Stories tagged: ifdc

#FillTheGap! Scaling up equality in Kenya

This is the seventh post of Farming First’s #FillTheGap campaign to highlight the gender gap facing rural women working in agriculture.

When Beatrice Gichuru’s husband passed away around three years ago, she lost not only her partner but her also provider and guardian. Like many Kenyan women, Beatrice had relied upon her husband to provide the land she farmed.

But in becoming a self-sufficient widow, Beatrice overcame the tragedy as well as the gender gap that means only one per cent of Kenyan women own land and access less than 10 per cent of available credit.

Continue reading

International Women’s Day: Eight Women Who Have Filled the Gender Gap in Agriculture

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2018, IFDC‘s Deputy Director for North and West Africa Oumou Camara blogs for Next Billion, sharing the stories of eight extraordinary women that have succeeded in bridging the gender gap in agriculture. Read the original post here.

Women account for more than 40 percent of the agricultural workforce worldwide but they own less than 20 percent of the world’s land, earning just a fraction of what their male counterparts do.

As the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women explores how to empower rural women, Farming First is sharing stories of women all over the world that are bridging this gap in agriculture.

Jahanara Begum: Proof is in the profit in Bangladesh

In a country where less than 60 percent of women are economically active, female farmers like Jahanara Begum, 45, face negative comments and scepticism from their communities and even their families. But for Begum, the results spoke for themselves after she became a Farm Business Advisor and started selling vegetable seeds and other inputs like fertilizers, vermicompost and pest management tools to farmers with the support of PROOFS (Profitable Opportunities for Food Security), a Dutch-funded project led by iDE and partners. Jahanara used previous contacts in her network to her advantage – not only to reach 250 producer groups as part of the project, but to go beyond that to reach more groups in the remote riverine islands. She later took out a loan from a financial institution, overcoming social norms and gender bias to expand her business and strengthen her linkages with private companies. Her business track record ensured that the financial institution did not deem her too risky to give out the loan.

Jahanara Begum, Farm Business Advisor (Photo: iDE PROOFS)

Esperanza Dionisio Castillo: Climbing the ladder in Peru

As Esperanza Dionisio Castillo rose up the ranks to become general manager of the Pangoa Cooperative, a cocoa growing union in San Martín de Pangoa, Peru, she found few other female role models to follow. She experienced greater scrutiny and mistrust in leading the cooperative as a woman. But after proving herself by bringing higher and more consistent incomes to rural families, Castillo wanted to ensure that other women found an easier path. So she offered rural female members support through health services, leadership training through the co-op’s Committee for the Development of Women and access to credit via social investment fund Root Capital.

Esperanza Dionisio Castillo, General Manager of C.A.C. Pangoa

Fatima Nadinga: Credit where it’s due in Burkina Faso

Accessing credit is often a challenge for smallholder farmers, and it is even harder for women. That’s why a USAID-funded project implemented by non-profit CNFA is training women in the “warrantage” credit mechanism. The system allows farmers to use their grain as collateral to obtain credit from a bank or microfinance institution rather than selling their harvest all at once. Under this system, farmers like Fatima Nadinga can deposit their crops and access credit to invest in their farms and generate more income, while also strategically selling their crops at the highest price.

Josefina dos Santos Lourenço: Give a little to get a lot in Mozambique

Josefina, a young Mozambican, had aspirations of owning her own business. But she wasn’t earning enough selling food at her small market stand to support her family. Her situation is not uncommon; women account for almost 90 percent of the work force in Mozambican agriculture, but represent just a quarter of the land owners holding official user rights. But Lourenço’s prospects improved when she was recruited by Export Marketing Company Limited, a major agricultural trading company, with support from Fintrac’s Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation program. Lourenço received three training sessions in the first six months and a 50 percent discount on her initial inventory of inputs, like fertilizer and crop protection products for her input shop. She now serves almost 1,000 farmers and has become financially independent.

Lidia Grueso: Paying it forward in Colombia

In Colombia, where women make up 40 percent of the cocoa growers’ association COMCACAOT, Lidia Grueso, 41, has already overcome gender bias and prejudices to become a union manager. But the five-year-old association has still faced the challenge of accessing credit and loans for its members. USAID’s Rural Finance Initiative has helped individual farmers access loans, vouching for almost 375 of its members. This allows women to afford inputs like fertilizer to improve their business and to better pay the staff harvesting the cocoa.

