18: What is ECHO?
TECHNICAL INFORMATION AND EDN.
Our quarterly technical networking bulletin ECHO Development Notes (EDN) is available in English and Spanish. This network has grown from 35 people in 1981 to over 4000 people in 140 countries today. Recipients are agricultural development workers, missionaries, health workers, teachers, managers, scientists, and others who devote at least part of their time to helping small farmers make a living under difficult conditions. Martin Price wrote EDN from 1981 until Laura Meitzner joined as co-editor in January 1995. Updated indexes of EDN are available upon request. Back issues of EDN can be purchased (this book contains #1-51).
Your letters relating your experiences is one primary way we learn of new ideas to share with others through EDN. Though we are able to quote from only a small number of the letters we receive, you never know when something you say might be shared with others in our network. If for some reason you do not want to be quoted in EDN or if you wish to place any restrictions on ECHO referring to your work, please note this in large print at the top of each letter.
EDN is copyrighted. However, we always gladly give permission for non-profit organizations to quote, abstract from, or reprint in whole or in part occasional EDN articles in their regular newsletters. Consider this a blanket authorization for such use. (For-profit users wanting to quote more than a few paragraphs or anyone wanting to regularly publish EDN in another language, please write for permission.) We do have two requirements for any use of our material. 1) Mention that the source is ECHO Development Notes, giving the date of publication and address. Be clear whether you are quoting directly or abstracting. 2) It is very important that you delete any reference to free seeds. We grow enough seed for our own network of development workers, but not for large numbers of people beyond that. There are so many farmers in the world that we limit our free seed distribution to people working with church and mission agencies or development, educational or research organizations. Others can purchase seed for $2.75 per packet, postage included. If you want to include offers of seed, contact us to see whether we might happen to have an extra large amount. We might give permission for another newsletter to extend our offer to their own network of development workers, or we might have enough to be able to sell you a modest quantity of seed to distribute.
SEEDS. We maintain a small seedbank with over 125 active accessions of hard-to-find plants with great promise for people growing their food under challenging environmental conditions. We specialize in tropical plants which are particularly hardy (to drought, heat, flooding, etc.) or valuable to nutrition (high in particular nutrients). Write us for a current seed list. We do not carry common garden seeds available through commercial suppliers. See the chapter on Germplasm for details on ECHO's seedbank.
VIDEOS. We produce videos on technical subjects of interest to people in our network. This is "training" for you while you are serving in the field. We currently have series on tropical fruit crops, root crops, and urban gardening. Write for current information. Please indicate which video format you use: NTSC (N. America, Japan and parts of Asia, and wherever exported); PAL (UK, parts of N. Europe, Asia, and some anglophone African countries); and SECAM (France, eastern Europe, and some francophone African countries).
CREDIT CARD ORDERS. Most of ECHO's services providing seed and information are sent free-of-charge to our overseas network. However, there are times when payment is required, e.g., purchase of books or video tapes, phytosanitary inspections, third party purchases, etc. We will not accept any check that is not written for US funds and on a bank located in the USA (otherwise the bank charges are prohibitive). On the other hand, it is easy to accept payment via Master Card or Visa from anywhere in the world. So ECHO spent the $1,000 needed to purchase an EMS (Electronic Merchant System) allowing us to accept credit card orders. All we need from you is a letter giving your Visa or Master Card number, the card's expiration date, and a note from you giving us authorization to charge on your account.
ANNUAL AGRICULTURAL MISSIONS CONFERENCE. This conference, begun in 1994, is open to anyone doing or preparing to do agricultural development work in a third world setting. It is held around the beginning of November every year. This is a time for people from around the world to get together for networking, learning from several keynote speakers and other people in the field, attending workshops on the farm, and using our library. Many conference delegates really appreciate the opportunity to exchange experiences with other people who do similar work and understand the challenges. Watch EDN for conference announcements, or write to receive information about the next one.
SOME THINGS ECHO DOES NOT DO.
We do not provide seeds for farmers' gardens. What we do offer is a single packet of seed for a plant new to your area, not readily available through seed catalogs, for you to try on an experimental basis. You can save your own seed after that, if the plant does well, and never be dependent on anyone for that seed again. (Please do not write for a supply of common temperate vegetable seeds.) There are so many millions of farmers in the world, it is obvious that our small organization cannot help them all directly. We must channel our help through people like you who work with organizations that in turn help peasant farmers or urban gardeners. Please do not give our address to private farmers. If you need help in answering their questions, please write us yourself.
ECHO is located about 30 minutes from the coast of southwest Florida. We receive almost daily rainfall and thunderstorms through the hot, humid summer months, and flooding can be a severe problem. Winters provide a beautiful temperate growing season, but occasional frosts or freezes require us to watch the weather reports closely and protect the sensitive tropical plants on cold nights. Our soil is basically sand, and we have serious problems with nematodes. Growing food in Florida's variable climate and poor soils is excellent training for the conditions the interns may encounter when they go overseas.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF ECHO (BY MARTIN PRICE).
Soon our tiny overseas network began sending in technical questions. To help with answering, twice a week Bonnie would take a stack of books to a store six miles away to photocopy the pages I had selected. When the ministry was new, we were unsure what the need overseas would be. I remember calling my intern during our first vacation to see whether any overseas mail had arrived. At first we received perhaps 20 letters a month. Now we regularly receive 20-35 letters from around the world each week, and one staff member spends most of his time answering the requests.
The occasional visitors who came by for a tour sat around our kitchen table to see our first slide presentation projected onto the freezer door. We called it the "appropriate technology projection screen." Now ECHO has become something of a tourist attraction and is also in demand for school tours. In 1995, over 6000 visitors took our educational tours. Visitors now view a slide program in our bookstore/visitor reception center.
Some years we lost most of our tropical plants to "unexpected" freezes. The most important and sensitive plants are now protected in 4 greenhouses, and a new irrigation and freeze protection system will allow us to plant tropical trees in areas which suffered regular cold damage without protection.
After our first year, one missionary asked if he could spend a few weeks at ECHO studying before going overseas. Now we have seen folks stopping by for a day, a week or even for several months of hands-on study on the farm in preparation for their work in many of the 140 countries in ECHO's network. A special benefit for those who work at ECHO is that we have gotten to know and now count as friends so many of you.
God has greatly blessed our first fifteen years. Now we are evaluating ways to be of even greater service to you in the coming years. We have several ideas. However, we are determined to not jeopardize the quality of our present set of services in order to add new ones. Our annual agricultural missions conference, a missionary-in- residence program (in which someone from the field stays at ECHO for a month or more while on furlough to assist in a special project and mentor the interns), launching a collaborative initiative with Living Water International as an aquaculture resource, and making our technical information electronically accessible are recent areas of expansion. We appreciate your feedback on how we are currently serving you, and how our assistance may be improved.
ECHO only has an impact on the world as we are able in some way, great or small, to help you to have a more effective outreach. ECHO's staff and Board of Trustees is committed to do all that we can, with God's help, to help you to be an even greater blessing to a hurting world.
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