Critical Knowledge Resources
Whether we are writing a publication, planning a training workshop, recommending seeds, or responding to a question, our agricultural staff need to know which crops and techniques are most likely to succeed under the challenging conditions that most small-scale farmers face. That knowledge requires scientifically accurate information based on many forms of research.
Bringing Research Where it is Most Needed
Much of our knowledge base is gleaned from our international network of people serving and working alongside farmers and gardeners. Their firsthand observations in the field, combined with a wealth of farmer knowledge they absorb, add tremendous value to the training resources we develop. Our Regional Impact Centers have enabled us to expand our research activities beyond Florida and to engage more closely with development practitioners and lead farmers. We also advise or supply trial quantities of seeds to support university students and faculty involved in research consistent with ECHO’s mission. As research institutions report findings in journals, we distill that knowledge, using our ECHOcommunity network and Regional Impact Centers to distribute it to those who need it most.
Research Comes to Life
The partnering aspect of our research was exemplified in a 2017-18 effort by ECHO and Plant With Purpose to evaluate a maize/legume intercropping strategy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The research was done using a Farmer Field School (FFS) approach in which farmers are the experimenters. The 2:4:2 intercropping method was compared to traditionally-grown maize in six FFS sites. Of the 165 participating farmers, 145 said they were satisfied with the system and would like to use it in the future. To further the impact of this research, findings were captured in ECHO Development Notes, made available in three languages (English, French, and Spanish) and sent to 9,858 subscribers.
Testing Hypotheses in Real-World Contexts
ECHO carries out practical research that is directly applicable to small-scale farmers. Our specific goal is to reach farmers with ideas they can easily evaluate and modify within the context of their own fields and gardens. Our key motivation is to reduce the risks that farmers might face testing techniques on their own, enabling them to quickly improve their livelihoods.
Promising techniques or crop varieties are shared with ECHO’s network of partner farmers and practitioners, who are eager to test them in the field. Researchers gain powerful feedback from diverse groups of agriculturalists around the world, and ECHO network members benefit from the conclusions and lessons-learned that are then distributed to farmers.
Sometimes our role is to facilitate the application of an already-proven concept. Researchers from Pennsylvania State University spent a week at ECHO to test the results of years of laboratory research on using Moringa-treated sand to filter and purify water. Filters were constructed from bamboo and PVC plastic to test their results outside of a laboratory environment. The first in a series of experiments was successful in reducing the amount of contamination in the water to U.S. drinking water levels.
ECHO Research Findings Shared in Journals & Conferences
ECHO findings not only benefit small-scale farming families internationally, but they also enrich the scientific community. Interacting with the scientific community connects our staff with researchers interested in contributing their expertise. Multiple articles have been published in peer-review journals and presented at symposia and conferences. Some examples include
A manuscript, Local Treatments and Vacuum Sealing as Novel Control Strategies for Stored Seed Pests in the Tropics, was recently published in Agronomy for Sustainable Development detailing practical options for controlling bruchids/weevils in stored cowpea seeds.
Productivity of Moringa oleifera Augmented with Intercropped Tropical Legumes was published in Acta Horticulturae, No. 1158, the Proceedings of the Ist International Symposium on Moringa (in Manilla, Philippines).
An abstract and poster, Maize and Legume Interactions in a Multi-Species Relay Cropping System in Southern Africa, were presented as part of the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Agronomy, Crop Science, and Soil Science Societies of America.