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ECHO West Africa Update 2023-03-28
ECHO West Africa's forum on sustainable agriculture this year was themed Producing and Consuming Organic, for the benefit of 135 participants. This forum is the result of the recommendations made by the participants of the sub-regional forum which took place in September 2022.
The themes of the forum were addressed in the form of panels, allowing different speakers to make presentations around the scheduled themes, before moving on to practical workshops. The first day was devoted to the theme of the manufacture and use of organic fertilizers. This allowed ECHO trainers to present four different types of organic fertilizers before doing the practice to allow participants to master the different formulas. The theme of the manufacture and use of biopesticides was presented on the second day. This day allowed the panelists of the day to communicate around four formulas of biopesticides, both in theory and in practice. Finally, on the third day, the topics covered were the Foundations For Farming (FFF) method, the "Balo" program, and above-ground techniques. Time was also given to the NGO Practica to make a presentation on the "zainer", a tool designed to facilitate the digging of sowing holes within the framework of the FFF. Before closing, several participants expressed great enthusiasm for the training received.
For two years, our region, Diapaga, has no longer been supplied with organic fertilizer because of insecurity. Through this training, ECHO offers us a new hope for a revival of our agriculture.
- Ismaël Bonzi, Forum participant
Black sapote (Diospyros nigra) is also called chocolate pudding fruit or black persimmon. Fruits turn brown and soft when ripe. Fruits are eaten fresh, cooked in dishes, or combined with dairy products. ECHO staff and volunteers enjoy using the fruit to make black sapote bread or black sapote brownies. Seeds of black sapote do not store for long periods of time because they are recalcitrant and therefore are only offered from the ECHO Global Seed bank for a limited time each year. You must be an active development worker and a registered member of ECHOcommunity to order seeds. To learn more about black sapote, see ECHO's plant information sheet: Black Sapote.
From ECHO's Farm: Planting in Syntropy 2023-03-14
Earlier this February we established a Syntropic Agroforestry planting on the farm. Syntropic systems are characterized by high density plantings of food, biomass, timber, and support species. Not only are these designed to fill different strata in the canopy layers, but they are also meant to fill different strata at different times. This includes fast growing, “pioneering” plants in the canopy that will be coppiced (cut back), and longer-term, slow growing overstory species. This system even includes annuals in its succession plan. In the photo are emerging corn and cover crops interplanted densely with some of our biomass species of chaya, guazuma, gliricidia, bananas, and pink cedar (Acrocarpus fraxinifolius). These biomass hedges are punctuated by mango, coconut, and avocados. On either side of this tree row, we also have a row of biomass-producing support species that will be cut and mulched on top of the beds. In this case Tithonia and Fakahatchee grass. For more information on this type of system, and how to design a syntropic system see ECHO network member Roger Gietzen's Syntropic Farming Guidebook (free PDF download)!
Roland Bunch's incredible catalog of smallholder farmer green manure cover crop systems is now available as an eBook! $4.99
During the last 35 years, green manure/cover crops (gm/ccs) have become recognized as an important agricultural technology. Millions of farmers use traditional gm/cc systems, and millions more now use systems developed and introduced during the last three decades. Faced with so many promising possibilities, even well-informed agronomists find it difficult to choose the best gm/cc system for a given situation. This happens in part because, unfortunately, many different factors must be considered in selecting the gm/cc systems. These factors include everything from local food habits, current market conditions, the dominant cropping systems, and the major weeds, to local economic needs, environmental conditions, and farmer preferences. Furthermore, the best gm/cc systems almost always include not just one, but several species of gm/cc.
ECHO is proud to facilitate courses about topics in tropical agricultural development. These series of courses are hands-on interactive learning experiences that are offered at ECHO's Florida and Asia campuses. The demonstration farms at these two ECHO offices provide an opportunity for immersive learning that directly applies what students are introduced to in the classroom.
The Introduction to Tropical Agriculture Development course is perfect for participants who are interested in adding agricultural components to their international work or for those recently starting in agricultural development in tropical environments. This course is held at both the Asia and Florida campuses:
Introduction to Tropical Agriculture Development prepares you for more in-depth courses ECHO offers on various topics such as seed saving and banking, appropriate technologies, livestock integration, and permaculture. This year, ECHO Florida is excited to hold the first-ever Tropical Agroecosystems course. Students will first be introduced to the 10 elements of agroecosystems and then apply these principles as they learn about different tropical agricultural systems such as conservation agriculture, sloping agricultural land technology, agroforestry systems, and more! Save the date: September 11-15, 2023
Scientific Animations Without Borders (SAWBO) transforms educational information on relevant topics such as agriculture, animal and human diseases, and women's empowerment, into easy-to-understand animations. These videos are available in a diversity of languages from around the world including Spanish, French, English, and Kiswahili.
