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Winrock International

Volunteer Post

Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer Dr. Zama, Winrock’s Volunteer of the Year, Promotes Organic Farming in Ghana

Eric M. Washington

Winrock’s Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) provides a unique opportunity to engage volunteers to share their technical expertise while supporting a local organization. Every year, F2F recognizes one volunteer for dedication to the project. This year, Winrock recognized first-time volunteer, Dr. Isaac Zama. Dr. Zama traveled to Ghana and worked with a group called the Participatory Guarantee System Ghana (PGS Ghana), an organic market that raises awareness of organic food systems and gives smallholder farmers the tools and market to increase their incomes through organic farming. Dr. Zama taught PGS Ghana members how to convert aquaculture pond residue into organic fertilizer for vegetable production, create floating fish feed pellets for organic tilapia and catfish production, and the value of maggots as an ingredient in feed. 

On his assignment, Dr. Zama worked alongside Mr. Issifu, a member of PGS and Director of the Centre for Ecological Agriculture and Livelihood, to conduct the training. Dr. Zama provided presentations, demonstrations, recorded videos, printed materials, and hands-on learning to participants that focused on techniques for transforming residues left behind after draining aquaculture ponds into an inoculate for compost piles. The nutrient-rich residue nourishes the compost pile, increasing soil fertility, greater vegetable yields, and revenue growth for farmers, replacing costly, problem-causing chemical fertilizers.

Dr. Zama showed participants how to make fish pellet feed manually by hand and via an extruder machine. Participants jumped in and followed the demonstration and made their fish pellets. Dr. Zama talked about the undervalued and misunderstood maggots. Maggots are the larval form of a fly and play an essential role in the breakdown of organic matter into usable compost. Maggots are rich in protein and have been recognized for their use in poultry, fish, and crustacean farming. Dr. Zama also provided participants with training on maggot production for increased protein in the production of fish feed pellets. At the end of the assignment, Dr. Zama left tangible recommendations for PGS Ghana so they could continue applying the technologies he introduced.

The host immediately mobilized resources to ensure all the recommendations provided by Dr. Zama were implemented, including a maggot production unit and the production of foliar fertilizer (fertilizer sprayed directly on the leaves) units at the farm. These recommendations enabled participants to experiment with what they had learned from the lectures and the videos. Mr. Ahedor Mawule, a PGS Ghana member, shared, “Fish feed is expensive and difficult to buy. Now that I’ve learned to formulate fish feed, I can do it myself and expand my catfish farm. I’ll also share the knowledge with my workers and other fish farmers in Walewale.”

In addition, Winrock’s Farmer to Farmer Program has been making a significant difference in the Walewale community in Northern Ghana. In just under a year, the community group’s efforts have yielded impressive results, helping to improve the lives of the locals in several ways. Above all, Farmer to Farmer volunteer

Dr. Isaac Zama has made a difference by sharing knowledge and skills with the community. According to an email from the community, Winrock International has given them “too much life-changing knowledge and skills.” The locals have been spending time implementing and sharing what they learned with others, particularly other smallholder farmers in their community.

Despite the current circumstances on the ground in Walewale, the community has been thriving in implementing everything that was taught and recommended by Winrock International, with few modifications. The skills learned from Winrock International’s training have significantly increased the number of agriculturalists interested in acquiring the knowledge and skills Dr. Zama has left behind. One of the techniques he has impacted significantly is the extraction of neem oil (from the seeds of the neem tree Azadirachta indica). The Walewale community has since acquired a small neem oil extraction machine and is currently installing the machine on their farms. Over 500 women have been trained in collecting, storing, and processing neem oil, allowing for a business case in the Walewale communities to be made. There are currently three models in operation:

  1. Collect, dry, and sell to the Center for Ecological Agricultural and Livelihoods (CEAL) to extract the oil and sell.
  2. Collect, dry, bring to the mill, pay extraction fee, package, and trade.
  3. Collect, dry, clean, and extract the oil manually for the communities’ use and sale.

The community is still in the early stages, but progress is being made, and updates will be provided. Another area Farmer to Farmer has impacted compost making and application. Communities in Walewale have been screening videos on compost making and applications, with 13 video screenings since Winrock International left. Through the video screenings, over 2,000 farmers have acquired the skills and knowledge in composting, with more still counting. A business case has also been made for preparing, bagging, and selling rich compost. The smallholder farmers have been trained to prepare enough compost for their use and sell the excess to other farmers in the local communities. This has resulted in significant improvements in soil fertility and farmers’ yields and incomes.

Farmer to Farmer has significantly impacted various communities and families in Walwale, Northern Ghana. The efforts of the Farmer-to-Farmer program have resulted in acquiring knowledge and skills that have improved the lives and incomes of the community, particularly smallholder farmers. Our partners are grateful for the training and expertise that Farmer to Farmer has imparted and are progressing in implementing what they have learned. The impacts of Winrock International’s efforts will undoubtedly continue to be felt in Walewale for many years to come.

In recognition of Dr. Zama’s outstanding support, he was honored with Winrock’s 2022-2023 Volunteer of the Year Award. Dr. Zama exemplified Winrock’s F2F mission by increasing the resilience of PGS Ghana’s agricultural productivity and competitiveness. In February 2023, Dr. Zama collaborated with Winrock’s F2F Country Directors to host a Winrock in-house webinar that explored the program’s many facets, including his inspiration to serve as a F2F volunteer and the impacts of the assignment on the host organization. Dr. Zama’s passion was fueled by his personal work as founder of Amba Farmers Voice, a nonprofit focused on reframing agricultural education by shifting to a process that integrates indigenous knowledge, cost-effectiveness, and practical solutions to inspire personalized learning in community-based farming.