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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!

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TN #67 Farmers' Seed Fairs - 2011-01-01

Often farmers asked for seed, but we weren’t quite sure what to expect when we suggested—to the farmers’ union in Nampula, Mozambique—that they organize a fair in which the members could come together and exchange seed. They might only be interested in “improved” varieties.

However, when we arrived at the place the fair was to be held, it was clear that the farmers had picked up the idea. They had constructed temporary shades with grass roofing and the scene was bustling with activity. Songs, dances and other activities were performed. Many seeds were on display on the reed mats—many more than what farmers usually say they produce when asked what they grow (maize, cassava, cowpeas, peanuts and rice). Virtually all material was exchanged.

Cite this article as:

Bakker, N., F. Zenén, and M. Mendoza 2011. Farmers’ Seed Fairs. ECHO Technical Note no. 67.

TN #66 Vermiculture Basics & Vermicompost - 2010-08-01

Worm or vermiculture is a useful technique for recycling kitchen and livestock wastes into a rich organic fertilizer, for producing high-protein feed for poultry and initiating a lucrative business selling worms and worm castings for the small farm. Worms are invaluable partners in building the soil in your garden, be it a kitchen or dooryard garden or a large market garden.

In the garden, healthy soil is essential for the production of healthy crops, and healthy soil requires a good quantity of organic matter. Organic matter can be added to the soil from a number of sources (See ECHO Tech Notes, Compost and Mulch for Healthy Soil, Green Manure Cover Crops and Soil Fertility) It is essentially comprised of decomposed plant and animal wastes, and these wastes are ideal for feeding and maintaining the “living” or biological portion of the soil and giving it good “health.”

Cite this article as:

Yarger, L. 2010. Vermiculture Basics & Vermicompost. ECHO Technical Note no. 66.

TN #65 Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration - 2010-01-01

For many years, conventional Western forestry methods have been applied, and exotic tree species promoted in Sahelian countries in order to combat desertification. Large and small projects were commissioned to curtail the assumed southward movement of the Sahara desert, but few made any lasting impression. 

Little thought was given to the appropriateness of these methods. Indigenous species were generally dismissed as “useless scrub.” In misguided efforts to establish forests, many projects even cleared the “useless scrub” to make way for exotics. Often exotic species were simply planted in fields containing living and sprouting stumps of indigenous vegetation, the presence of which was barely acknowledged, let alone seen as important. 

This was an enormous oversight. In fact, these living stumps constitute a vast “underground forest,” just waiting for a little encouragement to grow and provide multiple benefits at little or no cost. These live stumps may produce between 10 and 50 stems each. During the process of traditional land preparation, farmers treated these stems as weeds, slashing and burning them before sowing their food crops. Under this management system, the stems rarely grow beyond 1.5 m tall before being slashed again. The net result is a barren landscape for much of the year with few mature trees remaining. To the casual observer, the land appears to be turning into desert and most would conclude that tree planting is required to restore it.  

Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) is the systematic regeneration of this “underground forest.”  Tentative steps to introduce FMNR began in 1983, in the Maradi Region of Niger. Twenty-seven years later, the results have been amazing, with FMNR being practiced in one form or another across Niger and beyond. 

What’s Inside:

  • Background
  • FMNR: What It Is and How 
  • It Evolved
  • Steps in FMNR
  • Benefits of FMNR
  • Possible Constraints in 
  • Adopting FMNR
  • Reasons for the Successful Spread of FMNR in Niger

Cite this article as:

Rinaudo, T. 2010. Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR). ECHO Technical Note no. 65.

TN #64 Fish Farming: Basics of Raising Tilapia & Implementing Aquaculture Projects - 2010-07-01

Fish farming can generate high interest and excitement. It has great potential to produce high quality protein in relatively short time periods and in small areas. Fish farming is one way that resource poor farmers throughout the world can provide protein that is often lacking in the family diet and too expensive to purchase.

This technical note is about raising tilapia in earthen ponds because tilapia are the second most commonly raised fish in the world and are appropriate for resource poor farmers in tropical areas.

This technical note is also aimed at people working in rural areas with resource poor farmers in low income areas. Hopefully this information can assist in planning and establishing fish farming projects.

The basics of fish farming are presented here with recommendations and advice in establishing projects. Several case studies, stories, and examples from Africa are used as illustrations. References are given for more detailed information. There are many good “how to” manuals written on fish farming that can be accessed as additional resources.

Cite this article as:

Murnyak, D. 2010. Fish Farming: Basics of Raising Tilapia & Implementing Aquaculture Projects. ECHO Technical Note no. 64.

TN #63 Seed Saving: Steps & Technologies - 2010-06-01

Seeds naturally have a place in almost any endeavor having to do with agricultural development. Seeds of most food plants are small and, as such, are more easily transported and can be shipped longer distances than vegetative cuttings. For the farmer, seeds represent the promise of a continued supply of food.

