People from the local Malavasi communities have lived by rain-fed subsistence farming and the produce of their forests for a very long time. Traditionally, they grew about fifteen different varieties of crops suited to the environment and had ample food the whole year around. This tradition has been displaced by the pressures of a modern consumer economy to grow cash crops. These crops are water intensive and people are forced to use chemical fertilisers and pesticides in an attempt to maximise returns. Eventually, the tribal farmer finds himself in a situation where he is easily exploited.
Nutrition and livelihood are two factors that contribute significantly to an individual’s health. Thus, when the people of the surrounding villages started bringing their farming troubles to THI’s attention, an opportunity for growth became apparent and THI expanded its programs to include a farming initiative. This work was also encouraged in the report of the 10-year organisational review, summarised as follows: “unless we start dealing with the determinants of health, we would not be able to bring the tribal community to achieve a better health status.” Working with the credibility they had already gained in the community, THI began teaching the farmers various organic techniques aimed at saving the cost of chemical pesticides, increasing the farmers’ yields, and improving the health of the consumers. Since its inception in 2005, the Tribal Farming Initiative has grown to include the following components/programs: