VASUNDHARA VRIX VANWADI JALSINCHAN VIKAS SAHAKARI MANDALI LTD

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India

Name: VASUNDHARA VRIX VANWADI JALSINCHAN VIKAS SAHAKARI MANDALI LTD
Country: India
Year of establishment: 1985
Type of organization: Community-based association or organization, Community business or cooperative

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VASUNDHARA VRIX VANWADI JALSINCHAN VIKAS SAHAKARI MANDALI LTD

India Placeholder
India

Name: VASUNDHARA VRIX VANWADI JALSINCHAN VIKAS SAHAKARI MANDALI LTD
Country: India
Year of establishment:
Type of organization: Community-based association or organization, Community business or cooperative

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Description

Vansda block is in Navsari district in South Gujarat. This block comprising of hilly terrain, is inhabited by more than 93% Scheduled Tribe Communities belonging to Kukuna, Warli, Kolcha, and Kotwadia tribes. Unable to secure their food needs through collection of non-forest forest produce and shifting cultivation, most of the tribal families seasonally migrated to nearby towns in search of wages. The men spent most of their earnings consuming illicit alcohol, while the women and children suffered from malnutrition, ill-health and illiteracy. The initiative by a Gandhian Civil Society Organisation - BAIF Development Research Foundation, enabled these tribal families to organise themselves into women empowerment and community health group, agricultural productivity improvement group, village development planning group and agricultural processing and marketing group to improve their agricultural productivity and quality of life, while conserving the natural resources.

2426 families as registered members from 37 villages and 37000 associate families spread over 750 villages and involved in agri-horti-forestry, formed a cooperative society - "Vasundhara Vrix Vanwadi Jalsinchan Vikas Sahakari Mandali Ltd." popularly known as "Vasundhara” on December 16, 1985 to develop their denuded lands into orchards, locally known as wadis and organize value addition and marketing of the produce, while developing a value chain, by establishing a link with development support organisations and financial institutions. The families wanting to develop their denuded lands into orchards were registered as members of the General Body of the Cooperative, by paying a nominal share capital of Rs. 50 and they elected 11 members, including three women members, for the Managing Committee to organize various activities.

The focus was on conservation of natural resources, while developing the undulating lands into small levelled plots to promote soil and water conservation, establish irrigation facilities to make best use of the water resources and to establish orchards to ensure food security from the first year itself. BAIF provided technical and initial financial support. Regular mentoring and supervision helped the members to gain confidence and improve their efficiency.

Nature Element: Agricultural, Forests
Type of Action:
Sustainable Development Element: Jobs and livelihoods (SDG 1) , Food security (SDG 2) , Health (SDG 3) , Water security (SDG 6) 

Nature Element: Agricultural, Forests
Type of Action:
Sustainable Development Element: Jobs and livelihoods (SDG 1) , Food security (SDG 2) , Health (SDG 3) , Water security (SDG 6) 

Environmental Impacts

Under the Orchard development programme, 2426 families developed orchards on 1000 ha denuded land, by establishing 0.15 million mango and cashew grafted fruit plants and 1.0 million multipurpose tree species useful as fodder, green manure, fuel, medicinal herbs and food supplements. With regular intercropping, these lands which remained barren for several decades, came under green cover throughout the year, sequestrating over 0.5 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. As farmers realised the need for maintaining high soil moisture to improve the productivity of orchards, efficient soil and water conservation measures were undertaken. They also decided to prevent illegal tree felling in the forests and developed series of water bodies to conserve water. These initiatives helped to improve the ground water table, regenerate the denuded forests and improve the micro-climate. With establishment of a wide range of tree species around the orchards and field bunds, farmers started producing large quantities of biomass useful for fodder, green manure and fuel. Increased use of organic manure increased the soil fertility, particularly organic carbon, which helped to improve the microbial activities and productivity of the agricultural fields. Farmers stopped letting out their livestock for free grazing and started stall feeding with rich fodder, which helped to improve their productivity, while reducing the negative impact on the environment.
With effective water conservation and creation of water storage facilities, there was a significant improvement in supply of clean drinking water in all the villages throughout the year. People were able to feel the reduction in the atmospheric temperature, particularly during the summer months and observe a significant improvement in the biodiversity.

