IFDC, established in October 1974, is known for its expertise in fertilizers that service developing countries.
IFDC Headquarters and Offices
IFDC opened its headquarters in Muscle Shoals, Alabama on the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Reservation in 1976. Division offices opened in Lomé, Togo in 1987 and Dhaka, Bangladesh in 1992. Today, IFDC operates four divisions in over 20 countries.
IFDC originated as a private, nonprofit corporation under the laws of the State of Alabama, United States.
In March 1977, IFDC qualified as a Public International Organization by Presidential Decree 11977. IFDC received widespread support, cooperation and backing from the global community for which it was created and continues to thrive upon its successes.
Outgrowth of TVA
When Dr. Donald L. McCune, IFDC’s founder and former managing director, joined TVA’s National Fertilizer Center (NFDC) in the early 1960’s, he recognized the center’s capabilities of contributing to foreign assistance in developing countries. Thus IFDC became an outgrowth of TVA.
TVA-NFDC and USAID
TVA-NFDC’s involvement in the agriculture sector of developing countries intensified through programs offered by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
NFDC’s initial engagements were in the form of fertilizer information provided by USAID for its missions. Direct interaction followed after NFDC sent technical assistance personnel on missions to developing countries.
Despite these developments, U.S. Congressional law (as stipulated in its charter) restricted TVA from engaging in research and development specifically for developing countries. These restrictions, which only allowed for activities centered in the U.S., intensified the desire for an international center that could freely address the fertilizer technology needs of developing countries in the tropics and subtropics.
Critical Time Period
IFDC was created during a period of crisis. The world, specifically developing countries, struggled in the early 1970s due to food, energy and fertilizer shortages as well as increases in agricultural inputs (fertilizers).
In November 1974, FAO organized a World Food Conference in Rome, Italy to address the situation. The United States consulted with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). They resolved to offer the developed world “know-how” in fertilizers and soil fertility. They also sought to expand fertilizer research and development to benefit the developing world.
In April 1974, United Nations General Assembly, U.S. Secretary of State Dr. Henry Kissinger pledged the availability of U.S. fertilizer technology and strong material support toward establishing an international action on two specific areas of research: improving the effectiveness of chemical fertilizers, especially in tropical agriculture, and new methods to produce fertilizers from non-petroleum resources.” Work on a proposal began immediately after Dr. Kissinger’s offer.
TVA Transfers International Role to IFDC
TVA’s support of USAID programs halted in 1974 after nearly fifteen years of activity, when the TVA board enacted that the new initiative take on a separate international role. TVA offered IFDC its full cooperation, its fertilizer technology and a site at its Muscle Shoals location.
In July 1975, IFDC and TVA signed an agreement to defer all work dealing with fertilizers for developing countries to IFDC. Conversely, IFDC would not work on U.S.-focused issues. Information developed by IFDC would be available to entities in the United States only through TVA. Entities in other developed countries could be contacted by either or both organizations.
IFDC was established in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, in late 1974. Construction of the IFDC complex began at its present site in March 1976. Partial occupancy began in late 1976 and full occupancy followed in August 1977.
Although numerous locations in developing countries were considered, building a site on TVA’s property had several advantages including:
- Close proximity to TVA’s Office of Agricultural and Chemical Development, which facilitated the transfer of U.S. technology.
- TVA furnished at cost, the materials (phosphoric acid, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, urea solution, etc.) needed for IFDC’s research activities.
- Usage of the OACD Library recognized at the time as the best working library on fertilizers in existence.
- Access to TVA’s medical facilities.
- A contract with TVA for fire protection, security, ground maintenance and other services.
In July 1975, TVA transferred their international staff to IFDC to become the nucleus of the organization.
IFDC’s chief sponsor was USAID, who contributed U.S. $250,000 to the startup. The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada co-sponsored by providing a startup grant of CDN $50,000.
Facilities at IFDC headquarters include:
- Specialized research laboratories
- Growth chambers
- Specialized instruments essential for laboratory research
- Bench-scale and pilot-plant units used in studies such as beneficiation of ores, acidulation and granulation of fertilizers
- Training facilities
- Technical library
- Scientific information services
- Communications unit
IFDC conducts activities in collaboration with national and international organizations throughout the world. The majority of fertilizers in use worldwide were developed at NFDC and/or IFDC.
In addition to its headquarters in Muscle Shoals, IFDC has offices and/or staff stationed across Africa, Asia and Europe.