The Bold Voice of J&K

Sustainability through Eco-Friendly Farming in J&K

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Dr. Banarsi Lal

Conventional farming has made it possible to supply the world’s increasing population but the use of synthetic chemicals are damaging our environment. Industrial farming utilizes synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides produce higher yield but it comes at a high environmental price. They poison fresh air, soil, water and marine ecosystems. So, eco-friendly farming is the best method for the healthy environment and healthy life. This agricultural system restricts the use of synthetic agro-chemicals. Instead, it uses organic inputs to produce healthy and safe food and restore the soil’s nutrients. Eco-friendly farming mitigates soil pollution because it doesn’t utilize synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. It helps to reduce water solution and protects our groundwater from further contamination.
Agriculture is the mainstay of the people of Union Territory of J&K. Thus, it is imperative to look at the farm sector as a key booster which lays the roadmap on removal of various natural and even man-made impediments like the cycle of violence from which the especially rural people suffer. Agriculture, in fact, has been playing a pivotal role for the overall development of Union Territory J&K. J&K is one of the most ethnically diverse regions of the country. J&K has its own cultures and ways of farming. The people of J&K have always marveled at the diversity of cultures and multiple civilizations. This is the strength of J&K. It is wrong to visualize a uniform pattern of farming in the whole UT of J&K. Each community is skilled to utilize local people’s farming potentials and the natural resources in a cost effective manner. Each tribal and ethnic community has their unique traditional methodologies of water preservation and farming. The success story of organic farming in Reasi district of J&K is a story by itself and on merits. There are various other well known and vital salient features about farming in J&K. Due to increasing requirement for cultivation of land, there is resilience of ecosystem and this leaves far reaching impact on the ecology. From ecological point of view again, J&K falls within the sub tropical belt of Jammu region to temperate belt in Kashmir region. However, despite immense potentials and innovations involved in agriculture, the agro-economy has not seen the northbound graph as visualized in many quarters. For many reasons, the agriculture sector remains capital starved in J&K. In a broad sense, Union Territory of J&K needs adequate attention to ensure setting up of cold storage facilities, warehouses, marketing channels and also to stimulate new employment opportunities. Of course in recent years the agricultural sector in the region has come into focus and a series of new and innovative steps have been taken for commercial agriculture. There are certain existing hurdles in the certain areas of agriculture in J&K. Notwithstanding its predominance in the economy of J&K, the agricultural sector has remained slow in the region in terms of yielding crops results and in stimulating the economy.
Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir is mountainous and is located between 32.17 and 37.06 North latitude and 73.2 and 80.36 East longitude in the Himalayan region. The agro-diversity of this territory varies from sub-tropical in Jammu region to temperate in Kashmir region. The average annual rainfall of these two regions is 1069mm and 660mm respectively. The average temperatures of these two regions are 24.5 and 13.3 Centigrade respectively. There is dire need to increase the income and employment in agriculture and allied sectors for the farmers in J&K. This is possible to increase the production and productivity of the crops and to enable the farmers to adopt the scientific agricultural technologies. There is need to promote the scientific agriculture and move towards commercial agriculture. J&K is endowed with ample natural resources including soil, water, climatic condition, diversity, topography, rich natural flora etc. which are conducive for the cultivation of a wide range of crops. It is a matter of grave concern that the interest of younger generation in J&K is declining towards agriculture. Most of the area in J&K is under agriculture is rainfed. Maize is at first rank crop in J&K occupying one-third of the total cropped area, rice at number second in 28.58 per cent area of gross cropped area and wheat at number three which covers around 26 per cent of the total cropped area.
Over 75 per cent of people in J&K live in rural areas and are dependent on agriculture as a source of livelihood. But the percentage of net cultivated area of J&K is around 30 per cent as against 45 per cent of the total area in the rest of India. J&K is lagging behind other parts of the country in terms of production and productivity of various crops. Thus, J&K has to depend on other states of the country for food grain requirements and to make up the shortage of other farm commodities including vegetables. At the same time, it should be noted that the region has immense potential for horticulture and other farm products. J&K accounts for fair share of India’s production of apples, walnut, almond and basmati rice. J&K has an immense potential of pecan nuts and fruits like Kiwi while ginger, turmeric, chilly and bamboo related products thrive in certain parts of J&K.UT of J&K also has immense potential of olive and saffron. Thus, notwithstanding hurdles and limitations, the overall farm scene viz. agri and horticulture depicts a story of success along with the promises to march towards greater glories. Agriculture provides the main source of income in J&K. Engaging people in agriculture has been prominent agenda of the Government recently as there is growing concern across the nation that rural people specially the rural youths have become disenchanted with agriculture.
J&K people are basically village based masses. Thus, farming has always an emotional attachment with the rural people of J&K. It has been observed that those cherishing white collared jobs in service, industry and government sectors have also shown inclination towards agriculture. In terms of tangible results, J&K has an immense potential in organic and natural farming. As Sikkim has been declared as an organic state in the country, J&K too can be converted as an organic territory as most of the farmers of J&K especially in hilly areas hardly apply the agro- chemicals in their crops. Organic and natural farming will help to maintain the soil health and the programme is likely to boost the rural tourism industry in J&K. The water from the rivers in J&K can be diverted towards crops fields. The water carries with it the dung and urine of the animals to the fields can help in providing good source of nutrition for the crops. In this backdrop, it will be relevant to examine how agriculture has been able to bring out multi-phased transitions in the region. This includes – (i) Removal of unemployment and particularly, under employment from the J&K; b) Ensure enough economic support to mitigate basic needs like drinking water, rural roads, elementary education, health care and housing for landless people(c) Boosting nutrition for the crops, (d) Significant reduction in disparities of income and wealth, (e) Achieve higher growth rate and ensure continued progress in J&K. It is well known fact that the future and prosperity of people of any place is rooted in its soil. Agriculture truly gives that opportunity to tap the potential in J&K. People in Union Territory of J&K also believe that it was creativity at its best when Earth was addressed as the Mother and the Earth surface was compared to the lap of motherhood. People in J&K are the masters of agriculture and know how to take care of mother and seek all her blessings. They also know to maintain a balance between environment and development. People’s involvement and proper use of natural resources can bring sustainability in agriculture and with sustainability progress can be done.
(The writer is Sr. Scientist and Head of KVK, Reasi SKUAST-J).

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