News and Events

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.

John Wallbrown

Name: John Wallbrown

Current title/profession: Agribusiness Owner, CFO of Deerfield Farms Services

Current hometown: Deerfield, Ohio

Areas of expertise: Sales, design, construction and service of grains storage and handling systems


ASSIGNMENT OVERVIEW

Name of project: Farmer-to-Farmer in Ghana

Location of the project: Ghana

Organization that sent the volunteer: ACDI/VOCA


VOLUNTEER IMPACT

On March 15th, 2013 John Wallbrown returned from Ghana after three weeks as a volunteer for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Farmer-to-Farmer program managed by the nonprofit organization ACDI/VOCA. The program relies on the expertise of carefully selected mid-career professionals who volunteer from U.S. farms, land grant universities, cooperatives, private businesses and nonprofits to respond to the local needs of farmers, businesses and organizations in developing and transitional countries.

In an effort to support business development in the rice-processing sector in Ghana, John worked with three rice-milling enterprises to improve record keeping practices. He also trained staff on financial and inventory management, budgeting, business development and planning strategies. Many young businesses in Ghana need assistance in improving record keeping and business management practices, and the trainings John conducted will help the rice milling enterprises improve services to farmers and expand their businesses. Ghana, in West Africa, is a lower-middle income economy with a tropical climate; agriculture accounts for 26 percent of GDP and employs 52 percent of the workforce. John previously completed a volunteer assignment for ACDI/VOCA in Ghana in August 2012, in which he taught farm management and business skills. 

John is currently moving to with his wife, Jessica, to begin a new business venture in Morocco. They are hoping to bring farming practices that have worked successfully for them in the U.S. to struggling farmers in Morocco, and help their agricultural sector grow. You can read more about their story here

Angela Caporelli

 "There are some real exciting aquaculture projects throughout the world that will help people live healthier and abundant lives. If we have the knowledge to share, we can help feed many and be an integral part of developing wealthier, smarter and healthier generations in the future." 

                                                                                                                    


Profession: Aquaculture Coordinator, KY Dept. of Agriculture BAP auditor, NSF Incorporated

Career Summary: Angela works with farmers and other members of the agriculture industry to increase awareness of good aquaculture practices and promote the value of aquaculture species. She also works with the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point's (HACCP) plans and processors to ensure safe products.

Area(s) of Expertise: Aquaculture extension for extensive culture and semi-intensive production systems, food safety issues and concerns in aquaculture, rural aquaculture/agriculture integration for increased production.

Education: MS in Aquaculture from KY State University; BS in Aquaculture and Resource Development from the University of Rhode Island

Language(s) Spoken: English, Kikongo


ASSIGNMENT OVERVIEW

Name of project: Aquaculture without Frontiers Small Grant through Farmer-to-Farmer Special Program Support Project

SPSP Grantee: University of Arizona and Aquaculture without Frontiers

Duration of Assignment: 3 weeks

Volunteer Assignment and Impact: While in Kenya, Angela evaluated an established aquaculture field station and reported on the efficacy of staff and current training protocols. In addition, she developed and conducted aquaculture workshops for over 75 farmers and staff throughout the region. In the workshops, she introduced more appropriate aquaculture technology and application methods to improve the aquaculture production and efficiency of Tilapia and Clarias. She also developed and taught feeding and fertilization protocol for pond culture.

Benedicto Marinas

Name: Benedicto Marinas

Current title/profession: Chef

Current hometown: New York City

Areas of expertise: Culinary Arts


ASSIGNMENT OVERVIEW

Name of project: Improving the Sustainability of Malian Sheep and Goat Farming Program

Location of the project: West Sikasso region, Mali

Duration of assignment: Eight weeks

Organization that sent the volunteer: Common Pastures/Browse and Grass Growers Cooperative

In the village of Solla-Bougouda, as in many other villages in the West Sikasso region, most families have corn porridge for breakfast; and corn porridge, break corn or corn paste with tomatoes, onion or okra sauce for dinner. If a third meal is taken the options are the same.

