Wadi – Enhancing livelihoods, nutrition and environment

 BAIF’s innovative model of “Agri-horti-forestry (Wadi)” integrates horticulture into the farming system for sustainable livelihoods through climate smart practices, productive engagement with under-utilized land and optimal use of local resources. The model with horticulture as the core component ensures multiple income streams round the year especially during lean periods from a combination of medium gestation-high resilience and short gestation-high returns cropping patterns.

Agriculture, with its allied sectors, is the largest source of livelihoods in India. Seventy percent of its rural households still depend primarily on agriculture for their livelihood, with 82 percent of farmers being small and marginal. While achieving food sufficiency in production, India still accounts for a quarter of the world’s hungry people and home to over 190 million undernourished people (FAO Report). Tribal communities in India are among the poorest and disadvantaged sections of the society. In 2018, India’s National Data indicated that Scheduled Tribes in India were the poorest populace.

Majority of the farmers are small and marginal landholders and practice rain-fed subsistence agriculture. Low returns from agriculture leads to other challenges including fast depleting traditional resources, poor health and lack of access to services resulting in distress migration for survival. Distress migration is linked with poor living conditions impacting health of the family and education of children. There is an urgent need to create alternative cropping systems that can ensure sustainable livelihoods as well as sustainability of the natural resources.  Horticulture crops including fruits, vegetables, flowers etc. have great potential of achieving this. Against this background, BAIF Development Research Foundation (BAIF) has introduced and up-scaled the Wadi programme which involves promotion of fruit trees as well as other horticulture and forestry in the farming systems. This article aims at sharing the case of a tribal family that has moved from poverty to prosperity after adoption of the Wadi model. The case is representative of the Wadi programme which has resulted in significant improvement in livelihoods, nutrition and quality of lives of 2 lacs participating families in various parts of the country.

Shri. Sitarambhai Sonji Ghatka dwells in a remote village in the tribal region of South Gujarat. Sitarambhai lives in Kaprada block of Valsad district with six members in his family. They own 4 acres of land, a part of which is along plains.  Almost half of the land is along the slope and is quite degraded. The family depends on agriculture as their primary source of livelihood.

Agriculture was mainly at subsistence level, with major crops cultivated being rice, finger millets and black gram. Cultivation was restricted to the monsoon season only. After the harvest of the Kharif crop, Sitarambhai had no other alternative source of livelihoods within the village and hence had to migrate for wage labour. He used to take 3 – 4 trips annually to Vapi, Silvassa or Nasik in search of work during the post-monsoon season. Each trip comprised of nearly 15 to 20 days. The fields were left barren thereby leading to further erosion of soil and loss of soil fertility. At times the entire family had to resort to seasonal migration. This affected the nutrition and health of the family as well as interfered with the education of their children. Despite the challenges, migration catered to subsistence only. Majority of the families in the area were compelled to follow the same pattern which was quite alarming.

It is against this background that BAIF introduced the Wadi program in the area. The initial piloting was supported by NABARD and Supraja Foundation which helped in evolving suitable farming system models comprising of agriculture, horticulture and forestry interventions. BAIF with the support from Supraja Foundation introduced “Holistic Village Development Programme” under which Wadi and various horticulture crops were introduced with required value chain initiatives. This resulted in significant improvement in the livelihoods of the families. Sitarambhai came across some of his friends and relatives who had benefited from the Wadi model and hence decided to give it a try.

Highlights & impact* Holistic customised approach for optimal local resource utilization & productive engagement.* Outreach of 2 lacs families in 12 states by BAIF. Scale-up by NABARD with ~ 5 lacs families.* Additional household income of `80,000 – 90,000. Income stream across year.* No distress migration, improved nutrition, health, education.* Upward social mobility, empowerment.* Value chain development: 48 FPOs with ~ 41,000 member farmers. Processing of mango, cashew, amla (Indian gooseberry)* Carbon sequestration potential: ~ 24 tons per ha.* Alignment with SDGs 1, 2, 3, 10, 12, 13.

