BAIF’s ‘Wadi Program’: A Composite Model for Sustaining Livelihoods in Rural India

( Image Source: flickr.com)

Abstract:

The article highlights the Wadi[1] approach adopted by BAIF in South Gujarat for promoting the livelihoods of rural farmers. Acute poverty, small landholdings, low agriculture productivity , lack of alternate employment opportunities forced the local tribals, to migrate to nearby cities in search of livelihoods where they usually become victims of exploitative labor practices .

BAIF provided these farmers with structured inputs in the area of R&D, access to formal sources of credit, marketing and employment avenues for the family unit-while respecting traditional customs. Community welfare measures such as provision of clean drinking water, involvement of the local women and youth in para-medic training helped the otherwise remote pockets improve on their health and hygiene standards. This achievement was possible after more than a decade of nurturing by BAIF and commitment of the local tribals.

Small and marginal land holdings were  brought under improved land use and the poor families were trained and encouraged to undertake plantation of mango and cashew trees. Assistance and guidance by BAIF in processing of the produce, and in fixing a fair price and marketing helped the cooperatives in generating a premium through value addition.

The approach of collective production, marketing and forward integration has resulted in a better quality of life for the members. BAIF also facilitated a public private partnership of the cooperatives with ITC[2]. The organic mango crop was cultivated by the farmers while ITC bore the certification costs. This enabled the farmer cooperatives realize a premium of nearly 20% over the prevailing market price. Innovative ideas like introduction of  pickle sachets priced at R.4, cashew nut shell processing were initiatives taken as the Wadi model matured and the number of members increased. 

Introduction:

Poverty alleviation programs in India are the proverbial darts thrown by politicians and bureaucrats alike, to accomplish election agendas. They never hit bulls eye and usually flounder because both politicians and bureaucrats are disinterested in the cause per say.  Common reasons for the failure of such programs are pathetic program design(s), a lack of awareness of the needs of the target audience, or the vision of the  end result expected, cognisance of the grassroot level problems that hamper access to such programs and a system which fixes accountability and responsibilities on those entrusted with their implementation. The rampant corruption that  is usually an integral part of all such poverty alleviation programs, ensures that the spirit of such programs gets lost in execution. Whether it’s the old Food for Work Program or the recent NREGA which involves copious paperwork and  admin hassles:  these are all pretty much the ‘old wine in the new bottle’ type of recipes.

The fact of the matter is that the basic needs of food security, housing, access to healthcare and education remain topmost irrespective of the socio economic class or whether the individual belongs to the urban/rural section. Hence for any poverty alleviation program to succeed, they  need to provide a solution that ultimately allows the beneficiary of such programs to find a composite solution that solves the fundamental needs and helps them become self-sufficient rather than leech of such quick fix measures on a long-term basis. There is enough published literature including the famous ‘Maslows Hierarchy’ that illustrates the hierarchy of human needs. In the Indian context, most poverty alleviation programs run by the government lack the very understanding of the need to tie-up these needs. For eg: What is the use of giving a worker a job to work on digging up wastelands under NREGA(National Rural Employment Guarantee Act-http://nrega.nic.in/netnrega/home.aspx) if he has no stake or no idea of the end result and its relevance to him in securing his basic needs on a sustainable basis? While it may help the rural unemployed worker get the Rs 100-110 per day under the NREGA scheme, the dissociation with the end result  and its positive impact on improving his/her quality of life on a sustained basis-  dilutes the quality of the effort/commitment  If on the other hand the government were to launch programs that address the livelihood needs of the poor by directing the efforts towards the fulfillment of the basic needs (viz food security, housing,healthcare,education) such programs would not only become self-sustaining in the long run but would also enable replication across the country due to their viable design .

