Thane is one of the northern districts of the Konkan region in Maharashtra. The Sahyadhri hills surround it on the east and the Arab sea on the west, with dense forest of Gujarat on the north and India’s business capital Mumbai on the south.
The Wadi Program – a Holistic Development Program for Rural & Tribal communities – started in the Wada block of the Thane District, a poverty-stricken area located on the northern part, where there are high illiteracy and migration problems. The program began helping approximately 500 tribal families over a six-year period.
Working with BAIF-MITTRA, the project started in April 2009, initially with five families in one of the tribal villages near GEV. Today the project stretches to six villages – Ghore, Ghuir, Galtre, Hamrapur, Nane, and Sange – in the Wada block located around the Eco Village.
The overall objective was to improve the impoverished tribal families’ standard of living through a holistic and self-enabling approach. We helped the tribal families to develop productive assets such as a ‘Wadi’ (an integrated farming system comprising of horticulture, agriculture, and dairy) or other non-farming enterprises such as provisional stores to help them earn a sustainable livelihood over the long term.
A quick baseline survey was conducted in the selected villages. The survey found that most of the tribal families were marginal farmers (that is, cultivating land up to 2.5 hectares) and without land of their own. GEV began generating awareness by regular village meetings, which helped us to understand the views of the families and their level of agricultural expertise. This was followed by exposure visits to other successful farmers that helped them to get a first-hand experience of how they could develop.