Tarun Bhargava (left), deputy general manager of IFFCO, celebrates with Bill Polidoro, president and chief executive officer of ACDI/VOCA
In the 1960s, India faced a food crisis that threatened starvation and famine throughout the subcontinent. The crisis led Indian farmers to seek long-term solutions to the food shortages. One solution involved creating a local fertilizer producer to increase food grain production. At the time, India’s agriculture sector saw cooperatives as an ideal model for fertilizer production and distribution. But the country’s cooperatives only had the capacity to distribute fertilizer—not produce it.
In 1967, ACDI/VOCA played a role in establishing the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative (IFFCO), a new producer of fertilizer. IFFCO’s role in preventing food shortages soon became a triumph of the Green Revolution, a period in India when agricultural yields increased because of the adoption of new agronomic technology.
Fifty years later, IFFCO boasts the title of India’s largest fertilizer producer and marketer and the world’s largest fertilizer cooperative, expanding from just 57 cooperatives in 1967 to over 35,000 today.
“IFFCO is not just a ‘brand name’ but a symbol of trust for scores of Indian farmers. Their faith in our products and in the institution are the biggest assets that we have garnered over the past 50 years. Working democratically to improve the lives of the farmers to achieve sustainability is our path to the future.” –Dr. U.S. Awasthi, managing director of IFFCO
For five decades, IFFCO has expanded to increase production capacity and improve production technology. In the 2000s, IFFCO grew its presence and partnerships in India and abroad – from Jordan to Senegal. The International Cooperative Alliance ranked IFFCO first among the top 300 cooperatives worldwide. IFFCO also ranked 43rd among Fortune India’s 500 largest companies.
Through IFFCO’s Save the Soil campaign, Indian farmers access reliable, high-quality fertilizer and farming inputs and services. The campaign teaches farmers how to rejuvenate soil for sustainable crop production. It also supports biogas plants in producing high-quality manure and promoting clean villages, and works to improve the water table to make more land irrigable.
On November 3, the 50th anniversary of its launch, IFFCO celebrated with a golden jubilee, held at the first fertilizer production facility it ever opened in Kalol, India. The event recognized these achievements and many more.
IFFCO and ACDI/VOCA share a long history. Dr. Udai Shankar Awasthi, chief executive officer and managing director of IFFCO, serves on ACDI/VOCA’s Board of Directors. A few years ago, IFFCO even helped celebrate ACDI/VOCA’s own golden jubilee. This month, Bill Polidoro, president and chief executive officer of ACDI/VOCA, and Deborah Atwood, chair of ACDI/VOCA’s Board of Directors, returned the gesture by joining the festivities in India, visiting cultural and historical sites and honoring IFFCO’s half a century of success.