About BAIF:

The Pune based Bhartiya Agro Industries Foundation (BAIF) has been working with the rural poor on the implementation of self sustaining livelihood models for over two decades. The idea is to make the beneficiaries independent in the long run such that they become the drivers of their own destiny – a very different approach from the traditional government programs, which do not ensure such long term independence). BAIF was founded by the noted Gandhian Dr Manibhai  Desai . Gandhiji had propagated the doctrine of fortifying the village economy as a means to strengthening the nation since he felt that the villages were the roots that nourished the moral and social fabric of any country. BAIF’s ‘Wadi Program’ evolved from an idea of trying to find a permanent solution for the tribals of the Vansda district of Gujarat. The arid and mountainous land was not conducive to using either improved agriculture techniques or dairy activities. Moreover the small size of land holdings (less than acre) made it unviable to grow any crops on a commercial basis. Cattle development activity was undertaken as an entry point to reach a large number of small and poor farmers owning low productive cattle. Cultivation of perennial and fodder crops was introduced as a complimentary activity. Subabul a drought tolerant, fast growing fodder tree was introduced for developing wastelands. However the tribals wanted to cultivate fruit trees which could generate cash income as opposed to a fodder and firewood species like Subabul. Hence the Wadi Concept was introduced in 1982 to meet this requirement to generate cash income and facilitate self-reliance for the tribals of Gujarat. The overwhelming success of this program has subsequently been replicated in other states such as Maharshtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Rajasthan.

The Concept of Wadi:

The word ‘Wadi’[3] means a small orchard covering one acre with crops like cashew, mango, amla or any suitable fruit crop with forestry species on the periphery of the land holding bordered by a productive live-hedge. (see illustration # 1 below). A typical orchard promoted under this scheme (covering approx 1 acre) involved planting of 40-60 fruit plants and 300-400 forestry species along the border.( see images appended at the end of the article which show facets of the Wadi Program or visit http://www.baif.org for details)

Relevance of the Wadi Model :

The Adivasi population in India constitutes about 8.14%.of the total population or approximately 85 million people (2001 Census) .These households traditionally derive sustenance through forestry, hunting and primitive agriculture practices (Phansalkar and Verma 2005). However fast depleting forest, and natural resources, land erosion, lack of access to basic health and hygiene have made seasonal migration into nearby cities – a virtual necessity. In the cities these landless workers have to live in deplorable conditions and often get exploited by middlemen. They are also not able to claim benefits being offered by the state governments due to a lack of identity (Hooza, 2004). Ineffective labor laws make their situation (especially women) very difficult.

Large sections (approx 36%) of the tribals continue to be in a state of deprivation. (Pandya 1988) the position of small and marginal farmers can be improved if marketing efforts are  undertaken by viewing the entities involved in a holistic manner ,linking households and their cooperatives with industrial producers, minimize information asymmetry and helping to equalize the bargaining power between the households and their cooperatives with industrial producers..

Published literature in this area has emphasized on the need to connect small and marginal farmers to remunerative markets for helping them realize better returns (Dorward et all 2004).Lack of capital and purchasing power were identified as affecting the supply and demand conditions under which such small and marginal producers operated.

The ‘Wadi Program’:  A Composite Solution to Multiple Issues

This approach harnessed the joint resources of BAIF and the local tribals. BAIF brought to the partnership its expertise in the field of horticulture, access to structured finance and the knowledge of modern supply chain techniques. The local tribal community contributed by accepting the concept and investing the only assets that they possessed viz land and labor. The community came together to plant / underutilized lands so as to produce higher volumes followed by the aggregation of this produce for organized forward linkages.

BAIF played the role of a facilitator, trainer and guide in helping the community to accept the long and challenging task of preparing the groundwork required to succeed. Regular interaction was necessary to encourage the 42 tribal families that participated in the program when it was first launched in 1982. The journey was arduous and the extreme climate made tending to the saplings a challenging experience. In areas where irrigation options were not available, participating tribal members would carry water in pots atop their heads for hours  to water and tend to the saplings. This had to be done daily for nearly  3-4 years before the fruit plants stabilized.  Production started coming in from 4-5 years

The participating tribal families earned in the range of about `8,000-`10,000 from the intercrops per annum from the first year. The major income of approx `30,000-`40,000 per annum came after 6-7 years when the orchards started bearing fruits regularly.

