Have you ever tried to bake bread from scratch? Did someone show you, or did you follow a recipe? Imagine that you knew that baking bread was possible, and you had a few of the ingredients but no one to show you. Could you figure out the recipe on your own and bake a tasty loaf of bread? Isn’t it always easier to have someone walk you through it?
Through ECHO, staff and network members from around the world collaborate to provide step-by-step guidance, much like a recipe, to both common and unique challenges in sustainable agricultural development. ECHO provides training, technical documentation, research and seeds. Through ECHO resources, development workers find a wealth of practical and tested information to help improve efficiency, productivity and nutritional diversity in sustainable agriculture with a focus on smallholder farmers in the developing world.
Rod Sebastian is an ECHO donor and volunteer who also is incredibly passionate about sustainable international agriculture. Growing up on a farm in the Midwest, he is intimately familiar with the challenges of farming both in the US and the world. As he travels, he seeks to both learn and share what he has learned.
When Rod attended ECHO’s Tropical Agricultural Development Courses in 2012 he received a USB flash drive filled with copies of 253 ECHO technical resources. These documents include scores of plant information sheets, 50+ issues of ECHO Development Notes, Best Practice Notes, and our Amaranth to Zai Holes Reference Book in its entirety. This drive is obviously a valuable resource, but Rod was not sure what to do with it once he downloaded all the files that he needed.
The answer came to him while packing for an international trip. He’d be cycling extensively through Burundi, a landlocked country in Southeastern Africa, bordered by Rwanda, Tanzania, and Democratic Republic of the Congo. Rod decided to bring the flash drive along on his trip in case he had the opportunity to pass it along to someone who needed it more.
Burundi is one of the five poorest countries in the world with one of the lowest per capita GDPs of any nation, according to the Historical Dictionary of Burundi by Ellen Eggers. The country has suffered from warfare, corruption and poor access to education. Burundi is densely populated and has had substantial emigration as young people seek opportunities elsewhere.
In the Global Hunger Index of 2013, Burundi has an indicator ratio of 38.8, earning the nation the distinction of being the hungriest country in the world.
It was in this beautiful but struggling nation that Rod met a medical missionary named Josh. Josh and his wife, both registered nurses are serving with Burundi Youth for Christ. They came to Gitega, Burundi to start Shammah Health Center, serving the rural community with excellent, affordable and compassionate healthcare. Rod introduced Josh to ECHO and the resources that were available to him free of charge. Then he pulled out the flash drive from his pocket and handed it to him. Not knowing quite what he held in his hand, Josh promised to look at it.
Three days later, Josh fervently sought out Rod to thank him. “Man, I have to hug you!” Josh said excitedly. “I did not realize that there was an organization out there that was putting together agricultural information that people like me can use –right now—in our work here in countries like Burundi.” Josh and another staff member, Claude, had just started a malnutrition project and garden, a first for the Shammah Health Center.
“I did not realize that there was an organization out there that was putting together agricultural information that people like me can use –right now—in our work here in countries like Burundi.”
Rod shared how honored he was to spread the “ECHO effect” in Burundi. “I was really grateful for the opportunity to share that information with Josh and get that kind of feedback from him. I was also able to tell him about the Highlands Symposium that ECHO held in Burundi in October, and it was really encouraging to me that Josh and Claude both attended.”
And the story doesn’t end there. After the symposium, Josh contacted Rod to share what he learned. Rod shares, “he was very excited with the relationships that he made during the networking opportunities that the symposium provided. He realized that he was no longer out there alone, doing things by himself, but he had people around him that he could connect with on an ongoing basis that he could share problems, issues and share information. “
Claude continues to lead the Nutrition Garden project. More seedlings have been planted, vegetables are growing, and more land is being farmed. Claude is very passionate about this program with the support of ECHO will continue to help it grow.
Information is powerful, but unless it is in the hands of those who need it, it is wasted. God wastes nothing. The simple act of sharing information on a flash drive can be key in ECHO’s mission of helping those working to improve the lives of many others. Thank you for your role in helping ECHO provide life-saving resources around the world.