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close this bookAmaranth to Zai Holes, Ideas for Growing Food under Difficult Conditions (ECHO; 1996; 397 pages)
View the documentOther ECHO publications
View the documentAbout this book
View the documentAcknowledgements
Open this folder and view contents1: Basics of agricultural development
Open this folder and view contents2: Vegetables and small fruits in the tropics
Open this folder and view contents3: Staple crops
Open this folder and view contents4: Multipurpose trees
Open this folder and view contents5: Farming systems and gardening techniques
Open this folder and view contents6: Soil health and plant nutrition
Open this folder and view contents7: Water resources
Open this folder and view contents8: Plant protection and pest control
Open this folder and view contents9: Domestic animals
Open this folder and view contents10: Food science
Open this folder and view contents11: Human health care
Open this folder and view contents12: Seeds and germplasm
Open this folder and view contents13: Energy and technologies
Open this folder and view contents14: From farm to market
Open this folder and view contents15: Training and missionary resources
Open this folder and view contents16: Oils
Open this folder and view contents17: Above-ground (urban) gardens
View the document18: What is ECHO?
View the documentAdditional ECHO publications
close this folderECHO development notes - issue 52
View the documentIn memoriam Scott Sherman, age 36
View the documentTropical high-altitude growing conditions
View the documentPortable gardens made from old tires.
View the documentNeem seed shelf life
View the documentHow toxic is the herbicide 2,4-d?
View the documentThe nitrogen fixing tree association
View the documentSeeds for the americas
View the documentHome-grown beans produce less gas
View the documentAnnouncements from echo
View the documentEchoes from our network
View the documentUpcoming events
View the documentBooks and other resources
Open this folder and view contentsECHO development notes: issue 53
Open this folder and view contents28 additional technical notes about tropical agriculture
Open this folder and view contentsPrinciples of agroforestry
Open this folder and view contentsGood nutrition on the small farm

Books and other resources


is now available from ECHO! This is the newest in the National Academy of Sciences series on very promising but little-known or neglected species. Writing was funded by USAID. This inspiring volume (the first of three which are planned) discusses the potential of African grains for producing food and other products in Africa and around the world.

The series is "intended as a tool for economic development" among those who may promote these crops for local cultivation, develop markets for the grains, and explore the multiple uses of these species. The species discussed in this series were selected from nominations by people around the world (see EDN 29-3). The information given about the crops helps readers to understand and appreciate the unique value of each plant and evaluate its potential for a given area. There are also very insightful appendixes on "potential breakthroughs" in some of the most pressing problems for development workers, including grain handling and child nutrition.

The species covered include: African rice, finger millet, fonio (acha), pearl millets, sorghums (subsistence, commercial, specialty, and fuel and utility types), tef, other cultivated grains (guinea millet, emmer, irregular barley, and Ethiopian oats), and wild grains. These plants offer much promise because they tolerate many extreme growing conditions and produce well with minimal inputs. They are generally nutritious and offer new flavors. They also offer other benefits; for example, the "fuel and utility sorghums" are used as firewood, liquid fuels, soil reclamation, wind erosion protection, weed control, crop support, fibers, brooms, and animal feeds. As with all the NAS books, further reading and many research contacts are given for each crop.

Noel Vietmeyer and Mark Dafforn with the National Research Council told us they can think of no group more likely to make use of this book than those of you in ECHO's network who work in Africa. So they will donate enough books to send you a free copy while our supply lasts. IF you are already a member of ECHO's overseas network working in any Third World country you may request one free copy of the book by writing clearly the address where the book is to be sent and enclosing postage if your work is not in Africa.

For addresses in Africa only ECHO will pay surface postage. Readers in Western countries can purchase the book for $24.95 plus $4.00 surface postage and handling. For all others (and in Africa if you want airmail) please send appropriate postage: surface $4; airmail Latin America, $6.00; airmail Europe, $11.00; airmail Africa and Asia, $11.70. MasterCard and Visa or checks in US dollars written on a US bank are the only payments we can accept.


(Reviewed by Dr. Al Gebben, retired professor of botany at Calvin College.) ECHO has produced two videotapes on tropical root and tuber crops featuring Dr. Frank Martin, a familiar name to ECHO's network as author of many of our technical notes. Dr. Martin is a retired research scientist in tropical crops, long associated with the USDA research station in Puerto Rico, and a frequent consultant to ECHO on a variety of technical questions. This new video series covers one of his specialties.

In Part I (35 minutes) of the series, Dr. Martin provides insights on the nutrition, agricultural origins, adaptations, propagation, growth rate to maturity, seasonality, storability, processing, food values, and insect and disease problems of six categories of tropical root and tuber crops: potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava, true yams, taro or dasheens, and tanias. Each category noted above is compared for the crop characteristics mentioned.

In Parts II-V, Dr. Martin gives detailed descriptions of individual root crops using live plant materials. He describes plant propagation and plant culture, frequently illustrating the techniques in the field. In addition, methods of food preparation are sometimes demonstrated in the kitchen. Food processing tips are included along with discussions of potential problems and methods of control for pests and diseases within the root crop category. In Part II (47 mins.), true yams are described. In Part III (38 mins., beginning the second videotape), he discusses corm-producing aroid species such as tanias, taros, eddoes and dasheens. Cassava constitutes Part IV (32 mins.), and sweet potatoes, Part V (43 mins.).

