A 67-year-old progressive farmer from the Narkara area in Central Kashmir's Budgam district has utilized modern polyhouse farming technology to enhance his farming techniques, fetching hima significant increase in the production.
Narkara is an area in the Budgam district where a significant portion of the population is engaged in vegetable production, which they sell directly to the Parimpora Mandi, fetching a good source of income for the local community.
While talking to Rising Kashmir, Asadullah Bhat said that he has been involved in vegetable farming for the past 15 years.
"Narkara is one of the places in the Kashmir valley where a large quantity of vegetables are cultivated during the summer season, which are then sold directly to the Parimpora Mandi, providing a source of income for the local community," Bhat said.
He further explained that he currently has three hi-tech poly houses in which he cultivates various types of vegetables, including tomatoes, cucumbers, and others. Two of these polyhouses were provided by the Agricultural Department of Budgam at subsidized rates.
"Every year, starting in February, we begin vegetable cultivation activities using polyhouse technology. During this time, we grow tomato and cucumber crops in the polyhouse. The production levels of both tomatoes and cucumbers remain high due to the use of polyhouse farming technology," Bhat added.
"I have already sold tomatoes and cucumbers at high rates, which has resulted in significant benefits. Currently, I am also providing livelihoods to more than five people who work with us."
Bhat also mentioned that currently, they possess 20 kanals of land where they engage in open vegetable farming. However, this method has always been accompanied by inherent risks due to the unpredictable nature of weather conditions such as excessive heat, cold, rain, and other variables. Consequently, polyhouse farming has emerged as a successful alternative throughout the year, mitigating the impact of adverse weather conditions on crop yield.
The adoption of smart agriculture has become feasible with the introduction of new materials and technologies. Polyhouse farming, in particular, represents a modern farming technique that enables farmers to minimize the risks associated with weather conditions, thereby safeguarding their crops.
He said, “During the course of this year, I have successfully cultivated a second crop of cucumbers within my polyhouse. Furthermore, I am honoured to have received the Progressive Farmer Award from the Agricultural Department of Kashmir. This prestigious award was presented to me by the Railway Minister of India at Sheikhpora Budgam. Additionally, I have been bestowed with various certificates of appreciation.”
Adding, “In addition to my farming endeavours, I am dedicated to sharing my knowledge with individuals who are interested in vegetable farming. To promote the welfare of these individuals, I provide practical demonstrations on how to engage in vegetable farming on their own lands. By doing so, I aim to empower them to generate an additional source of income through vegetable farming.”
According to Bhat, vegetable farming in the Kashmir valley holds significant importance and serves as a cornerstone of the agricultural sector on which the people of the Kashmir valley are directly dependent. Additionally, it has the potential to address the issue of unemployment among youth. By implementing polyhouse farming, individuals can generate a steady income on a daily basis and also provide livelihood opportunities to others in their respective areas, he said.
"Due to the four seasons in the Kashmir valley, open vegetable farming cannot be carried out throughout the year. However, the adoption of new farming technologies enables farming to be conducted in any season without incurring losses. The introduction of polyhouse farming has not only provided farmers with a reliable source of income but has also facilitated farming activities from February to October. Consequently, this has created employment opportunities for individuals working alongside farmers, while consumers can purchase these vegetables at affordable rates.
Bhat, a progressive farmer and social worker, has also pursued post graduation in political science. He advocates for the empowerment of unemployed youth in the Kashmir Valley, encouraging them to become job providers. Bhat believes that the potential for vegetable production in the region is significant and can provide a sustainable livelihood for thousands of individuals on a daily basis.
An official from the Agricultural department of Budgam said that the department is providing support through several ways to the farmers across the district.
"The people must avail the benefits of the schemes which are meant for the farmers through which these farmers can earn a good source of income from the Agricultural sector," he said.