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Staring down droughts in Dharwad, Karnataka[continued]

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Desai had internalised what Gandhi had said to him:"Rural India is poor because rural people are drastically under employed". He had guided all development work at BAIF, towards creating livelihoods in farmers' own habitats. Tree based farming among tribals in Gujarat, maximising yields from rain harvested water in Tiptur and cattle based incomes everywhere, were showing promise. BAIF was developing many deliverable farm technology packages. Above all BAIF had a vast army of committed men, who were willing to work for very modest salaries with little creature comforts, in drought prone parts of rural India. BAIF has gained a deserved reputation as an organisation that can manage large developmental projects, with the least overhead and zero leakages.

In 1996, when the European Union wanted to channel Euro 20 million for a programme to transfer technology for sustainable development, it came to NABARD [National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development]. BAIF was picked as the logical organisation to design, implement and manage the programme.

EU and BAIF come together:

The grand plan was all-round development of 33,000 poor rural families in 5 states. Dr Bhat's mandate was to work on 2500 carefully chosen families in 22 villages around Surshettikoppa. They were given Rs.39 million for 7 years. If you work that out,assuming an average family size of 4, the budget was Rs.46 per person per month, inclusive of administrative cost. How did Dr Bhat's team go about making that sum matter? In a few words, "by honesty, devotion, skill, hard-work and total identification with the people".

First of all, the ten men who implemented the programme, fanned out among the villages and started living with the people full-time. They then began a survey to identify the 2488 beneficiary families out of a total of 4800.They used 20 sensibly weighted criteria to detremine who needed help. A man with 100 acres in the wilderness may be poorer than one with an acre by a river. They picked 1780 families with between 3 and 4 acres, and 708 landless families.

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