Despite Covid-19 induced lockdown, around 1,000 families associated with exotic lavender farming here have not only made themselves self-reliant but also emerged as job provider during the pandemic time. Lavender farmers have also become a source of inspiration for those still practising traditional farming, according to a grower.
The families from different villages of Jammu and Kashmir's additional district Bhaderwah under Union Government's Aroma Mission switched from maize cultivation to growing of aromatic plants and they are happy over their decision in the backdrop of ever increasing demand of lavender oil in the international market, which earned them good fortunes. At the time of the pandemic and prolonged lockdowns, the farmers were providing jobs to hundreds of labourers, thus becoming a true symbol of 'Atmanirbhar Bharat', officials said. "I worked with a multinational company in Delhi for four years before losing my job due to the pandemic last year...I packed my bags and returned to my native village dejected after finding it difficult to get another job," 28-year-old Anish, a resident of Tipri village, told PTI.
However, he said his decision to return and join his family in growing Lavender revolutionized his life as he became a job provider from a job seeker a year ago. "I am more confident today than ever before as not only my savings have increased but it gave me immense satisfaction that I am giving jobs to others," he said, thanking the scientists of IIIM Jammu for mobilising farmers of this far flung area. Farmers from Tipri, Lehrote, Khellani, Manwa, Chinta, Trabbi, Koundla, Sharora, Chattra, Dandi, Bhalla and some parts of Athkhar, who have started harvesting their produce of lavender flowers, are expecting a bumper crop this year and opined that switching to lavender farming has come as a major relief for them during these testing times of corona pandemic.
"When we switched from growing traditional maize crops to aromatic lavender farming 10 years ago, we were discouraged even by our relatives and friends but today all of them look at us as an inspiration. "During current crisis of pandemic when everybody is worried about losing jobs and businesses, lavender farmers are not only making good fortunes for themselves but also providing jobs to at least 3,000 others during these testing times," Toufeeq Bagban, a young entrepreneur, said. "Growing of lavender not only helped us survive during the hard times of pandemic but it's strong aroma also kept Corona at a bay and it's proof is that not a single positive case was reported from any of the villages where there are lavender fields," Sarpanch, Neota-Karyan, Om Raj, believes.
The progressive farmers of Tipri village, where all the residents have switched to lavender farming and have become the leading producer of lavender flowers, demand road connectivity to transport their produce to the distillation units. "No doubt lavender farming has changed our fortunes but we have to carry our produce on our back to the distillation centre at Dradhu which is 7 km away from the village for extraction of oil," Anjali Devi, a local resident, said. She said it is not only very cumbersome to transport the produce on backs in sweltering heat, but the non-availability of a motorable road is a major disadvantage for the residents.
Scientists from CSIR- IIIM (Council Of Scientific And Industrial Research - Indian Institute of Integrative Medicines) attribute the success story of lavender farming in Bhadarwah to joint efforts of farmers and subject matter specialists, assuring that they are ready to go an extra mile to help the villagers. "We have been providing farmers, residing in the slopes of Bhaderwah valley, with technical and logistics support residing and it is because of joint efforts that lavender farming in this scenic Valley is a huge success story and has turned out to be a purple revolution," Senior Scientist, CSIR-IIIM Jammu, Sumeet Gairola, said. He said Director CSIR-IIIM, Jammu, D Srinivasa Reddy, aims to increase the area under cultivation of lavender and other aromatic crops throughout the Union Territory.
"In 2021, despite Coronavirus pandemic CSIR-IIIM provided three lakh lavender plants free of cost to the farmers of Doda and Kishtwar districts," Gairola said, adding Under CSIR-Aroma Mission end to end technology on cultivation of high value aromatic crops such as Lavender, Rosemary, Damask Rose, Roman and German Chamomile, Rose Scented Geranium, Clary Sage, Jammu Monarda, Rosa Grass and Lemongrass is being provided to the farmers. He said these crops have very high market demand and potential to multiply income of farmers of the region. "CSIR-IIIM is also providing training on cultivation, processing, value addition and marketing of aromatic crops to the progressive farmers and young entrepreneurs for development of the aroma industry in the UT. So far CSIR-IIIM has installed 14 distillation units at different parts of Jammu division including six at Doda district," he said.