July 1st, 2012 marked the opening of ECHO East Africa! The East Africa Impact Center was opened in Arusha, Tanzania and is already welcoming guests. It is located 10 kilometers west of Arusha, on the premises of Habari Maalum, a Christian media development center. Habari Maalum houses radio and television programs for its Africa-wide network, a printing press, and a newly expanded campus for degree training in communications technologies. The center also houses a tree nursery which disseminates up to 400,000 tree seedlings each year. ECHO East Africa Impact Center will be housed in a small office at the start, wherein a classroom and library will be developed, as well as a nursery within the larger tree nursery which will house appropriate food plants, a container for a seed bank, and an area to demonstrate appropriate technologies. As training is at the core of ECHO’s mission, Its most important function will be training and sharing of information across the expanding network of ECHO partners in the region.
During a recent consulting trip to Malawi, Tim Watkins, head of ECHO’s Agricultural Operations, was speaking Lester Maone, Farm Manager of the United Methodist Church of Malawi’s Agricultural Initiative. Lester had not attended the First ECHO East Africa Symposium because he was not familiar with ECHO. In the last year, ECHO activities in the region brought ECHO to the group’s attention. Lester is not only planning to attend the next Symposium in Tanzania, but he was so excited about ECHO’s training opportunities that he also attended ECHO’s Tropical Agricultural Development Course in July, 2012.
The ECHO East Africa Impact Center hopes to draw on a rich array of resources within the East Africa Region and beyond, to gather information from them to create a Resource Library, and to play a crucial role in spreading information on technologies, best practices and lessons learned throughout the ECHO network. It will respond to inquiries by email, through its own regional newsletter, and through contributions to the wider ECHO network publications.
A regionally-focused resource library can bring strategic knowledge literally into the hands of network members who otherwise never would have access to these materials. ECHO publications are a mainstay of this collection, but also present are regionally appropriate topics by other authors, in other languages. The ECHO East Africa Impact Center will also be able to collect information from the region, making the resources more accurate, complete and proven to work in their area.
Some of the richness of the resources within the region are in close proximity to the ECHO EA Impact Center, and include numerous institutions which will add value through collaboration to make information, plant resources, and training available to the network. As such, these service providers do not need ECHO to duplicate their services. They are an established network of resources that network members can visit or contact in the region. Among these are: The World Vegetable Center, The Northern Zone Agricultural Research and Training Institute (NZARTI), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture’s banana research and breeding station, the Tropical Pesticides Research Institute, and the Lyamungu Coffee Research Institute.
Erwin Kinsey, ECHO East Africa Impact Center Director brings years of experience to ECHO as a leader in East African agricultural development. He served with Heifer International in Tanzania first as an advisor for four years and then as Country Director for over 20 years. The last three years with Heifer he served as Regional Development Officer as Heifer transitioned to national staff. For the last five years he served as Country Director for Global Service Corps coordinating volunteer service learning experiences that have a sustainable impact in rural communities. He has authored and co-authored a number of publications on sustainable agriculture and animal husbandry in both English and Kiswahili. Utilizing these long-standing connections in various parts of East Africa, ECHO hopes to reach out to yet unreached agricultural workers and have an even greater impact in the region.
The first tasks of the ECHO EA Impact Center will concentrate prayerfully on logistics of opening the office, a celebratory inauguration, hiring local staff and welcoming past ECHO Intern Amy VanNocker as an agricultural specialist. Supporting the Together Initiative in Karamoja, Uganda (highlighted in the last issue of ECHO News) through visits and consultations and preparing for the 2nd ECHO East Africa Symposium which will be conducted in Arusha, Tanzania from 5th-8th February, 2013 will give this new Regional Impact Center a busy start, but productive and exciting first year.