NEW DELHI: In a unique proposal the Meghalaya Government has established a scheme that can be followed by other states to provide respectable alternative livelihood to cash strapped farmers.

The state government has started a scheme called ‘Jal Kund’ to create more than one source of income. This helps a farmer develop more than one source of income, like breeding of fish, using the water for horticulture purposes .

The government tapped into the natural resources of the state. And centred the scheme on Meghalaya’s rich flora fauna to enable farmers to add to their resources.Initially, the state government allots Rs 60,000 to every person willing to construct a ‘Jal Kund’ (water pond) in their farms. To implement their flagship scheme, the government has hired retired government officials and around 1,000 fresh graduates, on a yearly contract basis, to reach out to the villagers and motivate them to start their own agro-based businesses.

“ The effort is to make the farmers self reliant. They should not think that if results of farming are not as desired or expected they have options to earn a respectable living. They should not think they would die without options” the northeastern state’s Development Commissioner Ram Mohan Mishra told The Citizen when contacted.

Around 26,000 such ponds have been created in the last one-and-a-half year according to the official figures. The state government is also encouraging farmers to produce honey using honey bees. Having multiple sources of income ensures that if one business fails, losses will be covered from elsewhere. The government is working towards creating a self sufficient financial security for them so that they should not feel lost after loss of crops.

“We believe that people will not be able to make a living until they become self-sufficient. Thus, we as a government are trying to instill confidence among them that the government will help them financially if they are willing to work hard,” Mishra said.

The Meghalaya government, has succeeded in accentuating the income of farmers through the scheme ‘Jal Kund’ that focuses on motivating farmers to come out of slumber and earn their livelihood within a limited funding from the government. Mishra, however, clarified that the money is allotted only to those who are serious about doing a business and said the government expects them to return the money once their establishments are settled.

Citing an example, Mishra said while branded honey is sold at a certain rate in the market, the farmers cultivating honey through this programme are selling it at thrice the rate. “These farmers have created their own brands and we are being approached by several international market players to collaborate with them for this business,” he said.

The Meghalaya government has also produced a short 10-minute film that is screened before probable entrepreneurs which showcases the successes of the ‘Jal Kund’ scheme. “We screen the film on a one-on-one basis and not in a group. About 35,000 people have joined the scheme till date after watching our film and realising that a person known to the one watching the film has benefited immensely from the scheme,” Mishra added.