New York City Chef Benedicto came to Bougouni Circle in the Sikasso region of Mali to share his creative use of farmer products in nutritious, inexpensive meals. He worked with 4 villages and 1 school including 125 men, 129 women, 118 youth and totaling 372 (36 with disabilities).

He first requested that the participants share their cooking methods and ingredients. He then explored what was available in their community gardens and sold on the roadways. With this information he was able to increase the nutrition and diversity of their meals. Measuring tools were ignored. Participants were encouraged to use their intuition and trust their eyes and taste when creating meals.

Almost half of children in the rural areas of the Sikasso region, 42%, show delayed growth (Malian Demographic and Health survey: EDSM-V 2012-2013). Benedicto built the capacity of men, women, and youth to prepare and appreciate more diverse food choices, such as the highly nutritious moringa tree leaf, papaya, sweet potatoes, and spices, along with the addition of protein from fresh milk, eggs, chicken, and fish from the local river.

The village chief, Mr. Djeka Mariko, praised the results: “Benedicto you are a blessing…, by coming so far and training all of us on the importance of using our foods as our medicine to maintain health.”


Chef Benedicto Recipe - Corn and Moringa in Fish Broth

Ingredients:

  • Moringa leaves
  • Dried catfish
  • Corn Kernel
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Tomatoes
  • Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Heat oil in a large skillet. Cook and stir garlic, then onion, ginger and tomatoes in hot skillet until softened, about five minutes. Add the dried catfish, stir slowly until tender. Add water. Let it boil. Add the corn kernel. Simmer until cooked, about 15 minutes. Add the moringa leaves. Season with salt and pepper. In no less than a minute after the moringa leaves are added, this dish is ready.

Note: moringa leaves gets overcooked easily and when they are, they tend to get bitter.

 

Fresh corn, moringa leaves and dried fish

Paul Christ

Name: Paul Christ

Current title/profession: Retired

Current hometown: Minnesota

Areas of expertise: Economics, risk management, strategic planning, and dairy 


ASSIGNMENT OVERVIEW

Name of project: Farmer-to-Farmer in Russia

Location of the project: Russia

Organization that sent the volunteer: Land O'Lakes International Development


VOLUNTEER IMPACT

Paul Christ, retired Vice President, Economics and Risk Management for Land O’Lakes, applied his 26 years of Land O’Lakes experience to a recent volunteer assignment in Russia. As a volunteer in the USAID-funded John Ogonowski Farmer-to- Farmer Program, Paul traveled for two weeks in November–December 2006 to central Siberia to advise the Tomsk Department of Agriculture on strategic planning and development of their dairy industry. His knowhow covered the entire dairy value chain, from production to marketing. Still, Paul discovered that his Russian counterparts were most interested in the structure of the U.S. dairy industry. He delivered six seminars on this topic to urban and rural audiences, all of them followed by rigorous question-and-answer sessions. Though the weather was chilly, literally -17°F upon arrival, the Russians warmly received the exchange of information in the seminars. In a recent interview, Paul shared his views on being a volunteer:

Why did you volunteer?

I am rewarded by each foreign assignment. It is one of the most rewarding things you can do. I am much enriched by each assignment and receive more than I contribute. Regarding this particular assignment, I was always interested in Russia and had taken a course in the Russian language in the Army.

How did being a part of the Land O’Lakes organization positively influence what you bring to an overseas assignment?

Because Land O’Lakes is a major player in the dairy industry, I could answer all their questions about the U.S. dairy industry. Working at a broadbased organization such as Land O’Lakes gave me a range of experience that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.

How did your trip benefit you personally and professionally?

In terms of professional development, as on other trips, I learned about agriculture in another part of the world and other ways of doing things. As for personal development, it was a confidence-building exercise.I was the only American around  except in Moscow at the beginning and end of the trip. I had some culture shock but learned I could fit in and made a point of spending some time on my own without the interpreter.

Do you ever recommend to others that they volunteer internationally?

