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2. Use of wasteland for farm forestry

2.1 Case of Scheduled Caste Cooperative Practicing Farm Forestry in Vadgam Village, Cambay Taluka of Kheda District

The sea coast of Cambay Taluka, known as the Bhal region, has traditionally been under the socio-political domination of the local Rajput castes. The dominant castes own the best and the most land of the region while most lower castes maintain patron-client relationships with the Rajput castes. The Vankar of the Bhal region, traditionally a community of fishing-net weavers, are a scheduled caste working as farm hands on the fields of the Rajput farmers. Under the Tenancy Act of 1956, some Vankar of Vadgam village acquired small plots of poor-quality land, thereby becoming marginal farmers. With the help of the Behavioural Science Centre (BSC), a non-governmental organization, the Vankar of Vadgam have carried out farm forestry since 1979 on a plot of 182 acres of wasteland.

Profile of Kheda District

General Information:

    - Major foodgrains: paddy, groundnut, pigeon pea

    - dry climate: summer (March to June) temperatures more than 40C; winter (November to February) temperatures to 7 C

    - rainfall between June and October is variable (e.g. in Cambay Taluka, approximately 300 mm)

    - > 80% of the population lives in villages

    - fairly developed rural area with industrial development surrounding the farming and dairy production: tobacco processing/tobacco production; pulse mills, rice mills, groundnut oil mills; milk marketing/cheese, butter, milk powder

Vadgam Village in Kheda District

General Information:

    - 18,886 acres of land, but only 6,579 acres are cultivated; 11,000 acres are infertile wasteland, much of it saline land

    - Main crops: wheat, bajri, irrigated paddy (since 1976)

    - 24 kilometres from Cambay town, the only seaport in the district

Health Conditions:

    - children under 5 years suffer most from malaria, typhoid, chicken pox

    - children weaned between 1 1/2 and 2 years; fed rice and pulses cooked with milk

    - all drinking water from four wells, one for each caste; wells always have water, available at 25 feet

    - no village houses with lavatory

    - no primary health centre

Vankar Community of Vadgam Village

    - 10% of village population of Vadgam are Vankar, with 67 families

    - 53 families own 156 acres of unirrigated land (from the Tenancy Act of 1956); the remaining 14 families are landless, depending on employment as agricultural labourers

    - village has about 300 families of landless labourers; In times of drought, they are forced to work on richer farms

    - poor quality soil, consequent low level of yield in region; even in normal times, crop production is low: 200 kg wheat/acre (compared to 1000 kg/acre in Jaspara village)

    - marginal farmer: 1-7 acres; small farmer: 8-15 acres; middle farmer: 16-30 acres; large farmer: >31 acres

    - in non-drought times, barely enough food to subsist through the year; for non-food requirements, need access to cash

    - get money through the money-lender, with exorbitant interest, forcing them to work on his fields at low wages - no other alternatives

    - the Vankar cooperative has adopted farm forestry as an alternative, providing secure employment and regular income

    - female members of Vankar families find employment on the farm; able to avoid "forced labour" for money-lenders

    - Vankar have tried to persuade others to follow their example

    - in several villages of Bhal region, Vankar and other scheduled castes have started moves - some have similar cooperatives with farm forestry a part of it

2.1.1 Involvement of the Behavioural Science Centre with the Vankar community

The Behavioural Science Centre, located at St. Xavier's College, Ahmedabad, has been involved with the scheduled castes of the Bhal region for the last twenty years, "encouraging among them an awareness of the need to help themselves in order to improve their socio-economic conditions" (according to a BSC worker in 1986). In 1976, the BSC conducted a socio-economic survey of the Vankar community, with 128 Vankar farmers from eight villages of the region. The survey revealed that the cash needs of Vankar families exceeded their incomes, resulting in a permanent bond of "debtor-creditor" relationship between the Vankar and the rich Rajput farmers.

2.1.2 Formation of a cooperative for acquiring land

To augment the availability of cash among the Vankar, the BSC suggested that the Vankar community in each village form a cooperative and apply to the state government as a collective body for a land-grant which would enable them to increase their income by cultivating additional land. The Vankar of Vadgam formed the "Vadgam Anusuchita Jati Samudayik Kheti Mandali Limited" cooperative in 1977; in 1978 the government of Gujarat gave it a land-grant of 182 acres on yearly leases. Initially the BSC had planned to introduce improved techniques of agriculture on a 20 acre section of the land-grant and encourage the Vankar to take up agricultural cultivation on the remaining land. However, all efforts to make the saline land produce agricultural crops failed; in the last quarter of 1979 the BSC suggested the Vankar cooperative members grow forest trees on this land and sell the timber for income-generation. Thus, the Cooperative land came to be used for farm forestry.

Initially, the Vankar community had grave doubts about the feasibility of such a scheme and expressed its apprehensions before the BSC, which subsequently arranged a visit by Kalidas Patel (a pioneer in raising Propsopis juliflora in Gujarat) to Vadgam for inspection of the land. He maintained that Prosopis juliflora could be grown in any kind of soil and was specially suited for cultivation in wasteland. Fully agreeing with the BSC's plans of raising a Prosopis juliflora plantation, Patel assured the Vankar community of complete success in their venture. He then invited the executive of the cooperative to visit his farm in Vatva and see for themselves the feasibility of such a project. Thus convinced, the members of the cooperative agreed to first raise a nursery for growing seedlings.

In fact, the villagers were already familiar with this tree, locally known as Gando bavai ("mad babool"). Treating it as a menace, they never allowed it to grow fully and cut it for fuelwood and fencing. Now they were worried that if they cultivated it as a crop, the other villagers may not allow the plants to grow properly. This led them to think of the need for a watchman and they raised questions related to resources and funds for financing the operations of farm forestry.

