Dr. Manibhai Desai – the Founder of BAIF, was a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi. Understanding the challenges of a majority of the rural families who were living in poverty with denuded natural resources, he focussed on promotion of appropriate technologies as a tool for conservation and making optimum use of them to generate sustainable livelihood. He gave priority to improving the progeny of non-descript cows owned by most of these families as a liability. The families were able to produce high yielding cows and buffaloes at their door steps without any investment, enjoy food security and come out of poverty.
This success motivated him to transform other challenges into new opportunities. As feeding of nutritious fodder could increase the profitability of dairy husbandry, he promoted cultivation of hardy, perennial fodder crops on degraded wastelands which were lying idle. Establishment of drought resistant fruit trees on denuded hilly terrains, was another initiative to rehabilitate the Scheduled Tribe families living in chronic poverty. To improve crop productivity, soil conservation and innovative water resources development programmes were introduced. Rural women were encouraged to participate in all the development programmes and to educate their children. These programmes conceived by him 5-6 decades ago, have addressed many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and are serving as the foundation for evolving climate-smart agricultural initiatives to counter the current challenges of global warming.
He was a rare Gandhian who made rural development and agriculture his mission and who worked for the welfare of the weaker sections of the communities until his last breath. On his death anniversary (November 14, 2021), we pay our homage to him and pledge our continued mission of rural prosperity.