Yes, at social and professional occasions, I talk about my foreign assignments. People are intrigued by the stories. If others seem interested, I encourage them to contact Land O’Lakes International Development to fill out an application. I stress to them that it is a new cultural experience. You go into it needing to depend on others for help. By following the in-country staff’s advice on where to go and where not to, I’m glad to say I’ve never had a bit of trouble. My experience is that people are decent everywhere.

This article was originally written by Land O'Lakes.

Trevor Hylton

 “I saw another side of Haiti; many productive growers growing crops with very limited resources. Some of the growers did not realize how important they were to the overall operation of the country as a whole. I gained firsthand knowledge and left with a better understanding of the day to struggles of average small scale crop producer. The students for the most part were bright, articulate and very enthusiastic.”


ASSIGNMENT OVERVIEW

Home State: Florida, U.S.

Name of project: FAMU Haiti Farmer to Farmer Special Program Support Project

Country: Haiti

SPSP Grantee: FAMU

Duration of Assignment: 11 days

Summary of Volunteer Role and Assignment: Trevor was a FAMU/Multi-County Extension Agent for their Farmer-to-Farmer program at the Universite Caraibe (UC) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Trevor visited the University for two weeks during their summer break and presented techniques for vegetable gardening, planting, and soil irrigation. In an effort to ensure maximum student participation, University Caraibe decided to have a two-week on-campus summer session. The university students received training from the F2F volunteers during the first week. During the second week, the university students, with the assistance of the volunteers, provided training to Haitian farmers and school aged children during a two-day agricultural summer camp.

Volunteer Impact: As a result of Trevor’s assignment, the students and farmers are better equipped to understand the different aspects of soil irrigation and vegetable gardening. The students and farmers have been able to evaluate their soil better and have also used soil kits that were left with them during the training. The students have also successfully planted a school vegetable garden.

Sarah Master

Name: Sarah Master

Current title/profession: Chef

Current hometown: Minneapolis, MN

Areas of expertise: Culinary Arts

ASSIGNMENT OVERVIEW

Name of project: Improving the Sustainability of Malian Sheep and Goat Farming Program

Volunteer Scope of Work: Small Ruminant Full Carcass Utilization, Sausage, Curing and Smoking

Location of the project: Sikasso region, Mali

Duration of assignment: 10 days

Organization that sent the volunteer: Common Pastures/Browse and Grass Growers Cooperative

The Sikasso region has higher rainfall than most other areas of Mali and some of the best agricultural land available. The region currently produces excellent fruits and vegetables in such abundance that they cannot be consumed fast enough and are regularly wasted.

Roadside stands, in full sun, are loaded with products such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and eggs throughout the heat of the day. Without dependable electricity and adequate refrigeration, even in cities, preservation is a challenge and not common.

Minneapolis Chef Sarah Master came to Bamako, Mali to share methods of preserving foods with chefs, staff, and students. She taught several methods of preservation including: curing, smoking, drying, and pickling of meats and similar methods for preserving fruits and vegetables. In collaboration with 3 restaurants available local foods and resources were utilized to create new menu-ready dishes.

Meat: New ways of using the entire animal (i.e., fish, lamb and goat) were explored. As an example, a whole goat was purchased at the live animal market, slaughtered, cut up, and smoked for quick sandwiches as well as using the liver to make pate for a spread. Market vegetables (e.g., carrot, okra, green pepper, and onion) were pickled to use as a condiment. Methods of preparing meats combined with vegetables were experimented with leading to a special dinner event featuring off-cuts and offal. A creative menu consisting of testicles, intestines, tongue, livers, hearts, chicken heads and feet along with vegetables was introduced to staff and delighted guests. “Best meal I have ever tasted” raved a restaurant guest from the United Nations.
Vegetables and Fruits: Fruits and vegetables are easily preserve by drying, canning and pickling. In-season baskets of ripe, fresh fruits and vegetables line the roadways. Limes readily grow in Mali and can be used to raise the acidity level for canning. Supplies needed are simple and include a heating source, stockpot, mixing bowls, knife, slotted spoon, fork, and sterilized jars with lids.