Yinka Adesola: Field school founder inspires youth in Nigeria

After attending trainings sponsored by IFDC’s 2SCALE project, Yinka Adesola learned how to increase farm productivity with good agricultural practices and integrated soil fertility management. She was also taught business management strategies such as marketing and selling crops. She knew she needed to inspire others with what she had learnt. “I wanted to hold other trainings to attract more youth to agriculture, to show that agriculture is a lucrative business,” she says. Now, every three months, trainees from all around Nigeria come to her field school, the Entrepreneur Youth Multipurpose Cooperative, to learn vegetable production and farm management.

Ethel Khundi: Doubling down on diversity in Malawi

The impact of the gender gap in agriculture worldwide results in a yield gap of up to 30 percent because women are unable to access the same resources as men. But a Self Help Africa program in Malawi has trained female livestock keepers in conservation farming techniques that use zero tillage to safeguard moisture in the soil, allowing them to diversify their farms. As well as raising her pigs, Ethel Khundi, 36, has also been able to produce three times more maize, which was a valuable insurance when she lost her entire drove of pigs to swine flu. Instead, her maize harvest offset the losses and kept her on track to expand her home and set up a village shop.

Ruramiso Mashumba: Female agripreneurs on the rise in Zimbabwe

Agribusiness in Zimbabwe is dominated by men, of whom almost 70 percent are employers. Meanwhile, women are much more likely to work unpaid in agriculture than to be a paid full-time worker. Yet women like Ruramiso Mashumba are blazing a trail for more female agripreneurs. After returning to farming in Zimbabwe following her studies in Agriculture Business Management at the University of West England, Mashumba was elected as the national chair of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union Young Farmers’ Club in 2014. She also founded Mnandi Africa, an organisation that helps rural woman to combat poverty and malnutrition by empowering and equipping them with skills and knowledge in agriculture. 

Learn more about the rural women filling in the gender gap in agriculture at, or follow #FillTheGap on social media.

Helping Farmers Earn More at Less Cost Through Fertilizer Use Efficiency

Dr. Scott J. Angle, President and CEO of IFDC and Farming First supporter explains how farmers can be supported to keep their costs low and their yields high through efficient fertilizer use.

Fertilizer is one third of the agro-input technological trinity (improved seed, irrigation, and fertilizer). Its use has been particularly successful in addressing food security-related issues in several countries in Asia and South America, for example during the Green Revolution. However, judicious fertilizer use is an over-arching issue in both developed and developing economies. In sub-Saharan Africa, average fertilizer use is less than 25 kilograms per hectare, while parts of Asia and other developed economies face overuse or unbalanced fertilization. Both conditions lead to low crop productivity and declining soil fertility. Improving the “uptake efficiency” of fertilizers (that is, ensuring as much fertilizer is used by the plant as possible) can mitigate the climactic and social effects of both over- and under-use of fertilizers.

In Europe, North America, and many parts of Asia, the agricultural practice of allowing plant nutrient reserves to become depleted (nutrient mining) for farming ceased several decades ago. Unfortunately, nutrient mining continues in many other parts of the world. The low use or absent use of fertilizers and other nutrient sources not only makes the agriculture system more vulnerable to climate variability, it exacerbates climate change by reducing soil’s ability to capture carbon from the atmosphere. On the other hand, excessive and imbalanced fertilization results in soil acidification, eutrophication of water bodies, air pollution, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Toward helping farmers profitably practice low-emission agriculture, IFDC promotes climate-smart management approaches and technologies, including the use of balanced fertilizers, urea deep placement (UDP), and integrated soil fertility management (ISFM).

Balanced Fertilizers

Since losses associated with nitrogen-based fertilizers form a significant part of agriculture’s contribution to global GHG emissions, increasing nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) is paramount. In developing countries, NUE can be as low as 30 percent, meaning plants use only 30 per cent of the nitrogen applied.

Our research demonstrates that improved management practices and balanced plant nutrition, including incorporating appropriate amounts of secondary and micronutrients (SMNs), increase nitrogen uptake and boost farm yields by 20 to 50 percent across various sub-Saharan soils and crops. These fertilizers also increase plant tolerance to drought and can improve water use efficiency by 250 percent. This use efficiency also results in more nutritional crops: IFDC found that some formulations can increase the amount of zinc in grains by as much as 65 percent.

Fertilizers that include appropriate amounts of secondary and micronutrients can increase yields by as much as 35 percent as seen in this maize demonstration plot.

Urea Deep Placement

IFDC has pioneered the development of UDP technology in several countries in Asia and Africa. The technology, the application of 1- to 3-gram urea briquettes 7 centimeters below the soil surface, decreases urea use by 30 percent while increasing yields by 15 percent in rice. Emissions from nitrous oxide, a GHG 40 times more potent than carbon dioxide, are decreased by 60 to 80 percent through the use of UDP.

