Wadi has developed over a period of around three decades and continues to evolve. The evolution of the programme so far can be divided broadly into four phases:
- Nationwide expansion
- Conceptual expansion
Wadi emerged in some villages of Vansda taluka (tehsil) of Valsad district of South Gujarat in 1982, through interactions between BAIF’s founder Manibhai Desai and local tribal families.
BAIF was invited to work in the area by Arvindbhai Mafatlal, founder of a voluntary organisation called Sadguru Foundation. Tribal families in the region were living in extreme poverty and under-nourishment. The challenge was to develop a long-term programme that will bring about a major improvement in income levels, and living and health conditions, in a sustainable manner.
To be sustainable, the programme had to be necessarily built on locally available resources. The only asset owned by most tribal families was some agricultural land but this asset was severely under-utilised due to degraded nature of soil and lack of irrigation facilities. Agriculture was dependant entirely on vagaries of the monsoon and generally did not help families meet even their basic food requirements.
In this situation, through dialogue with tribal families, Manibhai Desai and his associates thought of developing fruit orchards in under-utilised lands. The rationale was that mature fruit-trees can provide good and assured income to poor tribal families over the long term. Orchard plots could be so laid out that some agriculture is also possible in spaces between trees, to meet part of a family’s immediate food requirements.
Tribal families were familiar with fruit orchards—known as `wadis’ in Gujarati—as many of them had worked as labourers in large orchards in neighbouring parts of Gujarat, and with their traditional affinity for trees, they were receptive to the idea. However, initially only 40 tribal families from Vansda volunteered to join the BAIF programme; a precondition was that families would have to stop drinking alcohol—something unimaginable in the prevalent tribal culture.
The programme received support from the government’s National Rural Employment Programme, under which wages were paid for development of plots. Some plots were given to tribal families by the Forest Department on `usufruct’ basis. Water resource development and soil and water conservation works were undertaken with BAIF’s guidance and assistance.
As impact became visible, more tribal families volunteered to join. By 1988, around 4000 families were participating and the programme moved from development of orchards to a more holistic effort, addressing issues like community health and women’s empowerment.
Vasundhara Cooperative in Vansda in 1989 . A food processing unit was set up here with support from CAPART.Based on the experience gained in the inception phase, the Wadi programme was consolidated and expanded in 1988-2002. The key components of the programme were crystallized and a the `Wadi model’ was clearly defined. Forward linkages to markets were established with the formation of the
The programme expanded from South Gujarat to three other states in the 1990s, through BAIF’s associate organisations, Maharashtra Institute of Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (MITTRA, which means friend in Marathi), BAIF Institute for Rural Development-Karnataka (BIRD-K) and Rajasthan Rural Institute of Development Management (RRIDMA). In South Gujarat, the programme was expanded to Dharampur block of Valsad district, and later Dang, through BAIF’s associate organisation Dharampur Utthan Vahini (DHRUVA).
A number of tribal-owned cooperatives were set up in project areas for procurement and sale of raw produce, and part or full processing of produce. A large part of the production began to be sold through the Vasundhara Cooperative. Many processed items produced by Vasundhara began to be marketed by it across India under the brand name `Vrindavan’ in 1999.
The consolidation and expansion was supported by the German development bank, KfW Bankengruppe, CAPART, the governments of Gujarat and Maharashtra, Government of India and the European Union. Support from KfW was channelled and monitored through NABARD.
The growing support for Wadi was an indicator of its acceptance as a sustainable development programme for tribal areas. This was further attested by national and international recognition for the programme. BAIF received the Government of Maharashtra’s Adivasi Sewa Sansthan (tribal development organisation) award for the Wadi programme in 1998. The project was presented as a “successful replicable model for poverty alleviation in developing countries” at the UNDP Forum of Ministers for Poverty and Environment in New York, USA in 1999.
By 2002 the total number of tribal families participating in Wadi was over 17,000.
Wadi became a national programme in 2005 with NABARD setting up a Tribal Development Fund (TDF) with a corpus of Rs 50 crore, which is being augmented from time to time, for supporting Wadi-based integrated tribal development projects across the country.
Till March 31, 2010, NABARD had sanctioned 136 such projects for the benefit of over 1,13,000 tribal families in 22 states and the union territory of Dadra & Nagar Haveli, with a total commitment of Rs 380 crore. BAIF is the resource agency for TDF-supported projects and also an implementing agency in some areas.
Earlier, in 2003, the Maharashtra government officially accepted Wadi programme for adivasi development in its budget for 2003-04. In 2003-04, the Gujarat government also adopted the Wadi pattern of tribal development. Some other state governments have also evinced high interest in adopting Wadi.
Wadi has been implemented by MITTRA in over 2700 villages of 17 districts of Maharashtra, under various government programmes and with support of the Tribal Department of Maharashtra. The total number of tribal families holding Wadi plots in the state is over 82,000.
A second phase of KfW support for DHRUVA, starting in 2007, is enabling further expansion in Valsad and Dangs districts of South Gujarat.
BIRD-UP) and Society For Promotion Of Eco-friendly Sustainable Development (SPESD). In Gujarat, another associate organisation, Gujarat Rural Institute for Socio-Economic Reconstruction, Vadodara (GRISERV), has introduced Wadi in Ahmedabad district.Wadi was extended to parts of MP, UP and Bihar through BAIF’s associate organisations, BAIF Institute For Rural Development, Uttar Pradesh, (
Till March 31, 2010 the cumulative total of tribal families covered under Wadi by BAIF and its associate organisations in seven states (Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh) was over 125,000. View district-wise spread of BAIF-Wadi programme.
Wadi has now entered a stage of conceptual expansion. The expansion being carried out by BAIF and its associate organisations is broadly in these areas:
- More diversified livelihood activities are being promoted through Wadi at several project locations; for example, lac cultivation on trees planted along Wadi plot borders, bee-keeping in Wadi plots and domestication of useful wild plants.
- The agro-horti-forestry component is being expanded to a `whole farm approach’ at a few locations in Karnataka.
- Wadi is being integrated with large-scale watershed development through a `landscape approach’, which integrates natural resource management with livelihood promotion, and area-based development with family-focused development. The approach is being pilot tested in two clusters in Dangs and Valsad districts of south Gujarat.
- The same integration approach is being used to develop two `village development models’, at Ambajungle and Dabhadi, in Kaprada block of Valsad district. The project, supported by Supraja Foundation, Chennai, integrates natural resource management and watershed development with Wadi.
- Steps are being taken to promote `organic wadis’, with required certification and appropriate marketing for sale of organic produce.
- Wadi-based eco-tourism is being pilot tested at one location in Dadra & Nagar Haveli.
Marketing of raw and processed produce from Wadi programmes, and other BAIF initiatives, has received a big boost with the formation of Vasundhara Agri-Horti Producer Company Limited (VAPCOL), a multi-state marketing company promoted by BAIF which links producers in all BAIF project areas to bulk and institutional buyers in India, and exporters.