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Agriculture in Kashmir: Current trends & future prospects

By: Showkat Salim

Agriculture is a backbone and major source of main livelihood for people of Kashmir region. For ages, this sector has sustained the very basic fabric of our society. The sector, which encompasses the major surplus of the produce, enables millions to get a furnished plate of meal every morning and evening. Besides producing field crops like paddy, maize, oats, oilseed, pulses in general, the region has seen continuous efforts from the Department of Agriculture to motivate the farmers in adoption of high value crops in the areas of vegetable, spices and aromatics too.

The current status of common farmer who on an average tills 0.25 hectares of land has tried to fragment the holdings into three divisions viz. agriculture crops, horticulture crops and kitchen garden. Barring horticulture crops, mostly apple, there has been deficit in the gross area of both agriculture and vegetable area, owing to different reasons like income standard and lifestyle. Continuous efforts by the Extension professionals of Department of Agriculture from last few years through various Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS), have resulted in the partial Mechanisation of farm sector, there are several farmer oriented programmes, group meetings, tours and demonstrations being conducted throughout the crop year. Onus lies on both farmer and the technical persons well versed in different areas of the Agriculture subject, to bring about tangible changes in the current practices.

Talking about the diversification of crops being adopted by the local farmers, 2.5% of the innovators of theory of Adoption (Extension theory) are always available at the forefront and have shown success in the field of Mushroom, Apiculture, Organics, Aromatic crops. The other adopters or Laggards are lackadaisical in the adoption of new trends in the Agriculture sector. Despite introduction of several high yielding paddy, maize varieties, farmers are little bit reluctant in garnishing their farm field with the avenues of new opportunities available with them.

Often taking about the backbone of the economy, agriculture used to be seen as sacred profession and pride of the region. The changing lifestyle, income standards and various other factors has yielded a lethargy in farmer will. He seems to be more concerned about the subsidies rather technical guidance. Nevertheless, the optimistic approach from the department has brought about tangible changes, like 4+ quintals yield/ Kanal of paddy land, Organic Vegetable clusters, Mushroom Clusters, Lavender Mini-farms etc.

Whereas department of Agriculture is concerned about to double the farmers income, it is worth to mention that there is no dearth in the technical expertise available with the department in areas of new strategic and game changing policies/schemes. Least to mention, Union Government of India is providing Rs 6000/annum directly into the bank accounts of farmers through PM-KISAN scheme. Other schemes which include KCC, almost 80% of the farmers of the region have been saturated with this scheme. Furthermore, Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs), SELF HELP GROUPS (SHGs), WOMEN FOOD SECURITY GROUPS (WFSGs) are being formed to garner the farming sector in specialised areas. Department of Agriculture is on toes to directly link the farmers with Consumers via market linkage system.

Further department is keen interested to take the Organic programme to new heights, wherein farmers (Clusters) are registered via PARTICIPATORY GUARANTEE SCHEME (PGS) & NATIONAL PROGRAMME for ORGANIC PRODUCTION (NPOP).

There is going to be boom in the sectors of Mushroom and Apiculture owing to the new strategies working from Directorate level up-to the farmer's doorstep. There is reciprocated responsibility which lies on farmers too; to get acquainted with the changing trends and show keen interests in adopting them. Since, hope is the major driving factor of future prospectus, I’m writing with utmost wit, that the cooperation in present can lead to greater prosperity in near future.

(The writer is Junior Agriculture Extension Officer, Kakapora, Pulwama)

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