As with any development “tool,” however, seeds can be misused. For instance, distributing improperly stored seeds that germinate poorly could expose farmers to risk of crop failure.

This technical note, therefore, is written to help ensure the best handling and use of seeds in development work. It will answer questions about seed grow-out, storage, seed germination testing, and useful publications.

Cite this article as:

Motis, T. 2010. Seed Saving. ECHO Technical Note no. 63.

TN #62 Treadle Grindstone - 2010-01-01

This treadle grindstone can spin a 6” abrasive wheel (of the type used on electric tool grinders) at up to 3000 rpm by means of a single treadle operated by the person using the grinder. Although rotational speed is similar to electric grinders, power is lower therefore short or light grinding passes must be taken. This tool may be a good addition to a shop where electricity is not available. 

What’s Inside:

  • Operating the Grinder
  • Maintenance
  • Disassembly
  • Drive Rope
  • Direction of Rotation
  • Improving the Grindstone
  • Grinding Wheel Speed
  • Dimensioned Drawings

Cite this article as:

Longenecker, J. 2010. Treadle Grindstone. ECHO Technical Note no. 62.

TN #61 PVC Water Pumps - 2010-01-01

The purpose of this document is to show several water pump designs constructed from PVC pipe, explain how to manufacture them, and discuss pump performance and how to improve on these designs. 

What’s Inside:

  • Pump Design
  • Manufacturing Process
  • Pump Performance
  • Appendix

Cite this article as:

Longenecker, J. 2010. PVC Water Pumps. ECHO Technical Note no. 61.

TN #60 The Farmer Managed Agro-forestry Farming System (FMAFS) - 2010-01-01

Farming communities in the semi-arid tropical regions of Africa are becoming particularly vulnerable and face enormous challenges for their survival. Climate change, diminishing and unreliable rainfall, traditional mono culture cropping farming practices, high population growth, frequent famines and high de-forestation rates have led to severe environmental degradation and impoverished soils. This has resulted in poor crop yields, high malnutrition rates and extreme poverty.

In this article, I would like to present an integrated farming system developed in the Maradi region of Niger, which has a semi-arid environment with 450 mm annual rainfall and a growing season from June to September. This farming system is showing promise for overcoming the main limitations to farming in the semi-arid tropics, and has potential for replication in other semi-arid regions of the World.


Cite this article as:

Cunningham, P. 2010. Farmer Managed Agro-forestry Farming System (FMAFS). ECHO Technical Note no. 60.

TN #59 Vegetables for SW Florida in the Summer Months - 2009-01-01

Within a couple days after Bonnie and I arrived in Florida in June 1981 to assume my new role as founding CEO of ECHO, I began digging a garden. For an avid gardener used to the long winters “up north” this was an exciting adventure.  I was going to grow flowers and vegetables year-round in the Garden of Eden itself - at least something very close to it. Or so I thought...

SW Florida’s hot, humid summers have a lot in common with rainforest conditions, minus the shade of tall trees and of course with less total rainfall and not quite as high humidity.  So it is not surprising that some of the standard vegetables in ECHO’s summer gardens originated in tropical rainforests and hot, humid lowlands.  Other important vegetables have originated in countries where there are perhaps six months without rain and six months that are like our summers. I have chosen vegetables for this document that I believe have a reasonably good chance of producing in the summer, but sometimes they still disappoint you.

What’s Inside:


A Look at Perennial Vegetables

ECHO’s Guide to Summer Garden Vegetables

Edible Leaves and Shoots

Fruiting Vegetables

Tubers and Corms



Cite this article as:

Price, M.L. 2009. Vegetables for SW Florida in the Summer Months. ECHO Technical Note no. 59.

TN #58 Tropical Rabbit Production: A Guide to Raising Rabbits with Few Resources - 2009-03-01

Rabbits are animals for folks that like to eat meat and want to raise it quickly. Rabbits reproduce quickly; up to eight bunnies every three months. A young rabbit can weigh four pounds in three months -- bigger than a broiler chicken. Rabbits are easy to raise, both in urban and rural areas. They don’t take up much space. Rabbits are a popular meat in Europe, China, and the Americas. Anyone who raises rabbits will never lack for meat for their table and will realize other benefits. Have you considered raising rabbits?

What’s Inside:

Why Raise Rabbits?

Not Everyone Can Raise Rabbits

Feeding Rabbits

Rabbit Cages

Breeding Rabbits

Rabbit Diseases

Dressing Rabbits

Rabbit Management

Cite this article as:

Niles, W. 2009. Tropical Rabbit Production: A Guide to Raising Rabbits with Few Resources. ECHO Technical Note no. 58.