Dr. Bill Zimmerman

Agricultural & Environmental Microbiologist

Name: Dr. Bill Zimmerman

Current title/profession: Agricultural & Environmental Microbiologist

Current hometown: Jefferson City, Missouri

Areas of expertise: Soil and Environmental Microbiology

Education: PhD, University of Missouri- Columbia


ASSIGNMENT OVERVIEW

Name of project: Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) in Ghana, Compost Production for Vegetable Production

Location of the project: Jirapa District, Ghana

Duration of assignment: Two weeks

Organization that sent the volunteer: ACDI/VOCA Implementer of this project on behalf of USAID:

ACDI/VOCA VOLUNTEER EXPERIENCE
Jirapa District in the Upper West Region of Ghana is dominated by smallholder farmers who grow crops primarily for home consumption. An increase in demand of their crops prompted the farmers to cultivate larger acreages for sale, however the traditional farming methods and tools commonly used resulted in low crop yields. A government-established fertilizer subsidy program was cancelled in 2014, preventing farmers from using inorganic fertilizer on their crops the following growing season.

The Jirapa Farmers Network (JFN), located in nine communities across Jirapa District, requested the technical assistance of an F2F volunteer to train its members on proper preparation and application techniques of compost and organic manure to increase their crop yields. The purpose of the assignment was to help members who could not afford to purchase inorganic fertilizer for their farms to improve their yields by supplementing their soil with compost.

Dr. Bill Zimmerman, an Agricultural and Environmental Microbiologist from Jefferson City, Missouri, travelled to Jirapa District to train JFN’s members in seven of its sites on composting. Upon arrival, Dr. Zimmerman was pleased to find that the environment was similar to that of Liberia where his previous F2F Assignment was located allowing him to adapt his previous knowledge to his current assignment. The volunteer, alongside the trainees, constructed 5 demonstration compost pits to pilot on the group’s shared one-acre farm during the 2015/2016 growing season. In addition, five members dug compost pits to use on their own farms instead of using inorganic fertilizer. At the end of the harvest, the farmers who applied the organic compost expressed that the use of compost reduced their total production cost and cultivated the same yield as the farmers who applied the inorganic fertilizer.

Since the assignment, the farmers have decided to completely switch from inorganic fertilizer to composting animal manure and food residue. The leaders of JFN have decided to replicate the compost training to members in other communities and are proudly encouraging farmers to use more compost and organic manure to supplement the cost of inorganic fertilizer. 

"Thanks to the volunteer, I now know the waste generated in my home and farm can be useful. Although the preparation of compost is time and labor intensive, it is cost effective and I will keep using it to supplement the inorganic fertilizer so as to reduce my cost of production and improved the soil fertility.’’ Karimu, Chairman JFN.