`Wadi’ is a Gujarati term for orchard. The Wadi programme originated in tribal areas of South Gujarat and was initially restricted to development of mango orchards. Hence the programme came to be called Wadi. Subsequently, the scope of the programme was expanded (see Evolution) but the original name stuck on.
A `Wadi plot’ is a piece of family-owned land that is developed for agro-horti-forestry, with soil and water conservation, under a Wadi project. In BAIF Wadi projects, the plot is usually of one acre (4050 square metres).
`Agro-forestry’ is a system of land use where trees are grown with agricultural crops and/or animals on the same land. While the crops and/or animals produce food, the trees yield many useful products. In carefully designed agro-forestry systems, the presence of trees does not seriously affect agricultural crop production.
In `tree-based farming’, the emphasis is more on trees than agricultural crops. Tree-based farming may involve growing of only trees on non-forest land, for commercial and domestic purposes. The main product of chosen trees could be fruits, wood, etc.
`Agro-horti-forestry’ could be considered a combination of the above two approaches, involving growing of fruit as well as forest tree species, along with agricultural crops. In Wadi, the fruit-tree component is the main source of income, and agricultural crop production is generally limited to the first 4 or 5 years, till fruit trees reach maturity. Other trees are grown along borders. Some of these trees yield useful produce every year; others could be cut for wood.
The rationale for agro-horti-forestry is that mature fruit trees can provide income to poor families in under-developed areas, year after year, for several years, unlike agricultural crop cultivation, which is highly dependant on monsoons. Orchard plots could be so laid out that some agriculture is also possible in alleys and spaces between trees, to meet part of a family’s food requirements, till fruit trees begin to yield. Multipurpose tree species can be grown along boundaries, to meet the family’s fuel, wood or fodder needs; these trees can also be a source of additional income. Agro-horti-forestry thus meets a broad range of key needs of poor families.
Wadi was initially developed as a solution for chronic poverty and hunger in tribal areas of South Gujarat. It was designed to derive maximum benefit from the only substantial asset owned by most tribal families, namely small plots of degraded, un-irrigated, cultivable land. The core, agro-horti-forestry component of Wadi is well suited for promotion among tribal communities as they have traditional affinity and knowledge about trees. For these reasons, Wadi has become a standard component of tribal development efforts in many parts of India.
There is however no reason Wadi cannot be implemented in degraded, cultivable lands in other backward regions.
Wadi is a long-term, multi-component project that requires high degree of participation from beneficiaries. In this sense, it is quite different from other programmes, which tend to be sectoral, short or medium-term interventions. For an elaboration of Wadi’s unique features, see Key Features.
Soil and water conservation, and water resource development works required for Wadi plot development can be undertaken under MREGS. A major challenge would be synchronisation of MREGS works with the time-bound, sequential schedule of Wadi plot development (read about pre-establishment and establishment stages of Wadi). There is better scope for convergence of Wadi with other government programmes, such as programmes related to health and drinking water.
The 1-acre norm for Wadi plots followed by BAIF is based on following considerations:
- Most poor tribal families own small plots of land.
- Around 40 to 80 fruit trees can be planted in a plot of 1-acre. This is the minimum amount of trees required for getting significant income from horticulture, with low investment and low annual expenses.
- A family with at least two working adults can take care of 40 to 80 fruit trees in a plot of 1-acre.
- For correct estimation of fund requirement and efficient management of a Wadi project, it is necessary to have a norm for plot size.
The 1-acre norm is not followed with extreme rigidity. Deviation of up to -25% and +50% from the norm has been allowed, on a case-to-case basis.
It is not practical to speak of `average income’ across Wadi plots, across different locations in India, as the income is dependant on many basic variables:
- Inherent variations in price realisation. Within a Wadi plot and across Wadi plots, there is an inherently wide variation in price realisation from different fruit trees. For example, in 2007, income from sale of mangoes produced by 20 trees in a Wadi plot in South Gujarat was around Rs 6000, @ Rs 9/kg. There were 34 surviving cashew trees in the plot. Income from sale of cashew, @ Rs 37/kg, was around Rs 11,000. The same year price realised for another variety of mango from a plot in Maharashtra was Rs 15/kg, and income from 20 trees was Rs 12,000.
- Variations in yield according to geographical conditions. It is well known that yield of fruit trees in some areas is much higher than yield in other areas—for instance, yield of mango trees in Konkan is higher than yield in plain areas of Maharashtra.
- Proximity to large markets. Farmers close to cities with large fruit/vegetable markets, like Mumbai and Bengaluru, get higher returns than farmers at distant locations.
- Age of Wadi plots and resultant different in yield. In case of many fruit trees, there is a huge difference in yield according to age of trees. For instance, yield of a 10-year-old mango tree can be more than four times the yield of a 5-year-old tree.
- Annual fluctuations in yield are natural in case of fruits like mango. There is also natural fluctuation in yield from multi-purpose tree species planted along boundaries; for instance, fast-growing trees grown for timber produce are good sources of income once in 5 to 6 years.
- Apart from natural fluctuations in yield, there could be fluctuations due to calamities, such as unexpected pest attacks, weather disturbances and severe floods.
- Market price fluctuations. Market price of a fruit rises or drops dramatically when there is a shortfall or glut in the main production region of the fruit in the country.
Within a particular geographical location also, there is wide difference in income from Wadi plots due to many variables:
- Care and attention given to trees by plot-owning families is a major determinant of yield and income over the long term. In the BAIF-Wadi experience, at any given location, after a period of around 10 years, 6-9% of families do not pay attention to their Wadi plots; around 30% of families pay less than adequate attention. Around 40% take adequate care of trees and around 20% take great care. Yield and income varies accordingly.
- Proximity to adequate sources of water is a major determinant of growth and health of trees, especially in the early years. While it is the endeavour of a Wadi project to ensure adequate water to all plots, some plots are located close to good water sources and enjoy a natural advantage.
- Allied livelihood activities undertaken by families in or around Wadi plots can significantly boost income. In some cases, allied livelihoods like nurseries provide more income than fruit trees.
For the purpose of project planning, it is important to note, estimation of yields from Wadi plots cannot be based on yields obtained in large, high-investment, commercial plantations.
Given all these factors, it is reasonable to expect, at 2009 prices, gross average annual income of around Rs 25,000 from all trees in a Wadi plot after the establishment stage. Excluding expenses for fertilisers and pesticides, value assigned to family labour required for maintaining plots, and miscellaneous expenses, average net income from trees alone would be around Rs 15,000 per plot.
Additional income could come from vegetable and crop cultivation and allied livelihood activities.
The total income from different Wadi sources, which would supplement a tribal family’s usual income from agriculture, labour and other sources like sale of forest produce, would enable the family to move out of the `below poverty level’ (BPL) category.
As fruit trees become older, the income would rise, subject to conditions discussed above, enabling investments in other income-generation opportunities. Some tribal families in Gujarat and Maharashtra owning Wadi plots that are 10 or more years old had annual income of over Rs 150,000 in 2009; they had built a new house, owned vehicles, and had ventured into other businesses. Read a related case study.
Read estimates of income from Wadi plots in evaluation reports summarised in Impact.