All SAWBO animations are made freely available to anyone wishing to use them for educational purposes. Animations can be downloaded and used on computers, tablets, cell phones, TVs, and overhead projection systems.
Now, you can access all of SAWBO's videos on ECHOcommunity.org and on ECHO's mobile app! Remember that once downloaded into your library, resources can be shared with friends using your preferred sharing app or method.
Natural Farming Research Note Now Available! 2023-02-14
Between 2017 and 2018, a trial was conducted comparing IMO, EM, mulch, and no mulch on a raised bed system on the ECHO Florida campus. Each of these main treatments was evaluated with and without NPK fertilizer in a split-plot, randomized complete block design. Less cotton was decomposed in the soil of the control treatment than soil of the EM soil drench treatment (P=0.0542) suggesting lower rates of microbial activity. Fertilized split treatments produced more grams of edible product than unfertilized split treatments (P<0.05). This study was conducted in a sandy soil with low organic matter. IMO or EM products may need to be “stepped up” to more stable carbon sources such as bran, compost, or manure before being utilized in soils low in organic matter.
From ECHO's Farm: Freeze Protection 2023-02-07
Every year in the winter months of December to March at ECHO Florida, we enter the potential for frost and freeze events. While our sub-tropical climate allows us to grow most tropical plants, a frost or freeze event could mean serious impacts for future yields or even the survival of more sensitive plants. Thankfully there are several strategies we employ to help protect the farm on those cold nights.
Two to three days before a cold weather event, it is important to make sure your soil moisture level is at or near field capacity. Wet soil can hold more heat than dry soil, therefore when we keep our soil wet, we maximize the amount of heat we can store. While impractical on a large scale, another method to increase soil temperatures is to pull back mulch from the base of the plants. This allows more solar radiation to enter the soil, thereby storing more heat. This is most effective for annuals where the crop is not covering the soil. The stored heat is then released during the cold night, creating a microclimate near the plant. This can be just enough to avoid any frost, especially when this strategy is used in conjunction with frost cloth.
Before sundown on the evening of a frost event, we cover plants that are cold-sensitive with frost cloth. Frost cloth acts as a blanket, trapping heat that is released from the soil. It is important to keep the frost cloth from directly touching the plant leaves, as any leaves touching the frost cloth can be damaged by the cold. It is also important that the frost cloth extends to the ground on all sides, as the heat will escape if there are openings. Weighing down the frost cloth and securing it with clips is a must if you want the cloth to stay in place all night, especially in windy conditions.
On nights when freezing temperatures occur, and weather conditions permit, we utilize our overhead and micro-spray irrigation systems to encase plants in ice. While this method may seem counterintuitive, ice encasement can be a very effective method of freeze protection. This method works provided we continually introduce more water to the plant. As water turns from liquid to solid, it must release heat. This small amount of heat release is just enough to maintain a liquid water layer between the plant leaf surface and the ice. The irrigation system must be kept on until all the ice has melted off in the morning. A good understanding of psychrometrics and a reliable irrigation system is important to prevent damage to the plants.
A combination of these methods makes it possible for us to weather frost and freeze events with minimal damage. While not covered here, other management strategies such as farm design, protected agriculture, plant selection, and crop growth stages should be taken into consideration when growing in areas where cold weather conditions could adversely affect your crops. For more information on cold protection in agriculture, check out these helpful resources: http://edn.link/freezeprotection
East Africa Note 9 Now Available! 2023-01-31
In this issue:
Food from the Wild
Traditionally, the Hadzabe, eat these plants uncooked or with minimal processing. Occasionally, wild foods are roasted over open fires, i.e., without pans or skillets but mostly raw with minimum processing. This has changed recently to some extent, depending on preferences within family clusters and their proximity to outside influence, but overall their approach to food preparation and consumption leaves a very light footprint on the earth. They continue to kill only what game they can consume, and are accustomed to sharing all things without hoarding or sense of ownership.
This course covers a broad range of topics relevant to those starting in agricultural development in a tropical environment. The purpose of this class is to expose attendees to several different ideas and concepts.
March 27-31 Register Today
This course is for those interested in preparing for short to long-term involvement in international agriculture development. Topics and discussions will focus on improved food security and agricultural livelihoods for small-scale farmers in developing countries. Participants will be introduced to the complexities related to poverty and community development. They will also be introduced to principles and practices that contribute toward maintaining healthy and productive soil as well as improved water management and crop production.