Hungry to Learn: Staff from Thailand and Florida team up to train Laotian Pastors

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When Sang* became a Christian, his neighbor cut down his corn field.  The police didn’t come to his aid because they didn’t support his faith either. It was the pastor of his church that looked out for his family and helped him try to replant his field. Pastors in Laos deal with persecution each day, and many have been jailed for a time. They are also bi-vocational which means they are farmers, as well as pastors, to provide for their families. 

In late October, ECHO Asia Farm Manager, Sombat, as well as four other staff,  trained 70 Laotian pastors for three days at the Village of Hope, Thailand. Topics included Soil Health, Plant Life, Deep Litter Pig System, Banana Stalk Silage, and Livestock. Interns Dani Hurlbutt and Elizabeth Casey shared techniques that they learned on the ECHO Global Farm in Florida with the pastors.  “They were hungry to learn,” shares Dani. “When Sombat was teaching grafting they were taking close-up pictures and crowding in to see.” 

Below: Laotian pastors gather closely to ECHO farm manager Sombat as he teaches a seminar on grafting. Above: Sombat demonstrates an improved cookstove.

Below: Laotian pastors gather closely to ECHO farm manager Sombat as he teaches a seminar on grafting. Above: Sombat demonstrates an improved cookstove.

During the session on banana stalk silage, the pastors learned how to finely chop banana stalks, mix with molasses and sugar and let the fermentation process produce a nutritious feed supplement for pigs. The pastors commented that they used to boil the banana stalks for 2-3 hours to be able to feed them to their livestock. This technique will now save them both water and firewood, and improve the health of their animals.  

ECHO staff and volunteers were honored to share the knowledge with the pastors, and were greatly encouraged to learn from them as well. Then, every afternoon they taught nearly 80 children from the children’s home! It was fun and rewarding as the Laotian pastors were extremely enthusiastic and were very involved and engaged. The children had loads of fun too, getting muddy and learning how to garden!

Our local partner is already excited about next year’s training... and so are we!

Asia Team Expands

Outgoing Director,  Dr. Abram Bicksler

Outgoing Director,
Dr. Abram Bicksler

How do we say thank you for years of energetic and visionary leadership to ECHO?  Words can’t adequately express our gratitude to Abram Bicksler for his leadership of ECHO Asia during the past five years. We also celebrate the new opportunities Abram will have to reduce hunger and serve the poor in his new role as an Agricultural Officer on the Ecosystem Services and Agroecology team of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in Rome, Italy.  

We are also pleased to introduce Dr. Eduardo “Ed” Sabio as the new Director of the ECHO Asia Impact Center in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Dr. Sabio is a committed follower of Jesus Christ distinguished by  humility, integrity, team-building, and consistency. Ed has decades of experience in agricultural development, community-based development, natural resources management, program/project management, participatory monitoring and evaluation, and applied research. He recently shared, “A missing piece in many NGOs is the spiritual dimension of development which I found fundamental in ECHO’s work. My practical experience tells me that it is the air that breaths sustainable change and transformation.”

In addition, Dr. Sabio’s technical expertise in agro-forestry, livestock, variety trials, crop production, and value chains will be a significant help to the ECHO Asia team. 

A missing piece in many NGOs is the spiritual dimension of development which I found fundamental in ECHO’s work. My practical experience tells me that it is the air that breaths sustainable change and transformation.
— Dr. Ed Sabio
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Dr. Sabio, a Philippine national, has worked in 10 Asian countries and served in leadership roles with three international organizations. Ed was the Regional Director for Rikolto in Vietnam, the Country Director for Heifer International in the Philippines, and the Program Head for the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) in the Philippines. Dr. Sabio earned his PhD from Cornell University in Agricultural Extension and Adult Education.

Dr. Sabio began serving with ECHO Asia on January 7, 2019.