MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala., USA – The United Nations Environment Programme’s World Environment Day (June 5) celebrated its 40th anniversary with the 2012 theme “Green Economy: Does It Include You?” World Environment Day is an annual occasion for people around the world to realize their own power to become agents for positive change in the global fight for sustainable and equitable environmental development and for the United Nations to stimulate global awareness and garner attention for environmental initiatives.
IFDC efforts promoting the judicious use of fertilizers, improved seeds and water for increased agricultural productivity, improving soil fertility management, combating climate change and quantifying greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions fall under the objectives of World Environment Day.
Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) – an IFDC technique being implemented and taught to smallholder farmers in many developing nations – combines the use of mineral fertilizers and locally available organic amendments to replenish nutrients in exhausted soil. IFDC also advocates other ISFM techniques such as the use of compost, crop rotation, anti-erosion technologies and water conservation. After adopting ISFM techniques, smallholder farmers have more than doubled their agricultural productivity and increased their farming incomes by 20 to 50 percent.
“Overall, the greatest benefit from ISFM is the increased fertilizer use efficiency due to its combined impact as a soil amendment (improved rooting, soil water holding and ‘liming’) and nutrient source (e.g., secondary nutrients and micronutrients),” said Dr. Upendra Singh, IFDC principal soil fertility scientist.
Fertilizer deep placement (FDP) is an IFDC-developed technology that reduces the amount of fertilizer applied to crops, improves crop yields and decreases environmental pollutants. The 2012 progress report by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, which reviews developments in agricultural and environmental efficiency and development, identified FDP as having a positive environmental impact.
According to the report, “Most farmers in Bangladesh spread urea (the most common nitrogen-based fertilizer) directly into the floodwater of lowland rice, a practice that wastes two out of every three bags of urea and pollutes surface water with runoff. The FDP method improves yields and reduces pollution by inserting urea briquettes into the rice root zone, which reduces fertilizer use by 40 percent and increases crop yields by about 25 to 40 percent.”
IFDC’s Accelerating Agriculture Productivity Improvement (AAPI) project uses FDP and urea deep placement (UDP) technologies in Bangladesh to increase crop yields while using less fertilizer and reducing nitrogen runoff by approximately 40 percent. Project officials estimate that FDP and UDP mitigate and reduce GHG into the atmosphere and reduce nitrification of wetlands.
“UDP technology benefits to small farmers are dramatic – it increases rice yields by about 20 percent per hectare with one-third less use of urea fertilizer,” said IFDC Eurasia Division Director John Allgood. “When considering the lower use of nitrogen fertilizer in crop agriculture, benefits accrue to the environment as well.”
AAPI also promotes and implements the alternate wetting and drying (AWD) technique, which helps reduce the use of groundwater in lowland rice farming. The technique allows farmers to only apply irrigation water for a determined number of days when pond water is not available to their rice paddies. In addition to reducing water use, algae and pests, AWD increases crop yields.
IFDC has given millions of smallholder farmers in developing countries access to agricultural techniques and technologies that allow them to not only increase their crop yields and livelihoods but also engage in positive environmental action. For example, IFDC’s Sustainable Energy Production through Woodlots and Agroforestry (SEW) project is decreasing deforestation in the Great Lakes Region of Central Africa by planting tree seedlings. SEW is developing favorable conditions for biodiversity conservation and resource management, decreasing atmospheric pollution through the use of improved kilns for charcoal, brick and tile and improved cookstoves and also contributes to the development of a profitable fuel wood sector in the region.
“SEW is teaching those in the fuel wood value chain more efficient ways to produce charcoal,” said André de Groote, SEW project coordinator. “This creates less waste and environmental damage while boosting production and income for charcoal producers.”
Over the course of the project, more than 20,000 ha have been planted. At the same time, in order to decrease consumption of trees, SEW aims to improve the organization of the stakeholders in the fuel wood and charcoal value chains by increasing their professionalism, supporting them in their search for income, improving their entrepreneurial and business skills and by creating links between producers, consumers and the public sector.
SEW has supported the manufacture of improved cook stoves for more than a year. The production method for ceramic inserts (liners) has been standardized, thus increasing the quality and increasing their thermal efficacy from 19 percent to 36 percent. Their stability increased from 57 percent to 80 percent. The greenhouse gas emissions of the stoves were also reduced. SEW continues to work with the manufacturers to see how they can increase the rate of production.
Based in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, USA, IFDC is a public international organization, governed by an international board of directors with representation from developed and developing countries. The nonprofit Center, with over 700 employees in more than 35 countries in Africa and Eurasia, is supported by various bilateral and multilateral aid agencies, private foundations and national governments.
IFDC focuses on increasing and sustaining food security and agricultural productivity in developing countries through the development and transfer of effective and environmentally sound crop nutrient technology and agribusiness expertise.
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