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ECHO hosts annual agriculture conference

November 21, 2018
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , Pine Island Eagle

Standing around an area surrounded by bamboo, an ECHO worker taught people how to make flooring out of the hard shoots, while nearby, others learned how to integrate trees on their small farms.

The 25th annual ECHO agricultural conference, which took place at the Crowne Plaza in Fort Myers and at the ECHO Farm in North Fort Myers, was by far the largest yet, with 43 countries represented.

A total of 237 attendees represented 75 international organizations, according to Danielle Flood, ECHO spokesperson.

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?Margaret Taquira, a professor with the University of Africa in Zimbabwe, does some grafting at the ECHO Agricultural Conference last week at the ECHO Farm.

Morning and evening sessions were conducted at the Crowne Plaza, while afternoons were spent on the farm, where delegates got to take part in hands-on experiences, tour the acreage and take part in some classroom work.

Rod Sebastian, of ECHO, who had missed the previous conference, said everything has gone well and has developed well over the years.

"One of the themes a few years ago was building resilience. Making these little steps to achieve the goal of eradicating hunger is what we're doing," Sebastian said. "It's interesting to see what these countries do. Even in Florida, it's a sandbox on top of limestone. Here, we've had 30 years to build the soil. It's a testament to what we're doing."

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Marlin Miller, of Haitian Relief Missions, said they are following the ECHO model of teaching farmers to be self-sustaining in one of the world's poorest nations.

"It's hard. You have to plant between rocks, do terracing and things like that. There is some good farmland near the rivers, so the results are good there," Miller said. "They are a resilient people who adapt to change. They are starting to see the results of farming God's way."

Sherrill Auker, who works in Zambia for Overland Missions after interning at ECHO, said it's been amazing to see the new techniques and ideas they have learned that they can incorporate on their own farms.

"We're going into areas to capitalize on the resources they have which, when managed well, can produce incredible harvests," Auker said. "People believe lies society tells them. We tend to diminish the farmer even though we rely on them. They believe the limitations they are told and we give them a different message."

Ana Moshenek, who works for a mission in Costa Rica, took some seeds from a flower for an organic farm and came to the conference to find a missionary to help with her cause.

"We started a couple churches on the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua and we would like an intern to join us," Moshenek said. "We make cheese and soap from goats and the soil is rich. Everything grows. You just have to fight against too much water because it is a rain forest."



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