Kimson Lipon doesn’t have a smartphone. But the 56-year-old is one of the first farmers in Meghalaya to have his own Youtube channel. A week ago, Lipon’s 22-year-old son recorded a video of his father explaining the technicalities of building a modified fish hatchery tank in their Khliehtyrshi village in West Jaintia Hills District. Fish farming has been Lipon’s means of subsistence for 30 years now. “I did it to support my family, but now I realise that I have knowledge that may be beneficial to other farmers who want to start fish farming too.” His foray into the online world is the first step towards spreading that knowledge.
Lipon isn’t the only one. In Meghalaya, four farmers, since last month, have started their own YouTube channel, with guidance from the Meghalaya Basin Development Authority (MBDA)’s Meghalaya Livelihoods and Access to Markets Project (Megha-LAMP) project that aims at promoting sustainable livelihood options and employment opportunities for the rural residents of the state. Under the project, currently 1350 villages in 18 blocks across all 11 districts are covered.
Through the Megha-LAMP project, Lipon has been able to build a successful hatchery producing quality fish seeds of a variety of species. Last year, he approached the project’s Enterprise Facilitation Centre in Jowai. These centres, situated at the block level, promote direct interaction between resource people and farmers.
“When we saw the number of success stories, we tried to think of a way that it could actually impact other farmers. Inspired by the many other initiatives across India that aid farmers to use social media, we decided to do the same,” says Daman Kharkongor, Programme Associate at Megha-LAMP.
Lipon was the first farmer they approached. “I had heard of Youtube but I wasn’t sure of how it exactly worked. My son then explained to me that if we put this video, farmers not just in the West Jaintia Hills, but even Meghalaya and possibly the rest of the world would be able to see it,” says Lipon.
While the MDBA provided some basic training on how to shoot, upload and make an Youtube account, their intervention is limited to that. “It is not like we have given them a set target as to the number of videos they have to upload. The YouTube account, too, is in the farmer’s name. We merely works as facilitators giving them all the guidance they need,” she explains, “We will, of course, help to promote the videos.”
In the course of the month, there are three other farmers who have been brought on board. Midalis Lyngdoh from Nongspung village, East Khasi Hill District, uploads videos on kiwi farming. “Others include Iaphang Dkhar, a strawberry farmer and wine maker from East Jaintia Hill Distirct and B Marwein, an aromatic planation innovator from RiBhoi distirct,” says Kharkongor, adding that farmers were selected on the basis their dedication and commitment. “For example, Midalis Lyngdoh started with just ten female and two male kiwi saplings and within three years, she harvested about 100 kgs of kiwi,” says Kharkongor.
While the project is in its pilot stage, the Megha-LAMP team feel it will be a good way to spread traditional knowledge farming — both within and beyond Meghalaya. But the focus is especially within the state so that farmers can access agricultural knowhow they might not be aware of. “Initially the fishery department had told me that the hatchery will never be successful because the cold weather conditions are not conducive to it. But I told them that I have been in this field for 30 years and that with their help, I could make it work. They helped me procure some tools. And using my knowledge and their guidance, I made it work,” says Lipon.