In collaboration with the Bangladesh Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), IFDC implemented the “Expansion of Urea Deep Placement (UDP) Technology in 80 Upazilas of Bangladesh During Boro 2008” project. The project’s goal was to improve incomes and livelihood opportunities of resource-poor rice farmers through the use of urea deep placement (UDP) technology.
IFDC pioneered the development of UDP, which is the insertion of large (1.8 to 2.7 grams) urea briquettes into the root zone of the paddy plants after transplanting. The UDP technology has been proven to reduce the required application of urea fertilizers by as much as 40 percent while increasing yields by 20 percent. The technology also helps in the government’s efforts to improve the environment because less nitrogen accumulates in the run-off than in the conventional urea application.
More than 100,000 rice farmers were trained on the use of UDP technology for the Boro (dry) season, which runs from January through April. During the Aman (wet) season, which is November and December, about 160,000 farmers adopted the technology. Promotional materials were distributed and an extensive media campaign resulted in expansion of the technology among 400,000 new farmers for the winter paddy crop. More than 230,000 hectares (ha) were brought under the technology during the winter and summer 2008 paddy cropping seasons. The net incremental production of winter paddy per farm was estimated at 375 kilograms, which increased the net income per farm by $100 from only one season. This is a huge boost in income in a country where the average per capita income is about $520 annually.
In 2008 alone, UDP reduced urea imports by 50,000 metric tons (mt). That saved the government almost $22 million in fertilizer imports and $14 million in government subsidies. Total foreign exchange saving was estimated at $73 million due to not importing urea or rice from the international market. The technology also generated an additional 9.5 person-days of labor per hectare – 4.6 million additional days of labor. More important, the additional rice made 1.5 million more Bangladeshis food-secure.
The UDP technology not only improves farmer productivity and income, but the need for urea briquettes creates employment. In the mid-1980s, IFDC engineers developed a simple machine to mold prilled or granular urea into 2.7 gram briquettes. Helping establish village-level businesses to manufacture and distribute briquette-making machines is part of IFDC’s program for improving incomes. By 2008, more than 2,000 of the machines were producing briquettes across Bangladesh, increasing small enterprise businesses in the private sector.
Because of the success of this project, an additional expansion project followed this one and continued through 2011.