Sitting on the bank of fast flowing Rambi Ara stream that divides twin districts of Shopian and Pulwama in south Kashmir, Heff-Shirmal village in Shopian's Chitragam tehsil grows almost every essential variety needed in a traditional Kashmiri household.
With a population of around 3000 souls and a geographical area of 4.13 square kilometers, the village is among the rare habitations that is involved in multi-farming. The village is now silently entering into fish farming, which was otherwise unheard of in the village some 10 years ago.
Today the village, as per locals, has 10 fish farms. “I have three fish farms and my two brothers have three more. In one farm we put 2000 fishes. On an average three fishes form a kilogram when they are fully grown. So, on an average my three farms produce 2000 Kilograms of fish annually,” said Firdous Ahmad, a local.
According to him, he was the first to start it some six years ago. Today the village fish farms produce an annual fish production of around 150-200 quintals, which amounts to Rs 1 to 1.5 Cr approximately.
“We sell it (fish) in the local markets. We have some permanent sellers from nearby towns who purchase it and sell it in the evenings at their shops or other restaurants,” said Shabir Ahmad, another fish farm owner.
Talking to Rising Kashmir, Director Fisheries (Kashmir), Irshad Ahmad Shah said there was a social stigma related to fish farming. “Now with time that has got removed when we tried to privatize the fish farming.
“Under different centrally sponsored the seed is being provided on a 60:40 ratio. Sixty percent is being paid by the government to the farmer,” he said.
He said people from Shopian and Kulgam have fast adopted the culture of fish farming.
However, apple and paddy continue to remain the mainstay crops. The village has around 415 hectares of land used for different crop cultivations throughout the year, said the locals.
“Heff-shirmal gram panchayat produces over 300000 boxes of apples annually. The village contributes around 20 crore rupees only through apples to the J & K economy annually,” said Ali Mohammad (65), a long time fruit grower.
According to the village head, Firdous Ahmad, there are many other crops grown including maize, wheat, pulses, peas at a large scale.