place, and often discovering the right niche for a new plant or technique can make a big difference. Visionary open-mindedness and a critical eye can together help you define which ideas to consider for experimentation and adaptation.

ECHO's primary focus in the field of agricultural development is with little-known tropical plants or improved varieties of common plants. Our seedbank has selected vegetables, fruits, grains, cover crops, and trees with potential to produce well in challenging environmental conditions. EDN also includes information on other topics of importance to the small farmer. This book lists many organizations which specialize in various areas, and we can direct you to them with questions related to their fields of expertise.

All organizations, publishers, and many individuals mentioned in this text were contacted during 1995 and 1996 to confirm current addresses, prices, and services. Every effort was made to update the information wherever possible. However, books go out of print and prices change, so after 1996 you should confirm availability and prices before ordering any items mentioned. Please let us know of any changes you find so we can stay updated.

We sincerely hope that this information will assist you in your work, and we encourage you to write ECHO with your questions and experiences.  We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Acknowledgments

ECHO is a networking organization. Many people have contributed their insights and experiences, or called to our attention relevant materials, or provided us with seeds. This book would not have been possible without them. Keep writing to us!

Christi Sobel is the primary illustrator of this book, designing the cover and most of the artwork. We appreciate her fine talent, versatility, flexibility, and service. An Eastern College graduate with degrees in studio art and biology, her work combines her love of art and fascination with the intricacies of nature. Christi works in several art media and can be contacted for freelance work at 219 White Church Road, Brooktondale, NY 14817, USA.

We appreciate Dr. Frank Martin's willingness to share his expertise by writing numerous technical documents, several of which are included in this book. It is also a pleasure to thank Herb Perry for his faithful help in editing each chapter, and all the staff and interns at ECHO who offered encouragement and assistance.

Some pictures were also taken from the copyright-free books Clip Art for Development and The Copy Book. These resources are reviewed on page 363. We thank Ann Winterbotham and the other artists who also donated their work.

Copyright 1996 by ECHO, Inc. All rights reserved. No copies of print-outs from down-loaded files from this publication may be made without permission of the copyright owner.

Chapter 1. Basics of Agricultural Development - 1996-10-19

There are certain basic and important questions we receive which are so encompassing that we cannot answer them in a personal letter. One such question is, "I have just begun work in this country. My degree is not in agriculture, but I want to help local farmers. They know much more than I do about farming in this area, but there must be some ways to make improvements. Where do I begin?" This chapter gives a framework of theories and ideas on getting started in agricultural development, guidelines for selecting crops and innovations, some resources to assist you in the field, and a model for experimental work in your community.

 

Chapter 2. Vegetables and Small Fruits in the Tropics - 1996-10-19

Vegetables and small fruits supply essential vitamins and minerals while adding variety and interest to the diet. Produce can also bring a high price in the market and provide additional household income. Vegetable use varies by region, culture, and social group. One of the first changes people make when they have more income is increasing the diversity in their diets, so you may observe more interest in vegetables and small fruits as families earn more.

Since vegetables and fruits are known to have a significant impact on health and nutrition, many people are interested in promoting their greater production and use. Many vegetables native to the tropics continue producing for months or years, and these treasures should not be overlooked in favor of temperate vegetables which must be continually replanted. This chapter features resources, perspectives, and information on growing the many vegetables and fruits which have proven themselves under difficult conditions in the tropics.

 

Chapter 3. Staple Crops - 1996-10-19

Staple crops are those which are most common in people's diets. Large expanses of land are dedicated to growing these foods, compared to the smaller areas planted in fruits and vegetables. In the third world, the staples are often a starch (grain or root crop) and a pulse (dried legume seed, beans). The starch gives energy and a feeling of fullness in the stomach, while the pulse provides protein.

These crops are so important to so many people that many have spread far beyond their centers of origin; many types of cassava, corn, rice, soybeans, and pigeon peas are grown around the world. Major research centers devote much of their resources to studying and improving these crops. Other crops, such as amaranth, quinoa, and tepary beans remain localized, but they hold great potential for thriving in other places with similar conditions. ECHO's focus is on these little-known plants and some varieties of the common crops which have special characteristics.

