In late 2007 Cyclone Sidr ravaged Bangladesh, killing thousands and destroying almost 660,000 hectares (ha) of crops. Of the Sidr-related losses, 86 percent were concentrated in 12 districts.
In Sidr’s wake, IFDC and the Bangladesh Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) initiated the Improved Livelihood for Sidr-Affected Rice Farmers (ILSAFARM) project in 2008 to help restore rice production by bringing urea deep placement (UDP) to 280,000 farm families. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) pledged funds to support ILSAFARM for two years.
John Allgood, director of IFDC’s EurAsia Division, stated that IFDC has been providing support in agricultural development in Bangladesh for three decades. “We have worked extensively to develop improved efficiency in fertilizer marketing. Our attention over the past few years has been to increase the efficiency of fertilizer-nutrient application. We are working with the Ministry of Agriculture, the DAE, the Bangladesh Fertilizer Association, small private micro-enterprises and farmers to improve access to and use of improved fertilizer products.”
IFDC pioneered the development of UDP, a technology that reduces nitrogen losses significantly, and introduced it to Bangladesh. UDP, the insertion of large urea briquettes into the rice root zone after transplanting, reduces urea use by 35 percent while increasing crop yields by 20 percent.
Irrigated rice is the staple crop of small and greatly overpopulated Bangladesh. Ironically, most farmers who grow irrigated rice – in Bangladesh and elsewhere – waste the majority of the urea fertilizer. This is because most farmers broadcast urea into the paddy water. Two-thirds of the product’s nitrogen is lost to the air as a greenhouse gas or becomes a groundwater pollutant.
The UDP technology improves farmer productivity and income and the need for urea briquettes creates employment. IFDC engineers developed a simple machine to mold prilled urea into either 1.8- or 2.7-gram briquettes. Helping establish village-level businesses to manufacture and distribute briquette-making machines and briquettes is part of the IFDC program. “ILSAFARM brought enormous benefits to Sidr-affected farmers – particularly to women farmers or women who are actively involved in farm activities,” according to Ishrat Jahan, IFDC team leader in Bangladesh. “Increased rice production is improving their incomes and thus, their quality of life.”
In 2009 alone, UDP reduced Bangladesh’s urea imports by 50,000 metric tons (mt). That saved the nation almost $22 million in fertilizer imports and $14 million in government subsidies. UDP generated an additional 9.5 person-days of labor per ha – almost 4.6 million additional days of labor. More importantly, the additional rice made 1.5 million more Bangladeshis food-secure.
In addition to ILSAFARM, the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) expanded UDP technology in 2009 to 2.9 million farm families on about 1.5 million ha. USAID and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) funded the expansion, while IFDC provided technical assistance.
“We are fortunate that the Government of Bangladesh, USAID, USDA, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the Swiss Consult Group have provided funding over the years enabling IFDC to maintain an active role in Bangladesh’s agricultural development,” Allgood said.
Key Impact Results:
The impact of the ILSAFARM project was realized early and accelerated over the two-year life of the project. 519,560 farm households adopted UDP technology. On average, farmers that adopted the technology achieved incremental yields of 830 kilograms (kg) of rice per ha. Incremental rice production increased steadily over the six growing seasons (three per year) covered by ILSAFARM. In aggregate, an additional 96,000 mt of rice was produced by farmers that adopted the technology
Net farm household incomes by the farmers that adopted UDP technology increased (on average) by $185 per year, due to the combination of reduced production costs and increased yields per unit of land area. The average annual income per capita for Bangladesh is US $520, so the increase is a substantial one. Although farmers were targeted as the main ILSAFARM beneficiaries, entrepreneurs invested in 209 fertilizer briquette manufacturing machines; each dealer paid 20 percent of the full cost of the machine. On average, the dealers generated revenue of about US $20/mt of urea briquettes. In total, more that 22,000 mt of briquettes were produced under the project.
ILSAFARM conducted 149 field days to provide farmers in the Barisal and Khulna regions an opportunity to observe mature fields vis-à-vis fields with traditional crop management. A total of 13,638 farmers participated in the field day events; 23 percent were women
The project conducted 114 field trials to assess the performance of UDP under numerous scenarios, including in different soil types and across rice varieties. At least one field trial plot was installed in each of the 28 targeted upazilas under ILSAFARM.
Improving awareness and knowledge transfer was necessary to diffuse UDP technology and achieve sustainability. Stakeholder meetings/workshops provided opportunities to increase awareness among key public sector officials of UDP technology and to gain the endorsement of those that are in position to influence farmer behavior in crop production. To achieve geographic coverage, at least one stakeholder workshop was held in each targeted upazila. A total of 2,291 participants (19 percent were women) attended the workshops.
Farmer training was crucial to UDP technology dissemination, not only to transfer knowledge on the technical elements of Guti urea use and soil fertility management but also to improve farmer understanding of the economic benefits of UDP technology. During ILSAFARM, 4,850 farmer training programs were conducted; 193,340 farmers received training, including 18,036 women.
A key tool used by the ILSAFARM project to extend awareness and knowledge of UDP technology among public and private sector officials was motivational field visits to allow key persons to observe the technology and the results from its use. In addition, the field visits allowed those present to discuss UDP’s role in improving agricultural productivity, reducing the GoB’s expenditures on fertilizer subsidies and improving farmer incomes. During the life of the project, 40 motivational field visits were completed involving 1,776 political officials, media and influential private sector business leaders. A total of 13,091 persons participated in the stakeholders meetings; 13 percent were women.
The ILSAFARM project directly contributed to increased food security for households in the project target area. Sidr-stricken farmers used UDP on 135,000 ha and increased Bangladesh’s rice production by an estimated 96,000 mt over the two-year project. That is equivalent to more than 10 percent of average annual rice imports during 2005-10.
In the case of small farm households, one-third of the total that used UDP technology in 2010 produced an additional 402 kg of rice – adequate to feed the average family for 4.7 months.
The project contributed an estimated US $26.4 million to the Bangladesh gross domestic product.
[ILSAFARM ended in December 2010.]
Updated May 2012
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