By Dr. Parveen Kumar, Dr. D. Namgyal, Dr. Kunzang Lamo
Sustainability, Profitability and Gender equality are the three main crucial issues confronting the agriculture sector in India. No doubt we have made strides in food grains production; from being dubbed as a state with a ‘begging bowl’ the transformation to become a ‘breadbasket’ has been remarkable.
Today India is the leading producer of many commodities. But unfortunately, all this has been achieved at the cost of sustainability. The increase in food grains production due to the heavy ad indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers and plant protection chemicals have already started taking a toll on human lives. The water bodies have been polluted, the air is no fit for breathing, soils have degraded and the incidence of natural calamities has become more frequent.
This indiscriminate use of inputs increased the cost of cultivation for the farming community. With the yields decreasing or remaining more or less static and the input cost increasing; the net returns to the farmers even did not cover their cost of cultivation. Farming thus is now largely perceived as a non-remunerative enterprise. The youths are thus not interested in this profession. They started migrating towards urban centers in search of jobs ultimately leading to social disequilibrium.
Another important thing was that women who are involved in agriculture right from sowing, weeding, fertilizer application, spraying, threshing to harvesting are seldom recognized for their role in food grain production. The decision-making capacity still rests with the male member of the family. Their efforts are seldom recognized.
PALAJORA is the name of the house and the house carries an altogether different story; the story of a women entrepreneur who has beaten her age and successfully brought together sustainability, profitability and gender equality in her farm. She has proved false the notion that agriculture is a non-remunerative enterprise and proved right that sustainability can be achieved even with scarce resources and in adverse climatic conditions. Besides, it also shows that when women are duly recognized, results are entirely different.
It is the story of Yangchan Dolma, a 60 years old woman from village Saboo in Block Leh of District Leh in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Her husband Rinchen Tundup retired as a Joint Director from the state planning department. The couple owns about 2 hectares of land of which 0.5 ha are uncultivable. Of the remaining 1.5 ha; 0.5 ha is under vegetable cultivation and rest under cereal crops. Here is a brief description of activities at her farm
The vegetable produced on her farm is totally organic. No chemicals are used for their production. Instead of chemicals for increasing fertility of the soil and increase yields and controlling disease and insect/pests, organic methods are used. Use of Farm Yard Manure, Compost and Night soil is being made of.
She has also set up a compost unit in the field. All the farm waste is converted into compost. This compost she applies to the soil at the time of ploughing so that it gets mixed with the soil thoroughly. This maintains their soil in good health and in fertile conditions.
VEGETABLE PRODUCTION: The different vegetables grown by her include cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, carrot, potato, onion, coriander, Tomato and knolhol. For most of the vegetables, she produces own seed. From the seeds, seedlings are raised in nursery usually in small beds. In a year seedlings are raised thrice. During harsh winter the seedlings are raised in a greenhouse. For raising seedlings she has four greenhouses. The seedlings are also sold in the local market. Such is her brand value that peoples from adjoining villages also come to get seedlings from her. Some amount of seed they also procure from the agriculture department and from private players like Pahuja seeds, Takki seeds and Sultan seeds.
OFF SEASON VEGETABLE PRODUCTION: The off-season vegetables produced by them in the greenhouse fetch them a very good price. They are sold at double the price in the offseason. Usually, Chinese cabbage and leafy vegetables like Spinach and Kashmiri spinach (Kashmiri Palak) are produced in the greenhouse.
WATER HARVESTING: During the cold season there is a shortage of water due to the freezing temperature. To overcome the problem of water scarcity in these months, they have constructed a farm pond-like structure in which they store water through a bore well.
Besides vegetable cultivation, they also produce seedlings of different flowers like Dahlia, Petunia, Hibiscus, Marigold, Rose, etc. The seedlings raised by them are sold in the local market which fetches her a very good price.
The yield of different vegetable runs into thousands of quintals. About forty to fifty kilogram of cauliflower and cabbage is plucked daily and sold at the rate of 40 to 50 kilogram. This goes on for one and half month. Similarly, 3 to 4 quintals of onion, spinach, knolhol and carrot is produced. Coriander is sold in the market for rupees 15,000 to 20,000. Quintals of potatoes are also produced.
VALUE ADDITION AND PROCESSING:
For value addition and processing she has installed a solar drier where fruits like apricot and vegetables are dried for further processing and value addition. Value-Added products increase the market value of the produce.
The marketing is also largely local one. It is done through cooperative societies. According to Rinchen Tundup at present, there are seven cooperative societies operational in Leh district catering to the marketing needs of growers. The co-operatives have a vehicle which comes to their fields, collects the produce and then sell it to the local shopkeepers.
Besides the local shopkeepers, the produce is also procured by the army through these cooperatives. The society charges them seventy paise per kilogram of their produce for the vehicle they arrange to collect the produce. Besides, eight percent of the amount of the produce is charged from the producers for salary and other expenditure of the staff.
Her efforts toward sustainable and profitable production have been duly recognized at different forums. She received 2006, 2009, 2013, 2016, 2017 Ladakh Kissan, Jawan, Vigyan Mela organized by Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR). She was also awarded in the CAZRI Regional Research Station Leh Kissan Mela 2014. Besides the awards, she has also got a number of appreciation certificates from different government, private agencies and NGOs.
SUPPORT BY KVK-LEH:
In their effort towards organic produce KVK-Leh has also supported her by giving training to her on nursery raising, organic vegetable production and disease management. KVK also supports her by giving bioagent like Trichoderma and Neem oil for control of diseases and insect pests
In her efforts, she gets full support of her husband. She has a major say in all the farm-related decisions. She along with her husband working in their farm has proved that age is just a number for them. Today she is an inspiration for many fellow farmers working in the area.
(The authors are from KVK-Leh, Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Kashmir and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)