With the assistance of the Government of Bangladesh, we helped more than 2.5 million Bangladeshi rice farmers adopt UDP. The savings produced, along with higher yields, has these farmers earning $220 more per hectare. Additionally, the Government of Bangladesh saves $30 million per year on fertilizer subsidies.

In Africa, the story is the same. In Mali alone, adopting fertilizer deep placement (FDP) on 5,900 hectares has saved nearly 457 tons of urea, allowing farmers to bring an additional 4,000 hectares under rice cultivation, producing an additional 14,000 tons of paddy rice production.

Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM)

Balanced nutrition and UDP are part of our ISFM approach. Other ISFM strategies include crop rotation, legume introduction, and crop-livestock integration systems.

Fertile and productive soils are vital components of stable societies, and ISFM strategies protect these. As one ancient Sanskrit text states, “Upon this handful of soil our survival depends. Husband it, and it will grow our food, our fuel and our shelter and surround us with beauty. Abuse it and the soil will collapse and die, taking humanity with it.” Our reliance on the soil is as strong today as it was then. Unfortunately, many soils have been mined by continuous cereal cultivation, producing a trend of decreasing yields and organic matter.

ISFM practices help reverse these trends by increasing yields and incorporating biomass back into the soil. IFDC-assisted farmers in sub-Saharan Africa using ISFM have more than doubled their productivity and increased incomes by 20-50 percent. In addition to increasing incomes, soil may be our strongest ally in practicing low-emission agriculture, as in only a matter of decades, soils benefiting from ISFM can sequester up to 1,000 kilograms of carbon per hectare per year.

ISFM techniques have helped many farmers, such as these Congolese women who learned improved planting techniques from Congolese League of Women Peasant Organisations (LOFEPACO).

The Next Steps

These current practices have ensured greater global food security and enabled farmers to profitably practice low-emission agriculture. Despite this, new and novel technologies will be needed to meet the challenges of a growing population while still safeguarding the environment. To this end, we must continue supporting research in these areas to bring about next generation fertilizers and management practices. This approach must transform the fertilizer industry across the entire value chain, starting with the research and formulation of new plant nutrition products and extending to enabling farmers to market higher quality products that are more nutritious and produced in an environmentally friendly manner.


Webinar: The Role of Fertilizers in Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation

31st October 2017 – 4 pm CET


Climate change is pushing our food and farming systems to their limits. By 2050, 9.7 billion mouths must be fed, while rising temperatures and more frequent extreme weather events threaten crop production worldwide. This free webinar will showcase concrete solutions to climate change adaptation and mitigation that the fertilizer industry and its partners are investing in, to help farmers become “climate-smart” and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. The International Fertilizer Association (IFA), International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) and the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) will bring together leading experts in soil health and management from across the globe to discuss the latest innovations in their region that are already contributing to the global response to food insecurity and climate change.



  • Scott Angle, CEO and President, International Fertilizer Development Centre
  • Robert Norton, Regional Director for Australia and New Zealand, International Plant Nutrition Institute
  • Shamie Zingore, Director, Sub-Saharan Africa Programme, International Plant Nutrition Institute
  • Heitor Cantarella, Director, Soil and Environment Resource Centre at the Agronomic Institute of Campinas and winner of IFA 2017 Norman Borlaug Award.

Join the panel of experts to explore the following issues:

  • How can farmers build resilience to unpredictable weather patterns through fertilizer best management practices?
  • Which innovative fertilizer solutions are successfully helping farmers adapt to climate change in Australasia?
  • How can farmers in sub-Saharan Africa access accurate fertilizer recommendations?
  • What are the latest solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fertilizers in the tropics?

Argus FMB Africa Fertilizer Conference

15-17 February 2017

Cape Town, South Africa

The 8th annual Argus FMB Africa Fertilizer conference will feature more than 450 participants from 55 countries. A cross-section of stakeholders including government leaders, finance providers, NGOs, regional distributors and global producers with gather at the event, organised with the support of the International Fertilizer Association (IFA), IFDC, and AFAP. Read more >>

Deborah Hellums: Can Fertilizers Help Us Mitigate Climate Change?

In this guest blog, Dr. Deborah Hellums, Chief Program Officer at the International Fertilizer Development Center outlines the ways that sustainable fertilizer use can mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and play a role in SDG 13, combatting climate change. 

Every person alive depends on agriculture for food, but agriculture accounts for 12 percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions. About half of these emissions come from arguably a most necessary component of agriculture: the use of nitrogen fertilizers. Mineral fertilizers, combined with organic fertilizers (along with other inputs and best management practices), currently keep about half of the global population alive. Without them, soils become devoid of nutrients, leading to low and declining yields and soil degradation, including loss of soil carbon. Continue reading