In the nineties, it was called Integrated Pest Management, or IPM in short. As part of a special project, the Bangladesh Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) formed farmers clubs, organized to help farmers learn natural solutions to managing crop pests. The DAE’s objective was to reduce the widespread use of chemical pesticides, which can often be harmful to human health and the environment.
Over the years, DAE authorities have added more components to these groups, known as IPM clubs, though they operate as integrated crop management (ICM) clubs. Now dealing with a much broader spectrum of agricultural issues, farmers of these clubs are trained in pest management and modern farming practices, including the balanced use of fertilizer and quality seed production and preservation, among other yield-enhancing techniques. Today, there are nearly 20,000 such farmers’ clubs across the country.
To further contribute to these DAE efforts, IFDC, through its AAPI project, is effectively using the clubs to spread urea deep placement (UDP) fertilizer technology, known locally as Guti urea. UDP is a proven technology being used to enhance the productivity of rice and vegetables, cutting production costs while also protecting environment. The farmers of the IPM/ICM clubs, who are more aware of modern farming practices than others, are quickly adopting the UDP technology.
In 2007, the DAE formed an IPM Club with 25 farmers at Birampur village in Trishal, Mymensingh. The officials involved provided the members with training on ways to identify both harmful insects and helpful insects. In the training program, farmers also learned about preparing remedies from plants that are available throughout their villages.
“Unless a pest attack is severe, we don’t use chemical pesticides now,” said M. Harun-ur-Rashid, 60, chairman of the club in Chak Rampur block, where there are about 600 farmers. He added that everybody there knows about the club because of its activities that include screening videos, spraying natural, homemade crop protection products (CPPs), catching insects using traps, etc. “If anybody faces troubles with pest attacks in their crop, they rush to the club members for advice. When other farmers benefit from their advice, our members feel very good about it,” he said.
In 2010, UDP fertilizer technology came to Trishal. Forty members of the club in Trishal were trained in the use and benefits of UDP through AAPI. The project also offered a briquetting machine to produce Guti urea fertilizer. It was a lucrative offer at the subsidized rate of Tk 38,000 (about US $515). The club purchased the machine before the Boro season in 2010 and has been producing large amounts of Guti in every rice season since then.
“During this year’s Boro season alone, we produced and sold 150 metric tons of Guti urea,” said Azizul Haque, 28, secretary of the IPM Club. “Almost all the members of the club know how to operate the briquette machine,” he said, adding that members take turns operating the machine, which eliminates the need for extra laborers. From the shop, he sells Guti urea to farmers outside of the club while also meeting the demand of club members.
Club members said that almost all farmers in Birampur, except for a few, use Guti urea. Because their farmers already plant rice in rows, the fertilizer technology is extremely effective in increasing yields. The trend has increased with the introduction of Guti urea, which not only increases productivity, but also reduces the chances of pest attacks because of the greatly reduced instances of weeds. Natural pest management in one hand and Guti urea use in the other has taken them to new heights in terms of using better farm practices. Both of the technologies are used in rice and vegetable cultivation, they added.
“Using UDP, we grow four to five more maunds (40 kg) of rice in a bigha (33 decimals, or .13 hectare) of land than farmers who broadcast prilled urea on their crops,” said Harun-ur-Rashid. He also noted that farmers in the group even use Guti urea in cauliflower and water pumpkin cultivation, resulting in very high yields.
“Agriculture today is far better than that of 15 to 20 years ago,” Harun-ur-Rashid said.
According to Azizul, Agriculture Information Services (AIS) has provided the club with a computer, multimedia projector, microphone and generator. These tools are used to educate local farmers on modern crop cultivation and care. “We often arrange open sky shows and screen videos on modern farming,” he said.
The DAE and AAPI occasionally hire the club and its equipment for publicity programs that they arrange in Trishal. Thus, the group earns additional income to complement member fees and profits from sales of Guti urea. Today, they have a fund of about Tk 250,000 (about $3,400) that they are using to construct a building for the club. “Once it is complete, the club can operate its activities in a more organized manner,” Azizul said.
The farmers, however, made two specific requests – arranging for the purchase of mechanical UDP applicators and a Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation (BCIC) fertilizer dealership to service the club.
“If we have Guti applicators, every farmer in the block will use Guti urea. Some farmers cannot use Guti due to labor shortages during peak planting periods,” said Hafizul Islam. “A BCIC dealership to serve the club’s needs is crucial because sometimes fertilizer gets pricier at the current BCIC dealer’s shop, and sometimes it is not available at all,” he said.
“The club is now planning to buy a thresher machine,” added Hafizul, noting that the club has matured to the point that farmer-members are prepared to move toward farming mechanization to further increase their efficiency.