2.1.3 Rures and funds

The BSC agreed to provide the capital, interest free, to finance the operations of raising trees on the farm on condition that if the project failed, the BSC would not ask the cooperative to repay the debt, while if it succeeded the cooperative would have to pay all its debts to the BSC. The cooperative members agreed to this condition and the BSC arranged the loan from charity organizations abroad.

2.1.4 How farm forestry developed on cooperative land

Nursery - After deciding to grow Prosopis juliflora, the cooperative needed seedlings to plant. The BSC helped the members grow a nursery of 80 000 seedlings on a plot near the village pond.

In 1979, the ground was prepared and 90 000 polythene bags were filled with a mixture of manure and local soil and sown with seeds of

Prosopis juliflora. The costs of preparing the nursery for 80 000 seedlings were as follows:

Plastic bags

Rs. 463





Pump charges for irrigation


Irrigation by truck-tanker

1 275

Irrigation by tractor-tanker


Labour for digging, bag filling and

seed preparation

3 522

Labour for fencing and weeding


Labour for irrigation

1 308



7 518

Transplantation - The nursery provided sufficient saplings to cover more than 100 acres. By the first quarter of 1980 about 72 acres were planted with 21 800 seedlings. The spacing followed in the 1980 transplantation was 3' x 3' while the present pattern has been changed to a spacing of 1' x 3'. The cost of the first phase of transplantation came to Rs. 35 700. The expenditures were as follows:

Digging of pits

Rs. 4 694

Removal and transfer of seedlings

3 482

Irrigation and mulching

13 644

Actual planting operation

3 369



Administrative overheads


Salaries of watchman and supervisor

10 000


35 695

Survival rate - The survival rate of the saplings came to an average of 35 per cent. Later when in the monsoon period of 1980 another 15 acres of land were planted with 4000 saplings at a cost of Rs. 1 074; the survival rate in this instance was 37.5 per cent.

Water conservation - Again, a second nursery was set up to make at least 5 000 saplings available at each session of transplantation from December 1980 to February 1981 and then in the 1.981 monsoon period. Simultaneously, the technical wing of the BSC had undertaken extensive research on the soil-type to isolate the causes for the survival rate. As a result It was discovered that moisture was the limiting factor affecting the growth of Prosopis juliflora. To retain moisture, therefore, the process of bunding had to be carried out. Next, drainage facilities had to be provided for water-logged areas. It was decided that all possible systems of water harvesting and moisture conservation had to be adopted to irrigate the fields. Bunding and a few other devices did raise the survival rate of plants from 35 to 55 per cent by June 1980. Adequate rains during the monsoon season of 1981 brought the survival rate to 70 per cent.

Additional funds - For the bunding operations, Catholic Relief Services made a contribution in the form of food for work for 1,125 working days. The Kaira Social Service Society gave funds for building a service road within the plantation, requiring a total of 8,055 working days. Thus, additional sources were found to generate funds so as to provide employment to the members of the cooperative.

Harvesting plans - By the end of 1981, 130 acres had been planted; with an average survival rate of 55 per cent, about 27,500 trees matured, at a cost of Rs. 82,000. Due to the uneven growth of trees on different sections of the farm, only one-third had fully matured in 1985 for the farm's first harvest.

Experimental marketing of timber - In July 1983, the cooperative, apprehensive about the income from the trees, decided to experiment by cutting and selling timber from 90 trees already growing on the farm before the cooperative was accorded the land-grant. This gave the cooperative an insight into the market for fuelwood. The wood obtained from 90 trees came to 472 maund (1 maund = 20 kilograms) or 9,440 kg. In the market of Nadiad (a small town in Kheda district), it was sold at the rate of Rs. 4 for 20 kg. The trader deducted 25 maunds (500 kg) of wood as his commission and a further deduction of Rs. 99 was made on the total income. Thus, the cooperative received only Rs. 1 688.

Decision to make charcoal - As the expenditure on cutting, transport, loading and unloading came to Rs. 826, the net profit to the cooperative came to Rs. 862. The experimental marketing gave both the cooperative and the BSC a clear idea of the unfair practices in the market for fuelwood. It led them to decide against selling the timber. Instead they agreed to make charcoal to sell in the urban markets. Thus, from 1979 to 1985, the cooperative operated mainly with the funds provided by the BSC, with contributions from Catholic Relief Services In the form of food for work and the Kaira Social Service Society as additional source of funds.

2.1.5 Organization of employment on the farm

The cooperative is able to provide sustained employment to its members. At least one person from each member-family is given work. When there is not enough work available for all the families, it is given on a rotational basis. At least one member of the family, usually a female, is always available to accept the offer of work. During the peak agricultural season, some families may decline to work on the farm and the turn goes to the next in rotation. The executive of the cooperative tries to arrange the tasks of the plantation so that there is not much to do during the peak agricultural season. Thus, as far as possible, most employment is made available during the slack period when most Vankar families have time to give to the plantation.

Employment through CRS and DRDA - In 1978, Catholic Relief Services financed a food for work scheme for bunding a 38-acre section of the land grant. This scheme gave workers grain and oil - the two most important items of sustenance. At present, the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA, the district level authority representing the National Rural Employment Programme) has financed one year's work on the plantation from 1 April 1986 to 30 March 1987. It pays the workers in cash and kind, on the basis of 50 per cent cash and 50 per cent kind

Payment of daily wages - In 1978-9, the minimum daily wage for an agricultural worker was Rs. 7, while in 1986, it was Rs 12. The payment of wages in kind is mostly in the form of wheat. The supervisor informs the member-families about the availability of work and notes down the names of the people willing to go to work. The DRDA has devised an eight-day task to each person. The supervisor is paid in the third week of each month; while he pays the workers on the eighth day of her/his employment. The supervisor, the technical expert and the six members of the executive committee of the cooperative meet once a week to decide what tasks have to be carried out and then the supervisor has them implemented. He/she is paid Rs. 500 per month for his duties from the cooperative funds. The executive committee and the technical expert (who is a local person, trained by the BSC) inspect the work carried out under the supervisor.

