Selection of fruit trees for plantation under the agro-horti-forestry component of Wadi is done in a participatory manner, taking into account:
- local environmental conditions
- shelf-life of fruits and potential for value-addition through processing
- possible yield in given circumstances, within 1-acre plots, with minimal investment on maintenance
- current and forecasted market demand for the fruits, in raw, semi-processed or processed forms, in domestic or export markets
It is not necessary that the fruit trees selected for plantation are already grown locally; through Wadi, BAIF introduced cashew plantation for the first time in many tribal areas of Gujarat and Maharashtra, after assessing field conditions in consultation with scientists and technical experts.
What is important is that local conditions favour low-cost cultivation and maintenance of the selected fruit trees, there is a good market for the produce, and participating families are willing to learn plantation and maintenance practices.
To mitigate natural fluctuations in yield, and loss due to large-scale pest attacks and other calamities, cultivation of at least two species of fruit trees is promoted, in different parts of plots. One species is grown in parts with good soil depth; the other, more hardy species, are planted in poorer soil.
A typical combination in 1-acre Wadi plots in tribal areas of Maharashtra and Gujarat is 20 mango trees and 40 cashew trees. Other combinations include mango + amla (in tribal areas of Rajasthan and MP), mango+bel/amla (in UP), sapota (chikoo)+ cashew (in Gujarat). View a table of fruit-tree combinations in BAIF-Wadi projects in different agro-climatic conditions.
Actual layout of fruit trees in plots varies according to plot size and shape, slope of land, and location of existing trees within the plot.
As large volumes of production are required to establish profitable linkages to mainstream markets, plantation of more than 2-3 fruit species in 1-acre plots does not often make business sense. However, some Wadi plot-holders do plant some other fruit trees, such as papaya and local varieties of mango, to meet family needs, and for sale in local markets. Some native and hardy fruit trees are also planted along borders, to give families extra income and improve their nutritional standards.
After basic choice of fruit trees is made, most suitable (improved) varieties have to be selected for procurement and production of saplings. The selection is done in consultation with research institutes and regional agriculture universities. When a species or variety is introduced for the first time in a particular area (as was the case with cashew in South Gujarat), extensive field trials are done before it is promoted.
Fruit-tree grafts are initially procured from recognised sources. Later, grafts are procured from nurseries run by trained individuals or groups in the Wadi project area, or other project areas.