Sustainable Development Impacts

Assured work and income from the orchards prevented starvation, seasonal migration and ensured food security and improved the quality of life. With an increase in agricultural income, 95% families were out of poverty. Even landless families got employment in food processing units, orchards, plant nurseries and dairy husbandry (SDG 1 and 2). Because of efficient procurement and processing of the produce, these farmers were able to get better price for the produce and had access to new technologies. Clean water sources and community health measures significantly reduced the incidences of illness (SDG 3 and 6). Good health improved their work efficiency. It also reduced the burden of women significantly. Empowerment of women helped them to initiate various income generating activities (SDG5) and the children started attending school regularly (SDG 4).

RESILIENCE, ADAPTABILITY, AND SELF-SUFFICIENCY

As the programme was aimed at developing denuded wastelands, the farmers in consultation with the project team selected drought tolerant fruit and forestry species, which could survive and bear fruits without irrigation. Establishment of wind breaks, in-situ water conservation through contour bunds and farm ponds helped to conserve moisture and improve the ground water table. Micro-irrigation helped to make optimum use of the available water resources at critical stages of growth. Use of organic manure and green manure increased the soil carbon content and improved the soil productivity. Introduction of selected hand tools and farm implements helped to carry out timely farming operations. Linking with weather bureau for weather forecast kept the farmers alert and they were sensitized about likely challenges and empowered to address them suitably.

REDUCED INEQUALITIES

The programme was specially designed to benefit poor families belonging to Scheduled Tribes, who were considered to be socio-economically backward and living mostly in hilly regions, depending on primitive farming and collection of non-timber forest produce. The project primarily targeted to benefit the most deprived communities. The benefit was restricted to develop only 0.4 ha by each family and hence, all the families received similar benefits without any discrimination. The project provided special attention tor the landless families who could not develop their orchards by employing in food processing and marketing activities. They were also supported to take up dairy husbandry and other income generation activities. Special training was organised for illiterate persons, particularly women to impart critical skills. Hence, all the families could take advantage of the programme to earn sustainable livelihood. Among the participant families, poor families were given special attention with regard to infrastructure development, finance and credit facilities. This helped the weaker families to cope with others.

GENDER EQUALITY

Women were the main target because men were neither available nor interested in agriculture. Most of them were addicted to alcohol and migrating seasonally with the result that women were suffering from food insecurity and heavy household burden. Thus, women were keen to participate in orchard development, although it involved hard work. Thus, the programme was women-centric with activities to suit their convenience. Accordingly, the programme identified community health, malnutrition of women and children, establishment of community food banks, special programmes to prevent alcohol consumption and promotion of special income generation programmes where women can have total control over their earnings and empower themselves. Introduction of the service of midwives, nutritional supplementation for malnourished women and children, establishment of kindergartens, support for construction of toilets and bathrooms, encouraging girls to attend school and awareness among the community to prevent early marriage of girls were the important project initiatives. As a result, many girls from the community have completed graduation and professional degrees and are employed in government and non-government organisations. Women have gained status in the society and are participating in the governance of Panchayati Raj Institutions. Vasundhara Cooperative has a membership of 410 women and 2016 men. Three women are on the Board. The Cooperative is a source of employment for tribal women.

Scalability

For the first time in India, this programme demonstrated the rehabilitation of tribal families in their own environs, while improving the natural resources. Significant reduction in migration particularly of women, helped to improve the health status of the community and education of children. The programme directly developed over 1000 ha of denuded lands owned by 2426 tribal families into orchards and generated an annual income of Rs.120 million. The Cooperative helped over 37000 poor Scheduled Tribe families to establish their own orchards and to develop their link with the market.

Replicability

Seeing the success of the programme, many state governments provided financial support for orchard development of tribal families. The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, the premier agricultural bank in the country, created a special fund for orchard development for tribals and invited NGOs to implement this programme throughout the country. The Government of India also developed a scheme for rehabilitation of Scheduled Tribes through Wadi (Orchard) Development programme. Thus this programme is being implemented in 25 states of India.