Supervisor's duties - The supervisor keeps records tabulating the amount of work done and the amount of money paid for it. He prepares the budget and keeps a detailed account of the expenditure under five categories, namely:

(i) salaries of the watchman, supervisor and technical expert; (ii) administrative costs;

(iii) charcoal-making;

(iv) earth-work (financed by DRDA); and

(v) land preparing for further extension of the plantation at the rate of 25 acres of land per year.

The cooperative receives funds from the DRDA an the BSC and its executive committee, under the close watch of the BSC, decides how to disburse them.

Access to more cash and food - Since 1979, the Vankar of Vadgam have worked on the plantation and earned a regular income both in cash and kind. The food for work, the workers said, has helped them to tide over the lean months of food scarcity.

Additional cash has meant several things to different families. Premaben, a 45 year old woman, belongs to a sharecropper family which cultivates a 5 acre plot of land and receives the produce of 2 1/2 acres. Premaben and her daughter-in-law work on the cooperative farm whenever work is available. She said that her income from the plantation enables her to occasionally buy vegetables for the evening meals. Last year she purchased a 1 1/2 year old buffalo for Rs. 300 from her earnings. This way she can further augment her family's income and provide a little milk for the children.

2.1.6 Marketing: results of the 1985 harvest and prospects for the 1986 harvest

The winter months are considered to be the Ideal season for cutting trees and making charcoal. In the 1985 harvest season, the cooperative hired Kachachi labour (migrants from Cutch district) to make charcoal from the timber obtained from a 6 acre plot. The leader of the group of ten to twelve labourers was given a contract for production of charcoal at the rate of Rs. 11 for 20 kg.

Charcoal-making is considered a specialised task and Kachchhi men are known to be experts in it. Vankar men were not keen to undertake this work because they reckoned the above rates of payment to be too low, since at that time they were able to get work on the cooperative farm for higher wages. The executive committee of the cooperative argued that by employing migrant labour it was able to save money on both cutting and charcoal making, thus achieving a better cost-benefit ratio for farm forestry operations.

For the production of 24,000 kg., the Kachcchi contractor was paid Rs. 13 200. This amount included all labour involved in cutting the trees and charcoal-making on the site.

The cooperative paid Rs. 700 per trip for the transportation of charcoal bags to Ahmedabad depot. Three trips were necessary as each truck had a capacity of 8,000 kg. (200 bags) charcoal. Thus the cost of harvesting was as follows:


Rs. 13 200


2 100


15 300

At Ahmedabad, 20 kg. of charcoal sold for Rs. 32. The net profit came to Rs. 38,400 - 15,300 = Rs. 23,100 (sale price - costs = profit). As the debt of the cooperative in November 1986 came to Rs. 111,000, the 1985 income was used to repay part of the debt; Rs. 20,000 of the income was paid to the BSC. Of course these figures do not include production costs, that is, the cost of planting and of waiting for the trees to grow.

The 1986 harvesting process started in November. By the end of December, the workers had already covered 4 acres, producing 16 000 kg of charcoal . It is planned to cover at least 25 to 30 acres during the current harvesting season, producing about 120 000 kg of charcoal. The net profits from this harvest are estimated at Rs 100 000. The BSC feels confident that at this rate the cooperative should be able to repay its debts fairly soon, i.e. within the next five years.

The cooperative expects to produce an equal amount of charcoal each year for another five years before returning to the trees harvested in 1985. This gives a seven year harvest cycle. At the same time, the work of replanting the remaining portion of the land-grant will continue.

2.1.7 Forest Department and its role

In the Vadgam village case, there seems to be rather little input from the Forest Department. Anly the seeds were acquired from the Department for the two nurseries. Later, the Forest Department's intervention was seen in a negative manner. At harvest time, the cooperative realised that permission had to be obtained from the Forest Department to sell charcoal produced on the plantation.

Under the Indian Forest Act, transit passes are required for the movement of forest produce from one place to another. As the Vankar cooperative wanted to move its charcoal bags from Vadgam to Ahmedabad depot, it needed such a pass. The government of Gujarat only exempted produce derived from Eucalyptus, subavul and saroo from the requirement of a transit pass.

The procedure to obtain this pass is a slow, time-consuming business. The necessary papers must be processed through local and then district level officials. In the second week of December 1986, the cooperative had 16 000 kg of charcoal packed and ready to be transported to Ahmedabad but was unsuccessful in getting the necessary paperwork through the first step until Christmas.

The application for a transit pass had to be made each year because the land was given only on yearly leases. The executive of the cooperative felt that if the land-grant was made Into a 99-year leasehold, it would be easier to get the transit pass from the district office. The BSC wanted the Forest Department to exempt the produce of Prosopis juliflora in the same way as It had done for Eucalyptus, subavul and saroo.

2.1.8 Other problems faced by the cooperative in the adoption of farm forestry

In a meeting with nearly half of the cooperative members on 19 December 1986, it emerged that the foremost problem before them was that of marketing charcoal at a better price. It was stated that if the market price of 20 kg of charcoal is Rs. 50 to 52 in retail and Rs. 45 in wholesale, the producer should get at least Rs. 40 instead of the present rate of Rs. 30 to 32 for 20 kg. For the past six months the BSC workers have been exploring the market in various urban centres. Unfortunately, they have not yet succeeded in their efforts to find a better price. An alternative of establishing their own charcoal depot in Ahmedabad was not seen by the cooperative executive as a feasible project.

Another problem faced by the cooperative is the problem of internal disorder in the Vankar community. One old man said, "If we live in this village which is full of disorder, disunity and disruptive forces, it is not possible to make one section of the village united and orderly." Unity and consensus were recognized by most people as important to achieving further success in their goal of improving their socio-economic condition. Many were also aware of factionalism within their group and its negative impact on the activities of the cooperative. A current dispute over the appointment of a watchman for the plantation had created tension between two groups in the community. Obviously, farm forestry management is set back during such periods, which have plagued the Vadgam cooperative. In fact, the BSC had to intervene and take the management of all its accounts in its own hands until members of the cooperative found ways to act as a unified body.

