Ziraat Times Team

Lavender Valleys 

K-5000 project in Kupwara District has been a harbinger of positive change in the agriculture sector in North Kashmir.  The project, which has sought to bring degraded and under-utilized lands under lavender cultivation, has been the first broad-based attempt towards a systematic village to high-end value-addition of a prized cash crop in north Kashmir. 

J & K State Science, Technology & Innovation Council (JKSTIC) and  CSIR-Indian Institute Of Integrative Medicine (CSIR-IIIM)  joint venture have the potential of transforming Jammu and Kashmir states low-income rainfed agriculture into economically viable commercial farming.

Now that the technical demonstration of the crop cultivation has been successfully achieved in Kupwara district, there is a need today for horizontal village-level expansion of lavender cultivation, supported by a sustainable, remunerative processing and value addition system. 

Last week Ziraat Times’ Team traveled to learn about this initiative and what more needs to be done to bring about a sustainable and positive change in rainfed agriculture in the area. What is clear is that the pilot project has to be expanded and the merits of lavender farming and the potential economic benefits have to be articulated to the farming communities very clearly and convincingly at the village level.

Moreover, the state government has to take a call on which department is the best suited to engage in the operational aspects of this initiative at the village level over a longer period of time, even as CSIR IIIM and JKSTIC would continue to provide the necessary technical support. What is also clear is that the initiative would need budgetary allocations from the state government for more time to come, at least until the project is fully grounded and becomes a financially self-sustaining commercial business model.

What the initiative means to farmers:

Kashmir’s rainfed Kandi areas have traditionally grown low yield corn, fodder and other low-income crops. A cursory socio-economic comparison between the Kandi and low lying irrigated areas makes it clear that the rate of poverty eradication and economic progress in Kashmir has been more in plain irrigated lands compared to the Kandi areas. One of the biggest reasons for low socio-economic progress in Kandi areas has been the low-income agriculture pursued in these areas in contrast to high-value horticulture and agriculture pursued in the valley plains.

Lavender is one such high-value crop which is long known to be well suited for Kashmir’s kandi areas. If backed by sound farming practices and marketing system, poor farmers in these areas could get better income. Moreover, with the arrival of larger quantities of Kashmir lavender in the country’s and global markets, brand Kashmir Lavender could establish as one of the most high-value products in the global markets.

Demonstration sites:

Ziraat Times visited some of the sites in the areas of  Machipora, Natnusa, Dard e Harri, Kukroosa, Bahadurpora, Nagri and Gonipora. These sites seem to be selected through a well thought out feasibility analysis.

However, the extension of this project would require greater farmer engagement at scale to make this initiative commercially viable and sustainable. Some of these Kupwara sites have a high potential for seasonal lavender tourism as well.

One of the demonstration sites of K-5000

About Project K-5000

K-5000 is an umbrella project of CSIR-IIIM and JKSTIC in district Kupwara in which 250 hectares (5000 kanals) of hilly, undulated and uncultivated land is being brought under cultivation of different aromatic cash crops and the main target is a particularly rainfed or degraded area prone to soil erosion.

The basic objective of the project is to demonstrate the potential of these crops by cultivation and post-harvest management of these crops. We have successfully grown these crops and a model has been established for further adoption by farmers. Besides this, the other objectives include:

• Extension of aromatic crops in District Kupwara and elsewhere in the State.

• Ensuring high profitability and improved the economic status of farmers.

• Skill development and awareness of farmers, students, and rural unemployed youth through orientation and training programmes.

• Diversification of agriculture sector by providing alternate crops over the traditional crops for better returns.

• Utilization of degraded wasteland, rainfed and unproductive land.

•Entrepreneurship development

The target is to cover an area of 5000 kanals of degraded wasteland, rainfed and unproductive land in three phases over the period of three years 2017 to 2020 wherein the cultivation, processing, and utilization of different aromatic crops will be done.  