Initially he was not very confident since the land he could spare for tree plantation was along slopes and was highly degraded. On his request, BAIF team visited and assessed resources and jointly a farming system improvement plan was prepared. He also confirmed for undertaking all the required labour work and trainings. Support was provided in the form of planting material, basal fertilizers, trainings and regular handholding. Various pre-plantation activities including pit digging, pit filling, organic manure application were taken-up in the field. Sitarambhai planted 20 mango, 40 cashew plants with 250 forestry saplings along the border. Legume crops/pulses were introduced as intercrops in between the fruit trees. After harvest of the Kharif crop, sunhemp was introduced as intercrop on residual moisture. These intercrops helped in receiving additional income while also improving the soils due to nitrogen fixation potential. During the summer season appropriate soil conservation activities were taken up on the plot. He also initiated various organic practices including recycling of farm residues, green manuring, application of dashparni ark, etc. These practices along with soil conservation helped in improving the soils.

Later on, he also received training in cultivation of vegetable crops including trellis based crops. Sitarambhai had never taken up vegetable cultivation on commercial basis. He initiated trellis based vegetable cultivation on a small plot initially. He also cultivated some leafy greens under the trellis while bottle gourd was cultivated on the trellis system. This helped him cultivate 2 to 3 crops at the same time on the land. He received appreciable returns during the first season of vegetable crops. He used his savings to further increase the area under vegetable crops. Over the years as the trees grew there was remarkable improvement in the soil too.

During the initial years Sitarambhai received some additional income from pulses which were taken up as intercrop. He received significant increase in income from his vegetable plots during subsequent years. Production from fruit trees started flowing in from the fourth year onwards. The fruit production has increased steadily over the years. Now Sitarambhai receives year round production from various crops including cereals, pulses, vegetables, fruits, etc. A summary of the production and value of produce from his farmland before and after the initiative is presented in the table below.

Table 1: Production and value of various crops

SN Crops cultivated Before Wadi After Wadi
Yield (kg) Value (Rs.) Yield (kg) Value (Rs.)
1 Cereals (rice, finger millets)  1,400   35,000     1,100      27,500
2 Pulses (black gram, pigeon pea)        70     4,900        150      10,500
3 Bottle gourd           –              –  15,540  2,17,560
4 Cucumber           –              –     1,000      16,000
5 Mango           –              –        805      21,735
6 Cashew           –              –        180      18,900
Gross value of produce     39,900    3,12,195

The enhanced farm production has resulted in improved consumption of pulses, vegetables and fruits at household level. This has helped in improved nutrition at family level. The surplus fruits and vegetables have resulted in significant increase in family income. They are no longer dependent on distress migration for livelihoods. The family now leads a more dignified life and children are able to attend school on regular basis. The horticulture crops and trees with other initiatives have resulted in improvement in the soil quality. The family has observed increased biodiversity in terms of crops as well as birds and insects on their farmland.

Collective initiatives

There are several other farmers in the region who have adopted the Wadi i.e. agri-horti-forestry based farming system. This has resulted in overall change in the farming system and increase in farm returns while improving the natural resources of the area. These farmers are organized into farmer producer organizations (farmers cooperatives) that take up value chain initiatives including organizing input supply for farmers, aggregation of farm produce, processing of mango and cashew as well as marketing of the processed produce. The activities undertaken by the farmers’ cooperatives have resulted in reduced cost of production while ensuring better price for their produce. The activities like agriculture input supply, aggregation, processing and marketing has created new enterprise and employment opportunities for youth in the area.

Several families have diversified into secondary agriculture enterprises like production of fruit plants/grafts, vegetable saplings, vermicompost, mushroom cultivation etc. The agri-horticulture initiatives have not only created positive impacts at individual family level but have also created employment opportunities at community level. There is a significant improvement not only in the socio-economic status of the families but also resulting in improvement in the environment. The Wadis are also playing a vital role in climate change mitigation by sequestering carbon.

Yogesh G. Sawant, Rakesh K. Warrier and Rajesh B. Kotkar

Yogesh G. Sawant, Sr. Thematic Programme Executive


Rakesh K. Warrier, Chief Programme Executive


Rajesh B. Kotkar, Sr. Project Officer


BAIF Development Research Foundation

BAIF Bhavan, Dr. Manibhai Desai Nagar

NH4, Warje, Pune – 411058

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