Thus, it is clear that while on paper one can see the possibilities of a profitable enterprise In farm forestry in Vadgam, ín reality, there are various unquantifiable factors which play a part in its success or failure. It is quite possible that with the help of the BSC the Vadgam Vankar will learn to give more importance to collective rather than individual gains.

2.1.9 Farm forestry as only one of the many development projects

The Vankar of Vadgam are participating in various development schemes for rural areas. Many of them are members of the Milk Cooperative which helps them buy cattle as well as purchase dairy products. As members of the larger Vankar community of the Bhal region they also take part in affairs of the Nat4. It is therefore difficult to view the Vankar primarily as farm foresters. The project has to be placed in the context of village affairs, even if it involves only a section of the village community.

The overall development of this scheduled caste community cannot be directly and solely linked to farm forestry. The impact of farm forestry can be judged mainly In terms of interrelationships between various sections of society in the village. It Is the Vankar's participation in more than one development programme that has resulted in their increased level of cash income. With this greater income they have also, as members of different cooperatives, gradually come to learn to develop new skills in self-management.

2.1.10 The supply of fuelwood and fodder through farm forestry

If the primary aim of farm forestry is to increase the supply of fuelwood and fodder in rural areas, then the Vankar cooperative plantation is a poor example of this. The cooperative has strictly forbidden the use of any part of the trees by anyone in the community. Anyone - a Vankar or an outsider - found doing so is penalised by a fine. Only by paying the market price can a person purchase wood from the plantation. As villagers never purchase fuelwood, there is no question of anyone wanting to pay for the wood from this plantation. The chances are that the Vankar themselves or other villagers may try to steal some wood. For this very reason, the cooperative has appointed a watchman who is personally responsible for any theft, paying the fine if any case of missing wood is detected by the supervisor.

The members of the cooperative do not object to this injunction because in this region Prosopis juliflora grows naturally and the villagers do get enough wood from the nearby wasteland. Secondly, the Forest Department has planted the same species by roadsides, so many villagers cut wood from these strip plantations. One woman commented, "We help the Department to weed the plants". As a result, few villagers feel the need to steal wood from the cooperative's plot.

The use of pods for animal feed, initially suggested by the BSC when the project was started, has not yet been taken up. A tour of the plantation showed heaps of small twigs and branches from the harvested trees. These could easily be used domestically by cooperative members. But the executive committee seemed very adamant about its rule of "no use by the members", in case some of them actually cut trees on the pretext of collecting only the twigs.

2.1.11 Implications of farm forestry to the village social structure

Over the years, this alternative source of employment and income for a section of the marginal farmers and landless of Vadgam has resulted in a very positive change for them through a partial disintegration of negative traditional patterns of social relations of production.

Ranchhorbhai, the traditional leader of the Vadgam Vankar said, "The Vankar were permanently bound to the village head man because he always gave the needy Vankar loans for their marriages, funerals and births. In return the Vankar agreed to work on his fields even when underpaid." Loans are given at rates of interest ranging from 25 to 30 per cent. The prices of commodities in Vadgam are fifty per cent higher than in the town of Cambay. When interest rates are added the prices become 100 per cent higher.

Since it is difficult to find employment, the villagers rely on their land, however small and unproductive it may be. They find work as agricultural labourers only during the peak season and remain without work for several months of the year. Thus, they require both secure employment and regular income to keep out of the clutches of money-lenders. As the Vankar have now stopped seeking work on the farms of the Rajput landowners, there has come about a continuous state of cold war between the Vankar and the rich farmers. The villagers gave numerous examples of the new awareness of self-dignity among the Vankar of Vadgam and it was clearly linked to their ability to find employment on the co-operative farm.

2.1.12 How Vankar women are affected by farm forestry

The availability of employment and regular income on the farm has meant a new sense of freedom for the Vankar women; freedom from the oppression and sexual exploitation of previous masters. To pay off debts incurred by the family, the female members of Vankar households previously had to go to work as maids in the houses of rich Rajput farmers. They were paid very low wages.

Now working alongside male members of their families on the cooperative farm, they no longer have to face such conditions and are paid the daily wages prescribed by the state government, i.e. Rs 12

per day. Furthermore, they know that by working on this farm, they are not working for any master because the farm is owned by their community. Premaben said: "I work for myself. I am a full member of the cooperative and the farm is the property of the Vankar community So there is no employer-employee relationship in this case".

Giving the example of a recent murder case, in which a Rajput man was killed by the husband of a Vankar woman, Premaben said: "Previously no matter how much Vankar women hated the sexual exploitation of their Rajput masters, they could not raise alarm If approached by them. But now this woman raised the alarm after finding

the Rajput in her house. Other Vankar rushed to the spot and the culprit was beaten to death. In the past, In such a case the Rajput would have been allowed to escape".

2.1.13 Motivation behind the Vankar participation in farm forestry

For the organisers (the BSC) and the cooperative members, the plantation is a source of income for 67 households of marginal farmers and landless agricultural workers during the slack period. This single factor has provided enough motivation for them to continue with the scheme. As long as the enterprise continues to provide employment the members will try to forget their differences and stick to it.

The BSC has developed similar cooperatives for scheduled castes in other villages of the region. It plans to make a master cooperative of all these sub-cooperatives, so that the Vankar of Vadgam would only be a part of a larger unit. Some of the other cooperatives also have farm forestry as one of their activities. For example, in Pandad village, Prosopis juliflora, Acacia nilotica (kubabool), and Acacia tortilis (desi babool) have been planted; the villagers expect to get an income of Rs. 14 500 from these trees. Similarly, in Golana village, the Vankar cooperative has 2 300 Eucalyptus trees, 1 620 kubabool, 330 casurina and 46 bamboo on its land-grant. Because of the better quality of their land these villages also cultivate food crops along with forest trees.