Role of CSIR-IIIM:

The production activities which CSIR-IIIM is carrying under K-5000 involve developing quality planting material, developing demonstration farms at identified locations, standardization of cultural practices in GAP (good agricultural practice mode), harvesting and post-harvest processing, distillation technology, quality assessment: biochemical/molecular profiling.

Role of JKSTIC:

The main objectives of the project under JKSTIC are to create awareness of cultivation and processing of medicinal and aromatic cash crops among the farmers, to provide planting material and infrastructural support for distillation and value-addition to farmers/growers, to promote agri-preneurship, biotech-preneurship in the state.

One of the main roles of JKSTIC in the project is the creation of Industrial Biotechnology Park at Braripora in Handwara. With a distillation and processing plant, it aims to provide distillation facilities to the farmers of lavender in the area.

How to make an effective transition from current phase possible

Dr. Ram Vishwakarma
Director, IIIM, Jammu

Project- K5000 will be taken over by the JKST&IC under the state government. We have demonstrated the potential of aromatic crops by cultivation and post-harvest management and the on-farm demonstrations proved beneficial.

Shahid Rasool
Scientist & Co-ordinator

Aroma Mission
This is an initiative that has been started in May 2017 with the objective to introduce high-value industrial crops. We started the concept and extended it to certain high-value crops in district Kupwara over such lands which are called as Khacharai (State Land). The crops that are hardy into physiology and are well suited with such topography.

CSIR IIIM submitted a project to JKSTIC and with this initiative, under name K 5000, we will bring 5000 kanals of land under cultivation of these high value medicinal and aromatic plants. So far, we have almost 3000 kanals of land under the cultivation. The types of annual crops like Tagetes Minuta, perennial crops like Rose and Lavender as a major crop. We have around 13 project sites which are under Lavender cultivation right now. Our agro-ecological conditions particularly are meant to produce a high-value cash crop.  It could be spices, Kaala Zeera, Saffron, Aromatic crops like Lavender.

The demand for lavender in itself has created a huge market at the national as well as international levels.  If we have a well established lavender field, that means we can produce 40 kg of lavender oil per hectare and if we diversify the crop and run another crop parallel to it, the farmer can double their income too. 
Also, Lavender Tourism can be one of the main attractions in our state.

Altaf Aijaz Andrabi
Director, Department of Agriculture

The Agriculture Department is already cultivating and processing aromatic crops. We have such examples in Sirhama and Pulwama, where we cultivate Lavender. We have our own extraction plants and they are operational.

Why was district Kupwara for this project?

The district has a reported area of 67000 hectares (ha) as per revenue records out of which 49581 hectares is under the use of agricultural activities and 8504 hectares constitute barren and uncultivated land which is quite huge. If only this barren/unused land is brought under cultivation of different aromatic cash crops it will have a huge impact in reshaping the agro-economics, besides creating potential sites for eco/adventure tourism in the district.

Crops to be cultivated under Project K-5000

Considering the topography, agro-climatic and physical conditions of the areas identified at Kupwara, the aromatic crops which are suitable for such climatic and topographic conditions are Tagetus, Lavender, Rose scented geranium, Rose, Rosemary, Clarysage and Mentha species.

These crops are hardy and have the capacity to grow well in degraded, waste-lands and rainfed soils which is the basic feature of hilly areas.

Land utilized in Project K-5000 in the first phase (2017-2018)

The target area of around 75 hac of land in phase one would be brought under intensive cultivation of Tagetus and Lavender. Tagetus was grown at a different remote location at Machipora, Natnusa, Waisa Kaonar, Hafrada, Dard e Harri, Rengpath, Nagri, Kukroosa, Gonipora on the areas which are highly marginal undulating and steep. Lavender is being extended across different parts of Kupwara at Machipora, Natnusa, Dard e Harri, Kukroosa, Bahadurpora, Nagri and Gonipora and target area of 200 kanals has been earmarked to be brought under the crop in the current cropping calendar before the area experiences snowfall.