Approximately 925 million people across the world are hungry.
More than 9 million children under age 5 die every year and malnutrition accounts for more than one-third of these deaths.
I learned of these statistic while touring ECHO.
ECHO exists to reduce hunger and improve the lives of small-scale farmers worldwide.
Located in N. Ft. Myers Florida, ECHO is an information hub for developmental workers from all over the world.
Their purpose is to help those who are teaching farmers become more effective in producing enough food for their families and communities.
The International headquarters, in Florida, includes the Global Farm, Research Center, Seed Bank, Tropical Fruit Nursery, and bookstore.
Echo also operates Regional Impact Centers, providing resources to small-scale farmers, in strategic locations around the world.
These Centers are located in Chiang Mai, Thailand, Arusha Tanzania, and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. In addition, they are working on a soil science project in South Africa.
I had the unique opportunity to tour the facility in N. ft Myers and see first hand the work being done.
The tour was educational and fascinating. Our guide, Vic, was entertaining and engaging. The tour, consisting of demonstrations, farming techniques, plants and animals; showcases innovative ways to help farmers in developing countries. We also observed some of the simple technologies being used in these countries.
One of the highlights was learning of the Moringa tree.
ECHO’s co-founder Dr. Martin Price first learned of the moringa while visiting an orphanage in Haiti. He wrote multiple articles sharing moringa’s amazing nutritional benefits including:
7 times more Vitamin C than oranges
3 times more iron than spinach
3 times more potassium than bananas
4 times more Vitamin A than carrots
4 times more calcium than milk
The crushed moringa seeds are used to clarify and purify water. The seed kernels kill 90% of the bacteria in contaminated water.
Moringa trees grow very quickly. The branches can be cut and placed in moist soil to root and grow into another tree.
This quick-growing, nutrient rich tree provides vital nutrition for those in developing countries.
Another interesting plant growing at ECHO is the Miracle fruit. The small red berry is used medicinally. When the fleshy pulp of the fruit coats the taste buds and inside of the mouth, something amazing happens. Even a sour lemon tastes sweet. The effect remains for 30 minutes or more.
I’m guessing the sugar industry would like this plant to remain a secret.
A couple more interesting discoveries:
Did you know that the mango belongs to the Poison Ivy family of plants?
I’m glad I’m not allergic.
ECHO also works to develop Appropriate Technology. Defined as “Technologies that fit well into a culture, environment, region, and way of life; as opposed to those facets forming around the technology.”
One of these technologies is the Biogas digester. It uses manure, food scraps and plant residue to create methane gas used for cooking. The high quality compost can be used for agriculture.
A portable hand washing sink, called a “tippy tap” can be used to reduce the spread of infection.
Gardening techniques are being developed for small spaces.
The Appropriate Technology used at ECHO serves as a teaching tool to prepare those working in development. These technologies use resources already found in developing countries to reduce workload, improve health and reduce fuel consumption.
The tour of ECHO was both interesting and inspirational. It left me with a renewed hope and a belief that those living in developing countries can be taught to help themselves overcome hunger. Run primarily by volunteers and interns, funded with donations, ECHO is making a difference!
Tours are as follow:
April through November: 10 a.m Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays
December through March: Tuesday-Friday at 10,12, and 2. Saturdays at 10 and 12.
Admission is $10 for adults (13+)
Child (6-12) $5
Children under 6 are free
Tours last approximately 90 min.
I would highly recommend this tour for anyone interested in world hunger, agriculture, gardening, simple technology or just wanting to see an amazing collection of tropical food plants.
It is a rare and unique opportunity to discover an organization making a difference around the world.
To learn more about ECHO and how to schedule a tour, visit http://www.thewaytowander.com