2.1.14 Total exclusion of other villagers from the project

Farm forestry through the cooperative has provided one section of the village with secure employment and a regular income and no other section, even that of other marginal farmers and landless labourers, has any role in this project. The dominate caste farmers have tried to exploit this fact by following a policy of "divide and rule", setting one scheduled caste against the other. In a few cases the Vankar have seen through this game and sought reconciliation with their scheduled caste neighbours, the Vaghari. On other occasions a few Vankar have been over-powered by rich farmers, thus allowing factionalism within the community. This has thwarted community progress, as well as that of the cooperative and its plantation operations.

The executive of the cooperative pointed out the positive Impacts of the cultivation of Prosopis juliflora as follows:

(i) At least 67 families of the village are able to own assets (the land and the trees) and in addition, derive employment and income from them.

(ii) Waste land has been reclaimed and put to useful purpose.

(iii) It has provided tree cover in an area where trees were totally absent.

(iv) It has also provided a buffer zone between the fast encroaching saline wasteland by the sea and good agricultural fields further inland.

2.1.15 What forest tree growers would like to have done

(i) The cooperative would like to be exempted from having to obtain a transit pass to transport its charcoal from Vadgam.

(ii) If an exemption is not possible, the procedure of obtaining a pass should be made simpler.

(iii) The yearly lease should be converted to a 99 year lease to assuage members' apprehension that the government may take land back once they have made the land produce marketable goods.

(iv) Other scheduled castes should also be granted land to grow trees, with the government financing tree cultivation operations so that poor people do not have to repay the initial cost of planting.

2.2 Farm forestry by Tribals as a Part of Agroforestry on Wasteland and Degraded Forest Land

Tribals in the Valsad district of South Gujarat, with the encouragement of a non-profit research foundation, have adopted farm forestry. The land available for farm forestry is primarily wasteland and degraded forests.

Some groups of tribals are in a stage of transition from their traditional lifestyle to settled agriculture, while many among them have had to abandon agriculture because of the unproductive nature of their landholdings. Unable to subsist on the produce from their land, most of them depend on forest products for their nutritional needs. They gather wild roots and edible plants during starvation periods. An average of two quintals of tubers are consumed by a family in four months. Tribals like the Kotvalia depend on bamboo for their livelihood, and do not, therefore, settle far away from forests. In general, the tribals lead a life of insecurity, unemployment, seasonal migration poverty, and problems with alcoholism, with a great dependence on forest products in day-to-day existence.

2.2.1 The involvement of the Bharatiya Agro-Industries Foundation (BAIF) with the tribals of Bansda Taluka

The Bharatiya Agro-Industries Foundation (BAIF), a non-profit > research foundation, was established in 1967 to engage in rural development and poverty alleviation. Its strategy is to improve the utility of natural resources already existing in rural areas and to apply appropriate technology in order to secure gainful self-employment for the rural poor. It has worked in the area of water conservation through rain water harvesting and lift irrigation. An extremely useful timber, Acacia nilotica (known as Kubabul), was planted under its auspices on marginal wastelands in different agro-climatic zones.

Profile of Valsad District

    - predominantly tribal region, with 79% of the population in rural areas

    - high number of females per thousand males (982 in 1981 versus 934 for all of India)

    - 25% of the working population is made up of landless agricultural labourers

    - 56.8% of the land is used for agricultural production; only 18% of the agricultural land is irrigated

    - 24%, of the land is under the Forest Department, with a large part of the land now degraded

    - approx. 44% of agricultural production in cereals: rice, ragi, jowar, wheat, kodra; non-food crops are sugarcane, groundnut, cotton

    - > 1,000 cooperative societies, indicating trend for change

    - industries: paper, paper products, printing, publishing and allied industries; large proportion of industrial workers in working population, indicating demand for local industrial timber

    - water table only 5 m below the ground; soil capable of multi-cropping through conservation of soil and water

Health Conditions:

    - few medical services: 35 villages with dispensaries, 5 with hospitals, 18 with primary health centres

    - children under 5 years suffer most from scabies, polio, diarrhea

    - weaned between 3 and 4 years; at 2, given plain boiled rice, sometimes mixed with pulses

    - some farmers have hand pumps; many often use the canal and drain water for drinking

    - no lavatories or bathrooms in houses; people often bathe in the river or the canal

    - receive medical services by UNICEF-sponsored paramedical staff

Bansda Taluka in Valsad District

General Information:

    - almost totally tribal population: major tribes are Kokna Kunbi (61%), Warli (29%), Naika, Kolcha, and Kotvalia (1%)

    - nearly 50% of the population has less than 1 hectare of land per household; 20% of the population is landless

    rain-fed agriculture; main crop is paddy

    - Kotvalia tribals also make baskets; other tribals work as agricultural labourers

    - little employment outside of the monsoon season: exploited by traders and money lenders, migration to cities

    - of 94 villages in Bansda Taluka, 21% have no bus facilities; 23% has buses during fair weather only

    - ordinary surface wells

    - electricity in 68% of the villages, but farm families too poor to subscribe

    - staple food: rice, nagli (Eleusin corecena), jowar

    - some houses have smokeless cooking stoves built by the Tribal Development Organization; none were used for cooking; women use homemade stoves

In 1982, BAIF became involved with the tribal rehabilitation scheme in Bansda Taluka5. The project includes farm forestry as one component of the whole scheme. A model in which each tribal family is initally helped to create conditions for a viable agricultural base has been developed. After three years the support system is withdrawn and the beneficiaries are expected to survive on their own, supported by the newly founded base. However, the business house which commissioned BAIF to carry out this scheme in Bansda has come under critical scrutiny (see Savur 1987) for its intentions.

