Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A visit to ECHO

We visited a place called ECHO on Tuesday, June 28.  ECHO stands for Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization.  They teach others how to help poor international people, especially in the agricultural arena. 

I love some of the innovative stuff they have come up with.  It is a living farm, designed to train those interested some hands-on techniques.  On our tour the first thing we learned was that they try to use what the country/area they go into has.  They have learned that to introduce something uncultural usually does not work.  The people might be fascinated by it, but it won't get used.

Next, we were shown various plants that can be grown (or are growing) in various parts of the world that their team or other scientists have discovered are useful to that region.  The Moringa tree is one of those.  All parts of the tree are useful for something.  The leaves have more potassium than a banana/potato, more calcium than milk, antioxidants, and amino acids.  The wood can be used for fire wood or carpentry.

Moringa Tree (and large pods with seeds)

Next we visited the water purification area.  Again, Moringa tree comes to the rescue.  By crushing the seeds and placing them on top of dirty water, about 90% of the contaminants settled to the bottom (including ecol i).  Next, clear, plastic water bottles are used to solarize the water and kill any other bacteria present.  Since most of these people won't have thermometers, they use a small amount of soybean oil mixed in with the water.  At 151degrees the oil mixes in with the water, which is the same temp needed to kill the bacteria.

Another thing I thought was really neat, and we will try this when we get home, was the "cooking brick".  Most poor areas just use rocks, wood, and a stove to cook with.  But you can only cut down so many trees before you have to go farther to gather more wood. 

A cooking brick can be made by chopping up leaves, paper, "road apples", and just about anything else one can find, mixing with some water and compressing in a cylinder, to squeeze out the excess water.  And wa la, you have yourself a cooking brick.  Very cool.

The kids enjoyed a workout on a special contraption and pumped water at the same time.  You know, we have a pond and a stream at home....

There were many other things we learned about and I'm sure we only scratched the surface.  I would love to take a course to learn other techniques, but I guess that will have to wait til next visit.

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