An Overview of BAIF: An NGO Providing Integrated Livelihood Solutions to the Poor

The Context

BAIF is a voluntary organization headquartered in Pune, currently working with over 4.5 million poor families, across 60,000 villages spread over 16 states of India, through their 4500 employees. BAIF has won several awards, including the 2005 India Innovation Award, the 2008 India NGO Award, and the Vasantrao Naik Jala Samvardhan Award in 2005.[1] The NGO’s main activities are in the areas of sustainable agriculture, horticulture, dairy and goat husbandry, water resources development, and various rural non-farm activities for generating employment for landless families. They work with adivasis,[2] who are small and marginal farmers. According to the 2011 Indian census, there are 461 groups classified as “scheduled tribes” by the Government of India. There are approximately 1.21 billion adivasis in India, concentrated in the geographical belt that stretches across Rajasthan, Gujarat, West Bengal, Odissa, and parts of northeast India. These households traditionally derive sustenance through forestry, hunting, and primitive agriculture practices. Seasonal migration to nearby cities has become a virtual necessity, due to rapidly depleting forest and natural resources, land erosion, and a lack of access to basic health and hygiene. Adivasis typically practice rain-fed agriculture, and the small and marginal nature of their land holdings often leaves them in a vulnerable position with regard to their food security, resulting in forced migration, exploitation at the hand of human touts, and in extreme cases, starvation and death. Once in the cities, these “landless” workers almost always live in deplorable conditions, and are subject to exploitation by middlemen. Ineffective labor laws make their situation very difficult, especially for women.

Published literature in this area has emphasized the need to connect small and marginal farmers to remunerative markets, to help the farmers to realize better returns (e.g., Ashley, Start, Slater, & Deshingkar, 2003; Dorward, Kydd, Morrison, & Urey, 2004). Lack of capital and purchasing power affects the scale of operations, while the lack of market linkages hampers the seed-to- market journey; often, as a result, the input costs are far greater than the output. BAIF has pioneered the “wadi’ model, which enables small and marginal farmers to develop sustainable livelihoods by aggregating their landholdings.

  • [1] Source:, accessed on April 8,2016.
  • [2] The word adivasis means “indigenous people” or “original inhabitants”, though the term“Scheduled Tribes” (STs) is not coterminous with adivasis. ST is an administrative term used forpurposes of “administering” certain constitutional privileges, protection, and benefits for specificsections of peoples considered historically disadvantaged and “backward”. For practical purposes,the United Nations and multilateral agencies generally consider the STs as “indigenous peoples”.Over the centuries, the adivasis have evolved an intricate convivial-custodial mode of living inharmony with their land. Adivasis belong to their territories, which are the essence of their existence. They were, in effect, the self-governing “first nations” of India, in pre-historic times. Ingeneral, and in most parts of the pre-colonial period, they were notionally part of the “unknownfrontier”, and lived a life outside the purview of traditional rulers. The system of conferring large
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