The unique aspects of the Wadi Program are (Refer Illustration below):

  • Creation of  sustainable sources of livelihood, local employment for the entire family  on underutilized/arid land for the poorest section of the society
  • Ensures access to structured sources of credit and research based improved production techniques
  •  Provides vital  access to forward linkages and post production support Enriches the environment and uses local customs and practices along with scientific production methods
  • Helps to reduce seasonal migration of the tribal community by revitalizing the village economy 

 Impact of the Wadi Program:

The success of the first batch, led more families to join in and in a few years time, the number of families grew from 42 to 5000. The success of the program earned the support from the German Development Bank (KfW) and NABARD which funded a full fledged program called the Adivasi development Program (ADPG) in the adjoining areas of Kaprada and Dharampur in Vansda district ( State-Gujarat). The impact of these programs led to a wider replication leading to the coverage of nearly 2 lac families in 15 states of India (see Table given below).

The year wise coverage of Wadis under ADPG is presented in Table below.  Batch I to Batch  VII have been covered under the main program of ADPG, while Batch VIII and IX have been covered through Special Program Gujarat.  The cumulative coverage under ADPG is 13,663 families with Wadis established over 12,732.5 acres. In addition to this nearly 5000 families had established Wadis on 5000 Acres during 1982 to 1989.

Table – : Batch Wise Wadi Development (Source: BAIF Pune).

 

Batch no & Year of Joining

No. of Villages in Batches

No. of New Villages

No. of Families

Wadi Acreage

Batch-I (1995-1996)

40

40

1143

1073.00

Batch-II (1996-1997)

85

49

2841

2442.00

Batch-III (1997-1998)

72

25

2441

2373.00

Batch-IV (1998-1999)

52

19

1522

1449.00

Batch-V (1999-2000)

114

3

3532

3311.50

Batch-VI (2000-2001)

10

8

643

643.00

Batch-VII (2001-2002)

18

18

705

604.50

Batch –VIII (2002-2003)

2

69

69.00

Batch- IX (2003-2004)

21

767

767.00

Total

NA

 

        162

 

        13663                      

 

          12732

 

 

 

 

 

Key Insights & Conclusion:

  • The Wadi Program was a major success due to the involvement and active participation of various stakeholders viz development institutions, tribals, corporate and financial institutions. Tying up of the seed to market requirement ensured sustainable livelihoods.
  • Aggregation of land holdings, efforts lead to lower cost of production, better quality and bargaining capacity of the producers.
  • Nurturing of leadership and organization skills in the tribals produced excellent results-proving that  capable leaders could be developed through participatory methods.
  • The Wadi model worked because it incorporated technology, R&D along with simple workable solutions that involved using environment friendly options. Intercrops, fruits, forest trees provided diverse sources of income thereby avoiding concentration of risk incase one species/variety of crop failed. The employment opportunities generated stimulated the local economy which acted as a positive motivator.

[1] Wadi; Gujarati word for a fruit orchard

[2] ITC: Indian Tobacco Company

[3] The term ‘Wadi’ has its origins in the Gujarati language. It means a fruit orchard.

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3 thoughts on “BAIF’s ‘Wadi Program’: A Composite Model for Sustaining Livelihoods in Rural India

  1. Dear Mr. Blogger

    Your blog is very interesting!
    Please permit me to reuse the picture ‘Design of a wadi’ titled Wadi components – one acre in the blogs 1) bunchofthoughts.wordpress.com (under construction) and blog.ivolunteer.in. The use is completely non commercial and is just meant to spread awareness.

    Looking forward to your permission.

    Thanks and regards

    Seshagiri Rao (email – sesh6091@gmail.com)

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