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The BAIF Saga - in Dr Manibhai Desai's words

Part 5: Spreading to other states ~ Subabul comes to India ~ Focusing on women and tribals.

I started a centre at Gandevi, South Gujarat in 1976 because Shri Kalyanbhai Mehta, Seth Arvindbhai and Shri Naval Tata had come together. Everybody protested saying there was no cow here. There are only buffaloes. In Chandigarh, I attended the first meeting on White Revolution through Operation Flood and criticised the processing approach. But we took advantage of this programme and took up milk production and used the built-up network of procurement, processing and marketing.

In the Planning Commission, Mr. B Shivaraman, member Agriculture accepted our programme under Integrated Rural Development Programme [IRDP] in 1975 and the Ministry of Agriculture informed the State Governments that they could sponsor cattle development centres by paying the service charges from the IRDP infrastructural funds. I went to Karnataka in 1978 along with Shri G V K Rao, Secretary, Agriculture, Government of India and finalised an agreement to operate 50 cattle breeding centres. We also went to Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan to operate our programme.

It is just like an army operation carried out every month. It is not at one place. It is at 550 places spread in six states. We require a very big network and here comes the uniqueness of a very flexible and well designed organisational network.

Although the frozen semen technology is sophisticated, you may not perhaps find a single incident where frozen semen in BAIF's centre was lost due to lack of nitrogen. It is just like an army operation carried out every month. It is not at one place. It is at 550 places spread in six states. We require a very big network and here comes the uniqueness of a very flexible and well designed organisational network. Such a flow chart was prepared for our cattle development programme by Dr N G Hegde, way back in 1974 and it is still relevant. We selected five centres and in every centre there was a Cattle Development Officer [CDO]. To coordinate five centres, an area officer was appointed. Suppose in five years we are operating 25 centres, then these five area officers will coordinate these centres. Then it came to Zonal or District, so there was one officer who coordinated a zone. If there are four or five zones or districts, then there is a Regional Officer. At every stage, we have listed out the responsibilities. Today we have further improved this structure.

Now we are forming a unit in each district. The officer at the district is very crucial man because the State Government and the Planning Commission have accepted the district as a unit of planning. The Cattle Officer may be a veterinarian or an agriculturist. You have to train him further because his knowledge in the field is very essential. He has risen from the centre to the zone and now he has taken charge of the district. This also becomes very important component of the organisational set up. Our Canadian donors were impressed to see "the bottom to top" approach of BAIF and this approach has to be strengthened continuously. It is easy to say "bottom to top" but it is very difficult to build up that philosophy and we will see to what extent we can improve our system.

I went to Seth Arvindbhai Mafatlal. He said, "You must bring Income Tax Exemption under Section 35[1]." But in Delhi, the Indian Council for Agricultural Research [ICAR] told me that we should have a research farm and 6000 cows to get this exemption. I returned to Pune from Delhi and went to a friend's place who offered to drop me at Urulikanchan. I was keen to reach my headquarters and prepare a research proposal to fulfil the conditions of ICAR. Two or three friend were sitting on a swing and I was moving it. The chain broke and the entire weight came on my legs and the bones were broken. I was taken to Dr S V Bhave. I had a plaster for three months. Shri Morarji Desai, Shri V P Naik and Shri Y B Chavan came to see me.

I was thinking about 6000 cows. I dictated letters in Marathi to all farmers and sugar factory directors asking them to allow us to work on their cattle. We would give them the data. The calf born would be theirs. We started receiving favourable replies. We arrived at a figure of 11,000 cows. I flew to Delhi. I met Shri Annasaheb Shinde. We started an animal nutrition laboratory at Urulikanchan. Dr A L Joshi, who had a Ph.D. in Biochemistry, was recruited from Karad and placed in the laboratory.

Now I am looking for post harvest technology for our tribal beneficiaries who have grown more than 200,000 good quality mango trees.

I identified natural resources such as land, soil, livestock, water, vegetation and used scientific technology to convert the present situation into a very good industry. This was the concept. The land based programme was immediately started. It was not universally applicable. The new cow was produced at the door of the farmer. The cow was one of the instrument of gainful self-employment so that at a low cost the farmer could participate.

The villagers demanded drinking water and fodder. I told Dr N G Hegde who joined in 1974 to develop a programme for fodder trees because there was no irrigation and fodder crops require a minimum irrigation. I had procured the seeds of Kubabul [Leucaena] from Brisbane in Australia but it was a bushy type. Then we procured an ounce of Hawaiian Giant variety seeds from Prof J L Brewbaker of the University of Hawaii in 1976. Then Prof Relwani came and took keen interest to promote Kubabul.

We went to Indira Gandhi with a sapling of Hawaiian Giant and highlighted the benefits of this tree. We requested her to plant the sapling in her garden. She agreed. We requested her to announce that it was not Kubabul but from today it should be known as Subabul and she did it. She telephoned Dr. M S Swaminathan that she had flown to Rajasthan but could not land the helicopter because there was only sand and no trees. She asked him to plant Subabul. We then produced the film 'Vardaan' to popularise Subabul and agro forestry, which received wide publicity. Setting up decentralised forests, promotion of agro forestry, development of wastelands and socio economic aspects of tree planting are our priorities.

Then I started the environment programme which became very popular. After that I started with non conventional energy sources -- biogas, biomass etc.-- community health and tribal development. New models were created at the door of the tribal family through land management, water management, contour planting of fruit and forestry species and food processing. The most important focus was on the rural family. My aim was to bring rural families above the poverty line within the shortest period. I am now developing a model of Manav Vikas Mandir by collecting youth from rural area and training them to manage such centres.

We received the support of International Development Research Centre [IDRC] and Canadian International Development Agency. We had a big infrastructure but we were very weak in information, computer science, library and even publicity. The Government of India and also the international agencies were attracted towards our need based programmes, particularly for women empowerment. Women and children cover 72% of the population. If women are settled, children will also have the same quality of living and you can stop migration and deforestation. Then sericulture was introduced which has been accepted by the people.

Today BAIF is a unique NGO and there is no other in comparison in India. The programme should be such that the people should be able to assume the management within a period of 10 years. Mangoes are seasonal and last 4-6 weeks. How can we extend the shelf life without sacrificing quality, types of processed products to be developed, scope for export and supply to domestic consumers at a reasonable price - all these challenges are before BAIF today. We plan to convert biomass into other valuable products. It has to be managed on a cooperative basis and then it should go to the producer.

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