The recipes for pickling and preserving can be used not only as condiments and compliments to their menus, but also to preserve fresh, nutritious vegetables and fruits from the local markets. The staff and chefs all had concerns about the electricity and refrigeration issues in Bamako.

“I believe the pickling and preserving will be used regularly," said Sarah. "I am eager to return to teach more people how to preserve their meats and vegetables through canning, pickling, smoking, and drying.”

Canning Tomatoes

Method: 1. Boil a pot of water; 2. Prep the cold bath; 3. Take off the stems and slice a shallow "X" in the bottom of each; 4; Cook until the skins wrinkles and splits; 5. Lift the tomatoes out of the pot and plunge into the cold water for a few seconds; 6. Transfer the cooled tomatoes to another bowl; 7. Strip the skins from the tomatoes (optional); 8. Chop into small pieces; 9. Using a fork, squeeze the tomatoes to make them smaller and juicier; 10. Bring tomato sauce to simmer over medium heat for about 30 or minutes stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens; 11. Stir in lemon or lime juice and taste to determine sourness; 12. Transfer the sauce into sterilized jars and cover tightly; 13. Place in boiling water for no more than 30 minutes; 14. Allow to cool undisturbed; 15. Results may be stored for up to a year. 

Pickling

Ingredients: 4 parts water, 3 parts sugar (white or brown), 2 parts vinegar (any flavor), 1 part salt. Any spicing desired (e.g., garlic, pepper, peppercorns, dried chilis, dill, cloves…).

1. Sterilize clean jars and lids by boiling covered with water for at least 15 minutes; 2. Combine pickling mixture and to a full boil; 3. Place vegetables in sterilized jars; 4. Pour boiling mixture over the vegetables leaving some space at the top; 5. Seal the lids, cool, and store.  

 

Participant Fatoumata Coulibally proudly showing her preserved tomatoes.

Bill Nichols

Name: Bill Nichols

Current title/profession: Principal at Nichols Consulting

Current hometown: Boston, Massachusetts

Areas of expertise: Marketing, strategic planning


ASSIGNMENT OVERVIEW

Name of project: Farmer-to-Farmer in the Dominican Republic

Location of the project: Dominican Republic

Organization that sent the volunteer: Partners of the Americas


VOLUNTEER IMPACT

Bill Nichols is a Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) veteran. A graduate of West Point and Harvard Business School, Mr. Nichols has over 30 years of both domestic and international management and marketing experience. He has used his expertise on multiple F2F assignments for Partners of the Americas, most recently in the Dominican Republic (DR) Yaque del Norte working in the watershed with Plan Yaque, a non-profit environmental organization that is dedicated to guaranteeing access to water for all individuals who depend on the watershed.

Partners of the Americas’ F2F program in the DR seeks to increase the resilience of vulnerable populations to the unpredictable impacts of global climate change. The program has a particular emphasis on water management in the Yaque del Norte watershed, which directly and indirectly affects two million people. However, Plan Yaque’s six-person staff was overwhelmed by the number and magnitude of environmental issues that needed to be addressed. In June 2014, F2F Volunteer Bill Nichols traveled to the DR to assist the organization in developing a strategic plan to prioritize the greatest needs for climate change adaptation in communities most affected.

As a result of the assignment, Plan Yaque is focusing activities on three critical issues: water contamination and quality, micro-watershed degradation, and deforestation. Mr. Nichols also worked with Plan Yaque on strategies to increase impact, such as focusing activities primarily on the upper watershed so that a greater number of farmers and inhabitants downstream can benefit. By March 2015, Plan Yaque had a clearer and more focused set of key areas of work. Their new vision prioritizes partnering with the right organizations to strategically address the many environmental issues that impact the Yaque del Norte water resources.

Download this story in PDF format below. This article was originally written by Partners of the Americas.

 

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