"This is my ATM," says Jyotish Talukdar, pointing to a largish pond in a grassy village on the edge of a hill in Assam's Sonapur, just outside the capital city of Guwahati.
The climbing perches, a type of small Asian freshwater fish, bob up frequently, as they typically "walk"
over the water in bouts of jerky movements, flexing their oblong body and spiky fins.
Assam's Sonapur, a lush haven, is exploding with "leisure resorts", most of them cheaply done-up highway stopovers. But they offer a thriving ready market for the fish. "Whenever I need money, I just reach for my fishing nets," Talukdar says.
A clutch of previously foot-dragging states, such as Assam, is poised to overtake Punjab and Haryana as the new powerhouses of India's farm economy. Small farmers like Talukdar is driving this revolution, thanks to a programme started 10 years ago, the impact of which is beginning to show.
The Assam Agricultural Competitiveness Project, unlike many usual farm interventions, focuses on small farmers by encouraging them to view farming as a cluster of activities.
The $ 211 million (about `1308 crore) programme, funded by the World Bank and implemented by Assam has created several milestones. The volume of crops being brought to market has increased eight-fold, rice yields have doubled and milk and fish yields have risen substantially.
In Nowgaon district's Diffolo village, authorities aim to turn around the entire local-bred goat population by mating them with a superior "beetal" variety brought from Rajasthan. Beetals have a higher and quicker fertility rate. Meat is profitable business in a country with high food prices driven mostly by protein items. "Our farmers are helping a second green revolution take roots," said Shantanu Thakur, a senior official.
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