Food and Livelihood Security
through Development of Wadis



The impact of climate change on food and nutrition security is exacerbating the existing inequalities in access to resources and contributing to injustice. Those who have done the least to cause the climate change problem are already suffering its impacts on one of their most fundamental human rights – the right to food. The marginalised communities and primitive tribes and communities are adversely affected. Their dependence on the natural resources for income and nutrition has crippled their livelihood. Under-nutrition undermines the coping mechanisms and resilience of vulnerable populations, lessening their capacities to resist and adapt to the consequences of climate change.

One such community is the designated ‘primitive’ forest-dwelling tribal community of the Sahariyas. Comprising nearly 4 per cent of the tribal population of Madhya Pradesh, the Sahariyas have been forced to move out of their original vocation and livelihood due to increasing depletion of forest resources. Continuous drought and lack of other resources to fall back upon has made them even more vulnerable. They are mostly landless and do not have any profitable skills or training. Illiteracy is rampant in the community and the people are not in a position to access the government benefits and welfare schemes that are meant for them. This leads them to resort to work as daily wage earners either in their own state or having to migrate out to other states in search of work. The only source of earning left for the Sahariyas is farm labour. However, this source of income is also gradually receding in the wake of mechanisation of farm labour.

Understanding that the livelihood and food insecurity needs of the community must be addressed, the Development Alternatives Group with the support of the Tribal Development Fund (TDF) of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development has undertaken the implementation of a wadi project that aims at strengthening the livelihoods of 500 tribal (Sahariya) families in Jhansi district of Uttar Pradesh.

The project involves setting up wadis (orchards) in the land of small and marginal Sahariya households as well as linking non-land owners in different value chain components. The intervention is in the area of land use planning, introduction of soil and water harvesting measures, and improved farming based on agro-forestry practices. The project aspires to not only strengthen the agrarian livelihoods of these households but also to increase household food and nutritional security.

This agri-horti livelihood model is one among the many such initiatives. Characterised by short and erratic rainfall and soil quality, agroforestry is the most viable alternative land use system for the degraded region of Bundelkhand. Agroforestry possesses the capability to conserve and appreciate natural resources, improve productivity of the land, act as insurance against climatic aberrations and failure of conventional crops in rain-fed areas given the deteriorating state of land quality and the vagaries of the monsoon. This integrated and self-sustaining land management system involves the deliberate introduction or retention of woody components including trees, shrubs, bamboo, etc. Increasing the tree cover on farms helps combat deforestation and the impacts of climate change. It can reduce soil erosion, help to capture water and nutrients, and support greater biodiversity.

The TDF-Wadi Project

The TDF projects aim to provide sustainable livelihoods to 500 tribal families through orchard-based farming systems over a period of 5-7 years. The project will encourage family farming and aims to cover at least 500 acres of land under orchard plantation in a cluster base of 20 villages. All participants have to bear 25 per cent of the orchard development costs.

The project is based on the wadi concept of orchard development and livelihoods. This concept is a holistic development approach that takes into account all aspects of rural life. This concept can be viewed from different levels or perspectives. Viewed through a wide angle, it covers the development of a designated area of land and its inhabitants in the form of a wadi cluster. It has dimensions of farm production, natural resource management, social mobilisation and economic upliftment. From an individual farm perspective, it is a tree-based farming system – more specifically a wadi system – in which the agri-horti-forestry unit interacts with other production components of the farm such as annual crop fields and livestock. At the level of the physical land unit, the wadi plot is an agri-horti-forestry arrangement of beneficial plant species. This concept has turned out to be a practical strategy for the development of smallholders in dry areas who cannot take the risk of investing in high-input intensive agriculture because of poor land quality and limited water availability.

Orchard Cultivation

Orchard Cultivation is the core component of the project. It involves the application of soil conservation and water development techniques along with intercropping, fencing and forestry boundary plantations. The fruit plant bears in about four years and the forestry boundary acts as a shelter belt. The mix planted species meets the families’ needs for fuel, fodder and small timbers. It also helps in reducing the pressure on the existing forests. An acre orchard accommodates around 110 fruit plants of guava and gooseberry (depending on spacing) and 600-800 forestry plants. It also provides adequate income and livelihood security under climatic vagaries. In five years, a poor village of 100 families gets converted into an orchard of 100-150 acres, producing hundreds of tonnes of fruits.

Training and Capacity Building

Training and capacity building is a very crucial aspect of implementation of the project given the wide variety of activities undertaken and host of processes involved. Resource support services for quality input on the wadi area for intercropping vegetable production is provided. Capacity building programmes are being conducted for both on farm and off farm training.

Community Development

Community development and development of self help groups for women is also integrated within the project. Alternative livelihood options and trainings are conducted to reduce the drudgery of the women. The women are involved in vegetable production in the wadi area by using tetra vermi composting. There is also a focus on the promotion of micro-enterprises for landless people such as food processing.

Evidence suggests that agroforestry and its application in development by smallholders throughout the tropics plays an important role in achieving greater food and livelihood security. Its apparent advantages lie in its ability to regenerate environment resources and prevent further degradation. By developing positive ecological interactions between species, agroforestry systems aim to provide a range of environmental, economic and social benefits to the farming communities. Despite such advantages, agroforestry as a land use option has not attracted much attention from the planners and extension community. Reasons for this include inconsistencies in under storey crop productivity (positive, negative, or neutral effects, depending on species, site and management) and lack of public policy support. Conscious efforts on system management and policy adjustments are, therefore, imperative to promote adoption of agroforestry by the farming communities in order to help achieve food security.   q

Shiv Bhushan Pandey


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