2.2.2 How the scheme is conceptualised

Tribal families are asked to join the scheme on condition that both women and men provide labour for shaping land, bunding, terracing, fencing and digging pits for the plantation of forest trees on their plot of land. The land-owning families work on their plots while those without land are each given a plot of one acre of wasteland by the state government on a usufruct basis. Another plot of 1.5 acres of degraded forest land is allotted to each family by the Forest Department, again on a usufruct basis. Both the Revenue Department and Forest Department of the state government have agreed to allow the usufruct as long as the tribals work on the land.

BAIF has surveyed the entire region and prepared a land treatment plan on a watershed basis. On each plot of land, 1.5 acres are cultivated with forest trees and 1 acre of land Is used to grow fruit trees. Vegetables are grown as intercrops. Conditions are created so that each plot regularly receives irrigation for nine months of the year. Each plot thus generates work for at least 200 working days in a year.

Since 1982, each participating family has been provided with three years of wage support (for 200 working days per year) and material inputs for planting. BAIF arranged wage support through the National Rural Employment Programme (NREP) via the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA), Valsad District.

For material inputs, the State Rural Development Corporation (SRDC) provided a 75 per cent subsidy for the construction of a small tank on each family's plot. This tank was supplied with a continuous flow of water through pipe lines from a nearby water source6.

In effect, BAIF developed the project with te active support othe Government of Gujarat through (1) the Forest Department, (ii) the Revenue Department, (iii) the State Rural Development Corporation and (iv) the District Rural Development Agency. UNICEF also helped the BAIF and provided funds to operate a health care and training programme among the tribals of Bansda.

Recently, the Gujarat Energy Development Agency (GEDA) has joined the project by introducing a scheme using low-cost gasifiers for irrigation purposes. These gasifiers are partly operated by burning the wood produced on plots of tribal families. The entire project is thus making use of all available funds from government and non-government sources to devise a programme of self-employment for tribals, with special emphasis on the plantation of forest and fruit trees. How do the tribals respond to the huge investment in their welfare?

2.2.3 Role of the Forest Department and reactions of tribals

In addition to giving tribals usufructuary rights on its degraded land, the Forest Department has also introduced a scheme to establish nurseries for forestry saplings. Tribal women are entrusted with this task, which gives them a source of personal income.

Initially, seedlings for forest trees were provided by the Forest Department nurseries. Later, it gave technical information about the maintenance of the trees through its extension work. Thus, in this case, there has been close collaboration between the foresters, the organizers and the participants in farm forestry.

Despite positive support from the Forest Department, the tribals often express doubts over its intentions in allowing them to use the forest land. They still think that after the planted trees fully mature, the Department will take them over and leave the tribal .s with nothing. For this reason, some of them have already cut some of the trees prematurely on the pretext that they need the polewood to build extensions to their huts. This deep-set mistrust of foresters on the part of tribals is basically a part of the heritage social relations between foresters and local people. BAIF feels that only time will alleviate matters and that the continued support of the Forest Department will gradually obliterate past, memories.

2.2.4 How the tribal rehabilitation scheme operates

Number of participating families - Bansda Taluka has 94 villages. During J982 to 1986 a total of 1400 tribal families from fifteen villages7 joined the scheme by accepting work on land In Bansda Taluka and vowing to give up the consumption of alcohol forever8. Initially, in 1982, only 40 families participated while others showed distrust of all such welfare programmes. However, observing the progress of the participating families, the number of newcomers steadily increased. In the third year there were 510 and In the fourth year (1985) another 500 families joined. By 1986 the total number was 1400.

The extent of participation ranges from 8 to 46 per cent of the total number of households in each village. In several villages about 10 to 15 per cent of the participating families have given up their membership while new ones have joined. The scheme has yet to be accepted by the majority of tribal families of Bansda Taluka. Some non-participating families expressed their doubts about the long-term goals of BAIF in tribal development projects. Some others criticised its policy of favouritism among the rural families. They also pointed out that some tribal families, without entering the BAIF scheme, have modernized their agricultural operations after receiving subsidy from the Tribal Development Organization. Thus, those who do not want to seek the BAIF patronage can sometimes find other sources of technical and financial help. However, the number of such families is very limited.

Nature of work on each plot - Each family joining the scheme undertook the following tasks on its plot:

(i) Landshaping/soil conservation by counter bunding, terracing, digging run-off trenches and maintaining all structures.

(ii) Livehedge fencing along the plot boundary.

(iii) Digging pits and filling them with a suitable mixture of soil and manure for fruit and forest trees.

(iv) Planting fruit and forest trees (exclusively carried out by female members of the family).

(v) Gap filling in plantations.

(vi) Manuring, applying fertilizers and pesticides, preparing water catchments.

(vii) Follow-up care such as pruning, weeding and intercropping.

(viii)Erecting check dams (30 such dams have so far been erected in the area), irrigating fruit trees and intercrops, and protective irrigation of forest trees during the first year.

(ix) Preparing vegetable seed beds for intercropping (another operation exclusively carried out by female labour).

(x) Raising nurseries for fruit and forestry saplings (a female task); cultivating paddy and intercrops such as melons and sweet potatoes.

In the seven villages visited9, the participating families had carried out most of the above tasks and had already begun to derive benefits from the improved condition of soil and the consequent increase in yields of food and cash crops.

Employment and Income - Able-bodied members of each family had an opportunity for employment and through NREP/DRDA funds for each plot, 200 workingdays were given wage support. Wages were paid on the basis

of 40 per cent in kind and 60 per cent in cash. The workers' cash earnings were not given to them directly ("in case they were tempted to spend them on alcohol"). Each family was made to open a savings bank account In Bansda (or the nearest town) and maintain it through earnings which went directly to their accounts. Thus, many families have been able to make substantial savings. Wages paid in kind are given in the form of coupons for wheat or rice to be redeemed at government-run fair price shops within two months of Issue. Many families reported that with shortages of foodgrains during the first three years they had been able supplement their diet with forest products such as tubers, bhaji (leafy vegetables available in summer and the rainy season) and other edible plants. (See appendix II for further information on this subject). Some of them also planted paddy and vegetables on their plots as Intercrops. These products gave them an added supply of food and in some cases, income from the sale of surplus grains. The vegetable crops were mainly cultivated for sale, with only the unsold portion used domestically.

