London: Prince Charles has unveiled plans for a new dedicated fund, likely to be worth millions of pounds, to be created to help farmers in India break out of poverty. The heir to the British throne announced the plan in his capacity as the Founder and President of the British Asian Trust (BAT), which works towards empowering lives in South Asia by harnessing the strengths of the South Asian diaspora in the UK.
"An area of work that I was particularly excited to see get underway in recent months is my trust taking a more in- depth look at the issues faced by rural farmers in India with the aim of establishing a dedicated fund to implement the kinds of intervention that the research clearly points out is needed," the 67-year-old royal said at BAT's gala annual dinner at Natural History Museum in London last night.
Describing agriculture as a "vitally important" sector of the economy and "one that nearly half the rural houses in India rely on as the principle means of livelihood", Prince Charles said the trust's focus will be on farmers with small holdings.
"These small holder farmers often realise only a small proportion of the value of their products and can get caught in a poverty trap with no obvious way out. By making real inroads into helping the sector upscale, the fund will increase productivity in a sustainable way and make a staggering difference to so many lives," he said. The complete details of the fund, likely to be worth millions of pounds, will be made public over the course of this year.
Meanwhile, the trust also finalised its "largest-ever fund" dedicated to work in Pakistan to support skills training for some of the country's most disadvantaged people alongside charity partner, the Aman Foundation.
BAT will engage with the UK government's Department for International Development (DfID) to launch a UK-wide appeal to raise three million pounds. DfID will match pound-for-pound as part of the campaign which marks the trust's first national public appeal, having raised millions from South Asian communities around the world in the last nine years solely via corporate and private donations.
Many of these corporates and celebrity ambassadors of the trust, including filmmaker Gurinder Chadha and actor Sanjeev Bhaskar, joined Prince Charles and wife Camilla at the gala dinner event which included a charity auction which raised 900,000 pounds (over USD 13 lakh).
"2016 will be another exciting year ahead for the British Asian Trust," British Asian Trust's CEO Richard Hawkes said.
The trust was founded in 2007 by Charles, who wanted to do something about the widespread poverty that he saw in South Asia with the help of the entrepreneurial spirit of the British Asian diaspora. It works with local grassroots organisations in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal to help disadvantaged people transform their lives.