Prince Charles is not only royalty, but he is also the founder and president of the British Asian Trust (BAT). And on Feb. 3, 2016, he announced a new fund designed to improve the lives of small Indian farmers at the BAT’s annual fundraising gala in London.
Like many farmers in developing countries, rural Indian farmers are caught in a poverty trap. They make just enough money to survive but not enough money to invest in productivity-raising methods and equipment. Without access to affordable loans, they are unable to improve their lives for themselves and their families.
Prince Charles understands their plight and hopes to reverse their situation. At the gala, he said, “These smaller holder farmers often realize 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 [agricultural] sector upscale, the fund will increase productivity in a sustainable way and make a staggering difference to so many lives.”
According to a 2012-2013 Report on Employment and Unemployment Survey by the Indian government, the majority of rural Indian households rely on agriculture as their means of employment. Furthermore, nearly half are self-employed. By giving them the means to invest in themselves, Prince Charles hopes he can change the face of poverty in the Indian countryside.
History provides a reason to be optimistic about Prince Charles’ goals. Prior to the 1980s, Chinese farmers were also caught in a poverty trap. By privatizing collective farms and encouraging an open market, Chinese farmers could make more money than they needed to feed themselves. They invested this extra money into increasing their agricultural productivity. Little by little, the Chinese economy grew and then exploded into the powerhouse economy of China today.
The BAT also announced another fund dedicated to skills training in Pakistan. This will be its “largest-ever fund” — and the BAT will work alongside the Aman Foundation to bring knowledge and skills to the country’s most disadvantaged people.
To raise money for this project and for South Asian communities in general, the BAT will also begin a public fundraising drive with the UK Department for International Development (DiFD). The goal is to raise £3 million and the DiFD will match donations given by the public.
This will be the first time that the British Asian Trust appeals to the public on a national basis. While the BAT has raised millions for South Asian nations over the last nine years, all proceeds have come from private and corporate donations. At this year’s gala, for example, over £900,000 was raised for charity. Numerous celebrities attended, including British filmmaker Gurinder Chadha and actor Sanjeev Bhaskar.
Prince Charles and his British Asian Trust have ambitious plans for the year, such as starting a new fund in India, a new fund in Pakistan and its first-ever public fundraising drive. If they succeed, they’ll bring Indian farmers out of poverty, give Pakistani people much-needed skills and raise money and awareness for South Asia’s most vulnerable.
– Dennis Sawyers