Bringing technology to those who wouldn’t otherwise have access to it can be a tricky thing. On one hand, technology can provide safety, convenience, and a more efficient way of making or acquiring much needed resource. On the other, some technology is expensive, difficult to repair, and impossible to safely dispose of, making ownership more of a burden than a joy.
In Florida, ECHO (Educational Concerns For Hunger Organization) works to help those in developing nations access more effective means of agriculture, but they’re not distributing GMO seeds or handing out toxic fertilizers. Instead, the ECHO Global Farm & Nursery in Fort Meyers trains aid workers how to operate a farm built around sustainable principles and open-source technology.
When it comes to technology, ECHO isn’t concerned with minimalist design or an attractive user interface. For ECHO and the future farmers it trains, an appropriate technology is one that “matches the needs of a people, fits the materials available, is cost-effective and has a maintenance level that equals the skillset and available tools of a community.”
Although solar panels or tractors might be helpful in planting acres of crops, the cost and level of skill required to upkeep such technologies is likely to be more of a burden than a blessing. So, instead of working to distribute these advanced technologies, ECHO focuses on DIY biosand filters; adobe ovens made from clay, sawdust, and straw; bike-powered table saws; Moringa seed water filters; and an upcycled hand-washing system known as a Tippy-Tap.
Using their South Florida location as a simulator for the tropical environments in which most aid workers will find themselves, ECHO serves as both a laboratory and testing grounds for the development of these low-tech solutions. Design plans, as well as seeds and knowledge, are shared openly in the hopes that they may improve the lives of those in developing nations.
Read more about ECHO’s work and see photos of the open-source technologies described above in this Dvice photo gallery.