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ECHO Global Farm in Ft. Myers showcases farming life from around the world

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Want to learn more about farm life in other countries? Then ECHO Global Farm in Ft. Myers is the place you want to visit.

MDSC_0069odern farm life in the U.S. often relies on some pricey equipment. Yet in many third-world countries, expensive equipment is hard to come by, and farmers struggle just to feed their family.

On the Appropriate Technology tour at ECHO Global Farm in North Ft. Myers, Florida, visitors find out about the myriad ways that third-world farmers can use materials readily available in their area to make life easier.

ECHO—short for Educational Concern for Hunger Organization—is a resource center to guide any and all interested in sustainable farming around the world. Its global headquarters are in North Ft. Myers, but it has three other locations in Africa and Asia. Although ECHO has many bright people working there to discover new ways to help small-scale farmers, the organization sees itself essentially as a clearinghouse of good ideas. “We want people to visit us and say ‘I can try that at home,’” said PR manager Danielle Flood.

Harold Flood of ECHO Global Farm shows an aquaponics system.

Harold Flood of ECHO Global Farm shows an aquaponics system.

For the record, Flood is referring to representatives from around the world who visit ECHO or its website for guidance on sustainable farming. However, the public can visit ECHO for its nursery and store, its general tour, or its Appropriate Technology tour.

When you read “appropriate technology,” maybe you think of are a smartphone or computer. Think again—and then again.

We’re talking old bikes, PVC pipe, slabs of wood, 55-gallon plastic drums—these are “technologies” that a small-scale farmer in countries like Kenya or India, for example, may have to rely on to cook their food more efficiently or transport water.

Harold Flood of ECHO in the aquaponics area at ECHO's Appropriate Technology tour.

Harold Flood of ECHO in the aquaponics area at ECHO’s Appropriate Technology tour.

Earlier this year, tour guide Harold Flood (Danielle Flood’s father-in-law) enthusiastically showcased a dizzying variety of gee-whiz ideas to help those in developing countries. It’s amazing how much some simple engineering and creativity can make a difference.

We talked about rocket stoves, which are efficient, small cooking stoves that can be made with easy-to-find materials. If the mother in a household is cooking porridge all day, she’ll typically do so over a small fire on the ground on top of three stones. That fire emits a lot of smoke and isn’t safe for children playing nearby. The mom also spends a good portion of her day collecting wood for the fire.

In contrast, rocket stoves lessen the fumes from smoke, are safer, and require only small sticks to burn efficiently, said Harold Flood.

Harold Flood also talked about purifying water with the help of seeds from a moringa tree, which grows in countries like India. With use of the seeds, a plastic bottle, and the sun, the water becomes much cleaner to drink. The tour also covered other ways to purify water, such as a bio-sand filter, made with a cement container, tubes, gravel, and, you guessed it, sand.

DSC_0070The tour reminds you of how much we take clean, running, and abundant water for granted. The solutions that ECHO shows are for parts of the world where clean, running, abundant water is definitely not a given.

Flood also demonstrated homemade water pumps, an aquaponics garden (which provides both food and fish for a community using it), handmade gardening tools, machinery powered by people pedaling old bikes, oil presses, and a small kitchen burner powered by natural gas—real natural gas, as in cow manure processed specially to become natural gas used for cooking. There are plenty more examples at ECHO, but you get the idea.

Developmental workers and farmers who learn of ideas through ECHO won’t be able to use all of the ideas, said Flood. However, the hope is there will be one or more things that click. “We don’t have the silver bullet, but we have options,” he said.

Urban gardening examples shown during ECHO's general tour.

Urban gardening examples shown during ECHO’s general tour.

Note: This article originally appeared in the Central Florida Agri-Leader. Click here for that article.

For more on ECHO, here are some of Florida Culture’s other stories:

ECHO Farm expands awareness of global hunger issues

Educating about global hunger solutions

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