 

Chapter 4. Multipurpose Trees - 1996-10-19

All trees are multipurpose. They bring subsoil nutrients to the surface, provide shade, and slow erosion. Many trees provide fodder, living fenceposts, fruit and other edible parts, shade, insecticides, and wood; they all have some role in soil stabilization and offer quality-of-life benefits like beauty and a shelter for informal gatherings. Working with trees is an important investment which can be significant to the future of your Community. Developing agroforestry systems, tree nurseries, and fruit and nut tree species is most appropriate for those with a long-term commitment in an area. Learning the valued qualities of the trees already present in and native to your area is a good starting point. Ask about the best local woods for fuel, construction, musical instruments, stakes, and other uses; ask children about the season and flavor of native fruits. Observe closely how various species are propagated, harvested, and protected. This chapter gives ideas and information on the many uses of trees in agricultural systems, various species, and working with trees.

 

Chapter 5. Farming Systems and Gardening Techniques - 1996-10-19

Many small farmers must grow their crops on small tracts of marginal land, which may be dry or hilly or remote. These difficult growing conditions require special techniques suited to the situation. This chapter contains some ideas which can be adapted for local circumstances.

Most of the ideas in ECHO Development Notes are concerned with sustainable agriculture, that which promotes a wise and creative use of resources to provide food and employment for the long term. People growing in marginal situations can benefit from networking, learning about techniques which have met with success both locally and in distant areas with similar challenges. We list training opportunities and publications which offer guiding principles and ideas to implement for sustainable food production. Please let us know of similar local groups which have been helpful to you.

 

Chapter 6. Soil Health and Plant Nutrition - 1996-10-19

Productive, resistant plants start with healthy soil. Crops need not only adequate nutrients, but a favorable soil structure and environment for optimal growth. In the tropics, soil conditions vary widely, and many small farmers are forced to grow their crops in very poor soils which require special methods for food production. Green manures and cover crops, which afford some protection from weathering elements and may improve the soil, have proven themselves in the field for their contribution to soil health and conservation. This chapter also offers some ideas on planting materials and fertilizers for improved plant nutrition.

 

Chapter 7. Water Resources - 1996-10-19

Life and agriculture are dependent on water. One of the most frequent questions ECHO receives from the field reflects the need for strategies to produce food in dryland areas or in the dry season. The erratic and unpredictable rainfall in much of the tropics makes food production difficult; months of drought bake and harden the soils, so the torrential rains which follow lead to erosion. People without sufficient water for cooking and personal use are not able to irrigate crops during the dry season. This chapter gives some ideas on soil and water conservation in times of water shortage and seasonal abundance.

 

Chapter 8. Plant Protection and Pest Control - 1996-10-19

Protecting plants from pests, diseases, and predators is part of any agricultural system. Start by promoting healthy soil which grows strong, resistant plants, and learn about timing and conditions of disease and pest outbreaks. Attention to cultural controls, such as field preparation and correct time of sowing and harvest, can prevent disease or avoid insect outbreaks. Diversity of crops provides security from major losses. Commercial pesticides may be too costly or risky without controlled application or protective equipment, and disruptive of beneficial insects.

Close and frequent observations of plant health and other organisms in the field are instructive for the newcomer to tropical agriculture. Learn to distinguish beneficial and harmful insects. Discuss your findings with farmers, and experiment with locally-used control strategies to determine effectiveness. The best control is to prevent an outbreak if possible, and to use treatments of minimal toxicity when necessary. This chapter collects some of the ideas shared with ECHO through the years on prevention and control of disease, insect and small pests, and larger animals which damage crops in the field. ECHO is always looking for more ideas on these subjects from the field; send us what you learn for future networking through EDN.

 

Chapter 9. Domestic Animals - 1996-10-19

Animals are very important to the small farm. Their integration into farming activities provides uses for many byproducts of the farm. They provide high-quality food, income, fertilizer, status, companionship, transportation, labor, and much more for rural families. But seasonal feed shortage and parasite problems can frustrate people's efforts in animal husbandry. This chapter highlights information and resources on raising and caring for animals in the tropics.