2.2.5 Farm forestry component of the scheme

Each family planted 4 500 trees on its 1.5 acres of degraded forest land. The general mixture of species planted in most cases was: Eucalyptus 2 000 saplings, subavul 2 000 saplings and bamboo 55 saplings. Women planted the saplings and were paid Rs. 0.30 per plant. Now they are being trained to raise nurseries for forest trees by the extension workers of the Forest Department.

Each family is asked to raise 1 250 seedlings; seeds can be obtained from BAIF according to the family's choice of species. Most of the families have so far opted for a mixed variety.

Presently, under this scheme the tribal families have more than a million forest trees grown on their plots, as noted below:


454 325


445 321


115 948


16 736


3 356


1 035 686

2.2.6 Other components of the scheme

Fruit trees - Each family began its orchard by initially planting 20 mango saplings, 5 of sapota, 5 of guava, 5 of custard apple and 5 of jackfruit. With one hundred per cent survival of the plants, families which started cultivation in 1982 were able to harvest the fruits in the fifth year (1986). Most fruits were sold, with those unfit for sale consumed domestically.

Vegetable cultivation - Intercrops of vegetables grown by women are also maintained and disbursed by them. They sell them at the vegetable market in town and, in accordance with tribal customs, keep the sale earnings themselves. Men do not have any control over their income.

Paddy and/or wheat cultivation

Some families are able to grow intercrops of paddy/wheat, providing the members with an adequate supply of foodgrains. Among the Kotvalia tribals, both women and men engage in basket-making, previously their sole means of livelihood. Now this, coupled with agroforestry, has done away with the need to work as paid agricultural or other labourers.

2.2.7 Supply of Fuelwood and Fodder for Domestic Use

Participating families from seven villages reported a considerable increase in the supply of fuelwood and fodder for both domestic use and the market. It should be remembered that these families had no land and therefore no source of access to these commodities; in that light, the present supply of tops and lops of forest trees and agro-waste is indeed a considerable gain for these people.

Many farmers sell green fodder to cattle-rearing families. Others use timber from their trees for the construction of new houses. Previously, most tribals lived in ramshackle one-room huts. Now in several villages the village Panchayat has alloted plots to house rehabilitated tribals; some of them have built larger huts, using wood from their own trees.

It is clear that though the trees are not yet ready for harvesting, partial cutting and collection of green fodder has already begun. Women and children still go to the forest to collect fuelwood and fodder, but they go less frequently. In the near future they expect that their own plantations will meet their entire needs for fuelwood and fodder.

2.2.8 The traditional dependence of tribals on forests

Traditionally all the tribals lived around forests and depended for their survival needs on forest products. Even after settling down as agriculturists they still look upon forests as providers of many necessary articles for use in their daily life. The use of minor forest products in the tribal economy is still significant for the very sustenance of these people.

The headman of the Kotvalia group10 said that dealing with forest trees was nothing new for tribals: "We have grown with them and understand them as we know the lines of our palms". On being asked how the forest trees could be useful for them, many persons answered with a smile, "You want to know how friends can be useful to each other. There are thousands of uses of forest trees - in fact, too many to enumerate - and they may be difficult for you to even understand". There was no doubt that tribal families felt most at home cultivating and using the trees, as if renewing their old relationship with them.

Some Kotvalia men expressed great relief at owning the bamboo trees on their, plots. An old man said: "Previously we stole bamboo from the forest and remained in mortal fear of being caught and punished by the forester. Now there is no such fear and we can use as much bamboo as we like to weave baskets. Before, we were expected to purchase each bamboo we used. How could we purchase them without any money? We had to take a risk and steal".

2.2.9 Farm forestry perceived as savings in the bank

It is clear that the tribals of Bansda, unlike the Vankar of Vadgam in Kheda District, do not view tree planting activities as a mere source of employment and regular income. For them depending on forest trees is a way of life and the usufructuary rights over forest land are viewed by them as a godsent gift. The enthusiasm and vigour shown by the participants in this scheme can be seen as indications of identification of a purpose. The purposefulness is, however, still quite vague and undefined, whereas the Jaspara farmers had distinctly connected farm forestry with cash income and adopted it for a clearly perceived goal of earning cash. Without the specificity of purpose, it is possible for the tribals to unknowingly provide their labour for industrial production of timber.

Since the Bansda tribals are the predominant group of society, they do not have to contend with other castes (as the Vankar in Vadgam have to); therefore it seems easier for them to adapt to new work patterns. They do not seem to be facing internal or external threats to their participation in the scheme. As long as they are prepared to work hard and keep off alcohol and as long as the support structures help them during the initial stages of self-employment, the continuation of the project seems to be assured.

The cash income from forest trees does not appear to play as significant a part in their perception as it does in the case of the Jaspara farmers. Some of the well-informed leaders of the tribal communities are aware of the market price of polewood from Eucalyptus and hope to earn good incomes in the near future. On the other hand, the organizers of the scheme are currently playing down the 'selling' aspect of tree crops and therefore not many of the participants talk about it. Most of them said that they view the trees as a form of investment for future use, like a "safe deposit account in the bank". Income from the trees does not form part of their immediate plans.

Tribal women are aware of the potential of trees as a source of income. When asked about the possible use of that income, they replied that income would belong to the men, so therefore the women cannot plan its disposal. When it was pointed out that the women too have contributed their labour to raising trees, they were quick to add: "That gives us the right to nag our husbands to spend the income on household items". One woman went as far as to say: "Maybe my husband will agree to buy a television set for the family". (The village has recently been electrified.)

