Gulabbhai Mahala of lachakdi village in Vansda tehsil of Navsari district, Gujarat, defies stereotypical notions of rural backwardness. He lives in a pucca house, owns a motorcycle, his wife runs a retail shop, his son is constantly on the mobile, and the yard is covered with mango grafts in plastic pouches.
One of the earliest participants in BAIF’s Wadi initiative in South Gujarat, he is representative of the multiple benefits of the programme.
Before 1992, when Gulabbhai became a Wadi participant, the family of 5 brothers struggled to make ends meet by cultivating paddy on their sloping, unproductive land and working in the fields of large landlords.
Initially sceptical about BAIF and Wadi, he became a participant after he saw benefits gained by other families. Agro-horti-forestry was developed in his plot of 2 acres. The fruit trees began to yield in 1996. Since then Gulabbhai has not looked back.
Gaining from remunerative prices for fruit produce, through Vasundhara co-operative, Gulabbhai opened a retail shop and then invested in a jaggery production unit. He also started a nursery and his family prepares around 5000 mango grafts a year, fetching income of over Rs 50,000.
Gulabbhai has invested increased income in education for his children. While three sons have studied in polytechnics, the eldest runs an agency for a telecom giant.
The multiple sources of income have made Gulabbhai a model and highly respected farmer. Though it is over 10 years since the end of the Wadi project in his village, he remains associated with the programme, as chairman of the Vasundhara cooperative.
“As the Wadi trees grow roots in the soil and bear fruit,” says Gulabbhai “so do the people associated with it stick to their land and prosper.”