The nutritional value of most root crops is limited primarily to calorie-providers or "belly-fillers" in Dr. Martin's words. They frequently are the starch staples in tropical diets, much as the cereal grains are in temperate regions. Some provide additional benefits as sources of dietary fiber or as sources of vitamins A and C. Limited amounts of protein are contained in all of them; however, some like the potato and yams are much better sources of protein than the others. Dr. Martin stresses that root crops by themselves are not a source of a complete diet, just as no single food crop, by itself, can be considered a source of a complete diet.

Tropical root crops are differently adapted to tropical climatic conditions. The white potato needs moderate rainfall in regions with cool nights and warm days. Sweet potatoes and cassava require a hot climate but need only moderate rainfall. Cassava is quite drought tolerant. Taro and tania root crops are very "thirsty." Taro often is grown in paddy culture but tania is normally grown in wet upland conditions.

Root crops also differ greatly in their growth rate to maturity. Whereas white potato may be harvested in 2-3 months, sweet potato requires 5 months in the tropics and up to 7 months in the temperate regions. Cassava commonly requires up to 18 months to maturity but early varieties may require only 10-12 months. Yams commonly require 8-11 months to maturity; taros and tannias 10 months to a year. Information on harvesting times is helpful in planning farming systems. The video series may help you define whether a new crop would be suited to your area, or to better understand common crops in your area that you may not know much about.

Dr. Al Gebben also prepared several excellent study helps to accompany the video series, which will be sent with the video. Outlines and study questions guide you through each section, highlighting some main points of the material in the video. A few questions answered in the videos include: Which of the tropical root crops do not store well? How can you tell when yams are ready for harvest? What parts of the tannias are used for seed material? How should a dasheen corm be prepared for eating? What is tapioca, and how is it prepared? What other plants may harbor the sweet potato weevil?

You may purchase the Introduction to Tropical Root Crop video series from ECHO. The two-tape set costs US$32 in VHS/NTSC format (used in the USA), $50 in PAL or SECAM [specify which], plus postage. Postage is $5 in the Americas, $11 elsewhere.


Dr. John Bishop (see EDN 50-1) wrote two technical notes on housing chickens in a "protected free-range" system. These houses give small farmers a relatively inexpensive alternative to fencing while protecting birds from predators and garden areas from free-range chickens. There are two documents: "Movable Henhouse with Free-Access Range Run for Single Sire Flock of 25" and "Movable Brooderhouse with Free-Access Range Run for Natural Reproduction of 25 Chicks." Complete building instructions and diagrams are given for each range run. They use minimal housing materials and include wire-covered range areas, with a lift bar for moving to a new site. Plans for homemade feeders and waterers are also given. Available from Heifer Project Exchange, P.O. Box 808, Little Rock, AR 72203, USA.


It is important to have the right tool for the job. Tools for Agriculture (238 pp.), now in its fourth edition, can help you identify and find the most suitable tool for your situation. This is an unbelievable resource for anyone who uses agricultural equipment from plows and threshers to oil expellers, pumps, and shovels. Thought-provoking and informative chapters discuss various processes and equipment used in land preparation, sowing and fertilizing, pest control, harvesting, water lifting, livestock care, and beekeeping. The text will help you evaluate which technologies are suitable for your work and area. Then, many manufacturers (mostly in developing countries) are listed for the equipment. [In addition, the publishers maintain an agricultural tools database which is periodically updated. Specific, detailed questions on a wide range of technical matters may be directed to their Technical Enquiry Unit at ITDG, Myson House, Railway Terrace, Rugby CV21 3HT, UK; fax +44 -1788 540270; e-mail]

Small-Scale Food Processing (158 pp.) gives you information about and sources for the equipment needed for preserving and packaging products (including vegetable oils, baked goods, beverages, milk and meat products, and more). As an example, the chapter on fruit and vegetable products outlines basic production stages and equipment required for jams, marmalades, chutneys, sauces, and dried products. The "packing" stage refers you to an illustrated section on the back of the book which lists sources for various sealers in 12 countries. Half of the book is the directory; it includes sources (many in India and the UK) for slicers, hullers, mills, packaging equipment, and much more.

The books are available free from CTA only for nationals of the 70 ACP countries (most of Africa and the Caribbean, and several Pacific Island nations); write CTA, Postbus 380, 6700 AJ, Wageningen, Netherlands. Non-ACP nationals can order the books directly from Intermediate Technology Publications, 103-105 Southampton Row, London WC1B 4HH, UK; fax +44 171 436 2013, or in the US from Women, Ink., 777 United Nations Plaza, Third Floor, New York, NY 10017; fax 212/661-2704; each book costs £30 or US$58.50 plus postage. Ask for their catalogs for some of the best new books in development and technologies. Return to INDEX.

THIS ISSUE is copyrighted 1996. Subscriptions are $10 per year ($5 for students). Persons working with small farmers or urban gardeners in the Third World should request an application for a free subscription. Issues #1-51 will soon be reprinted in an updated and expanded book form (see EDN 51-7). ECHO is a non-profit, Christian organization that helps you help the poor in the Third World to grow food.

NORTH FORT MYERS, FL 33917-2239 U.S.A.
PHONE 941/543-3246 FAX 941/543-5317

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