Climate-smart Vegetables Keep Kashmir Fed in Coronavirus Crisis

ON 05/06/2020 AT 18:36 PM

As meat supplies were being stalled due to the coronavirus lockdown, Kashmir turned to locally grown vegetables adopting new seeds and climate-smart growing methods as an alternative.

As an avid meat eater population, Kashmiris has felt the effect of India's coronavirus lockdown at almost every meal.

Kashmir's meat supply, much of which comes from the outside region, has dropped drastically after a nationwide lockdown began on March 24 to prevent the unfolding of the brand new coronavirus.

Imports have stalled and several meat sellers throughout the Himalayan region have been shut down said Abdul Rashid who often eats mutton a minimum of 4 days per week, however, he hasn’t had any in the previous month.

Hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris are turning to vegetables as alternatives supplied by native farmers in rising abundance over the previous 15 years, after adopting new seeds and climate-smart rising strategies.

“Our choices are very limited these days,” mentioned Rashid, who lives in a suburb of the regional capital, as he stopped to purchase vegetables from a vendor at an area market.

“As vegetables are mostly produced locally, we get them fresh. And we know where they have come from,” he mentioned.

Since the start of the lockdown, Kashmiris have been consuming large quantities of haakh - a local variant of collard greens - as well as spinach, potatoes, and onions, according to the Kashmir Vegetable Dealers Association.

Akhtar Malik, a curator on the University of Kashmir’s botany division mentioned the boost in vegetable manufacturing is the result of modifications together with rising use of greenhouses and rainwater-harvesting methods.

Kashmir’s Director for Agriculture Altaf Andrabi said the quantity of land getting used to develop vegetables in Kashmir has greater than quadrupled since 1981, to 48,000 hectares (120,000 acres).

“Our vegetable production is touching new heights annually. The number of vegetable growers has grown in thousands over recent years,” he mentioned, with over 100,000 folks employed if transport and gross sales jobs are included.

As per the official figures, 70% of seven million Kashmir residents are directly or not directly engaged in agriculture and related sectors.

He said Kashmir’s farmers at the moment produce about 1,500 metric tonnes of vegetables per 12 months which in the peak summer season not solely meets native demand but also exports to different parts of India where crops similar to tomatoes, okra and peas is hard.

That demand for exports is significantly rising with meat in short supply during the coronavirus shutdown he said Thomson Reuters Foundation over the cellphone from his workplace in Srinagar.

"Kashmir valley has the unique distinction of ... being able to make vegetables available to the rest of the country at a time when the whole country needs (more) vegetables," Andrabi said.

Mushtaq Chitu, a retired professor at Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology said the area’s vegetable manufacturing ramped up in the early 2000s when farmers started utilizing high-yielding seed varieties and defending seedlings in polyethylene plastic-covered greenhouses.

He said greenhouses were a “game-changer” enabling farmers to grow throughout the year, even though the winter, and protecting seedlings that once washed away during the rainy season

Many farmers switched from rice to vegetables after discovering that they could be making 5 instances as a lot of cash, he said.

Romshoo, who heads the Earth Sciences Department at the University of Kashmir said: “The government has said that it wants to increase farmers’ income, (but) such goals can’t be achieved if farmers have no easy access to water.”

Andrabi at the Agriculture Division of Kashmir reported that the government has helped many farmers with access to irrigation to build water-harvesting tanks, and has dug wells and developed irrigation channels.

Reyaz Bhat, a simple outdoor farmer from Srinagar said he has two water harvesting tanks each of which he installed as a result of it was quicker than ready for assist from the government.

He said,” The tanks present sufficient water to irrigate his half-acre (0.2-hectare) vegetable farm.”

Bhat, who switched from rising maize to vegetables almost a decade in the past, now makes about 400,000 rupees ($5,300) 12 months promoting his collard greens, tomatoes, cabbage, and different produce.

He told the Thomson Reuters Foundation “What I used to earn from maize is not even comparable to the returns I get from growing vegetables. The vegetables fetch me enough money to live a comfortable life.”

With Kashmir's lockdown prolonged until at least May 17, vegetable farmers said they’re reaping the advantages of their greater function on the household desk.

A vegetable vendor Mohammad Yousuf said before the lockdown, “I used to throw out some vegetables the next day as I would not find buyers for all my stock.”

He said these days when he takes his produce to the market in Srinagar, it sells out within three hours.

“I am seeing people buying vegetables like never before,” Yousuf mentioned. “This coronavirus has made Kashmiri people forget about mutton."