2.2.10 Multi-dimensional nature of the scheme

As farm forestry is only one component of the scheme, tribals act according to their inclination and choice by emphasising any one of the multi-dimensional aspects of the scheme. For example, the Kotvalia tribals are very keen on maintaining and augmenting the cultivation of bamboo, while others are content to plant only a few Eucalyptus and casurina, as they want to concentrate on fruit trees. One farmer increased the number of his mango trees fivefold through grafting techniques. Some others have become interested in developing their fields for paddy cultivation. Though they maintain about 4 000 to 4 500 trees on their 1.5 acres, all of them are not totally concerned with farm forestry alone.

2.2.11 Marketing and alternative courses of action for the produce from farm forestry

BAIF is quite clear that it will not be able to help farmers sell polewood. First, the villages are far away from the urban centres and the problem of transporting the wood to the market will mean a significant cut in profits. Second, BAIF fears the saturation of the polewood market by the time Bansda tribals will be ready to harvest their trees.

For these reasons BAIF is avoiding any suggestions to farmers that they sell polewood. Alternatively, BAIF is proceeding on two fronts: (I) the possibility of developing light industries using polewood, e.g., making packaging crates and (ii) developing wood-based energy production with the help of the Gujarat Energy Development Agency (CEDA).

The first alternative is so far only in the planning stage, while the second alternative has already shown some progress with the introduction of 14 gasifier plants in 1985. Of these only four plants are functioning while others have developed various malfunctions.

These gasifiers are mini-plants, compared to the one set-up by V.J. Patel in Bhavnagar. These machines reduce diesel consumption of diesel-operated pumps used for irrigation. A wood-based gasifier (which produces gas by burning wood) and a duelfuel engine are coupled to a generator; consequently, the pumping set uses 80 per cent diesel and 20 per cent wood-produced gas. Technical experts from CEDA are now trying to develop a model which would replace nearly 50 per cent of the diesel with wood-produced gas. In these plants, one kilogram of chopped wood produces one unit of power. The plants are operated by local farmers with a minimum of training.

The GEDA representative (who happened to be visiting these plants at the time of fieldwork) was quite optimistic about current research in the conversion of wood for the generation of power. He visualised the utilization of power produced in this manner to provide electricity to the villagers for domestic and agricultural use.

2.2.12 Complete Dependence of Tribals on BAIF

After five years of operation of the seven-year programme, participating tribal families are at present completely dependent on the organizers of the scheme for the flow of financial inputs. Even those farmers who no longer receive wage-support are dependent on BAIF for material inputs. Though the frontline participants have gained self-confidence in managing their farms, they still require support for material inputs and organizational services of BAIF.

Additionally, a large proportion of new entrants continue to require an ever-increasing flow of funds and/or resources.

If the organizers pull out after a certain number of years, it is not clear how the participating families will manage to service the irrigation pipes and water tanks, and check the dams on their own. Presently, a highly sopisticated team of professional management experts devise irrigation plans for the area and BAIF field staff maintains the structures. The farmers are utilizing these services as given factors in the situation. They have no idea how they are managed and without the constant collaboration of BAIF, the farmers cannot be expected to harvest the rain water flowing through the small streams.

Various government departments have either given usufructuary rights to the tribals or channelled through BAIF certain funds for providing rural employment and material inputs. No department has taken responsibility for providing services of any kind. Even the medical facilities given by a UNICEF programme go through BAIF management.

Tribal farmers, who carried out the implementation of most activities in the project, can again provide their manual and skilled labour; they can not, however, be expected to afford the cost of material inputs. The lift irrigation scheme of the area - Its installation and maintenance - can be profitable for pipe manufacturers but the "method of funding and social consequences" for the beneficiaries of the scheme also need to be questioned (see Savur 1987).


4 Moat social and economic activities of the Vankar community are traditionally governed by its legislative body called Nat, consisting of representatives from 28 villages of the region. The Vankar Nat recognizes its social position as Inferior to and under the domination of the local Rajput farmers.

5 In fact, BAIF took over the rural development programme operating in this area since 1968 through another agency known as Sadguru Seva Sangh Trust (SSST). For more than a decade SSST operated in Bansda Taluka and now ft has completely withdrawn. Savur (1987: M41-M44) has shown that under SSST, rural development of the area was neglected.

6 High density polyethylene (HDPE) pipes, produced by National Organic Chemical Industries Limited and Polyolefins Industries Limited, were used by SSST to operate the lift Irrigation scheme in Bansda. Introducing the expensively produced goods among extremely poor tribal farmers must have a purpose. Is It to promote the agri-business of capitalists?

7 The tribal familles from the following fifteen villages are participating In the scheme (figures within brackets refer to the percentage of participating families in each village):

Boriachh (46), Chikatia (28), Chorvani (27), Chakmal (8), Cangpur (27), Ghodmal (17), Kavdej (13), Lachhakdi (38), Mankunia (12), Manpur (10), Mindhabari (19), Nirpan (24), Umarkul (17), Vanarasi (49), Vangan (44).

8 BAIF believes in the Candhian principles of conduct and has therefore made the participants give up alcohol as a mark of fair conduct. The tribals in the region are known for their addiction to alcohol which prevents them from undertaking self-development projects.

9 The seven villages visited during fieldwork were:

Name of village

Area in ha


No. of households

Participating Households



1 896










1 434




1 724

2 468





1 270





1 180



The figures were provided by BAIF workers In the respective villages

10 The Kotvalia Is one of the 72 tribal communities Identified as living at a pre-agricultural level of technology. It is estimated that there are about 1 500 Kotvalia families living In the forest area of South Gujarat. Of the 70 families of the Kotvalia tribe, 67 in Gangpur village have joined the BAIF scheme. Their apparent well-being at present is attributed to the fact that as pre-agricultural tribals they are entitled to a 100 per cent subsidy for development projects. BAIF has procured this source of welfare for them.

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