Mubashir Naik/Insha Shirazi/ Bhaderwah (Jammu and Kashmir)
Bhaderwah, a small town located in the hills of Chenab valley is known for its charming beauty in the region. Often called Chota Kashmir, Bhaderwah is just around 185 km away from Jammu, the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir. The town is tucked away among the gorgeous Himalayan mountains and is well known for its breathtaking verdant meadows, tranquil lakes, and dynamic local culture. The town is located at an elevation of roughly 1,620 meters (5,315 feet) above sea level.
The area is rich in biodiversity, with many different species of flora and fauna, and is surrounded by lush forests. The region recently witnessed a major bloom in lavender farming. Lavender, a flowering plant, is identified by its sweet floral scent and is believed to be native to the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and India. In India, lavender is cultivated mainly in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand.
The central government recently designated lavender as a Doda brand product to promote the exotic aromatic plant. The expansion of lavender growing, encouraged by the government programme known as the Aroma Mission, is referred to as the Purple Revolution in the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
In Bhaderwah, farmers of around 30 villages have moved from maize to lavender cultivation.
The Aroma mission was started in 2016, and intended to encourage the growing of lavender and other aromatic crops in the area. Lavender is a high-value crop and has doubled farmers and wages. The rising demand for lavender products has generated new employment opportunities in the agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism industries. In 2020, the Aroma Mission's three-year extension was renewed, and in March 2023, it was extended once more for three years.
Bharat Bhushan is among those farmers, who moved from conventional maize farming to lavender farming in 2010. “I began lavender farming on two kanals of my land and got great results from it. After initial success, I gradually turned my entire 10 kanals of farmland into lavender farming, said Kumar.
Satisfied with his increasing revenue, Kumar played a pivotal role in encouraging others to start growing lavender. He claimed that the cold atmosphere in the area is conducive to lavender farming. The drought-resistant lavender flowers thrive in temperate climates, he stated.
Beyond Jammu and Kashmir, the Aroma Mission is promoting the development of fragrant crops all across India, offering farmers financial and educational support, and developing a market for these crops. The Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), on behalf of the Union Ministry of Science and Technology, launched the project, which is known as an aroma mission. The Indian Institute of Integrative Medicines (IIIM), CSIR introduced high-value essential oil-bearing lavender crops for cultivation in the districts of Doda, Kishtwar, and Rajouri, among others.
Lavender farming has been practiced in Kashmir and some areas of Jammu since 2007. At present, there are lavender farms in each of the 20 districts of J&K. Districts that have achieved substantial progress in this area include Kathua, Udhampur, Doda, Ramban, Kishtwar, Rajouri, Srinagar, Pulwama, Kupwara, Bandipora, Budgam, Ganderbal, Anantnag, Kulgam, and Baramulla.
In Kashmir, women are also involved in lavender cultivation. According to estimates, the farmer in the Pulwama district produces about 30,000 man-days per year. Deputy Commissioner Pulwama, Basharat Qayoom, who recently visited the field stations said that more than 200 girls have been trained and special focus is being laid on the empowerment of women. According to officials, women have been trained for lavender and rose cultivation, processing, and value addition and the majority of the trained women have started their businesses.
Aroma Mission of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine, under the Ministry of Science and Technology, pioneered lavender cultivation. The CSIR has begun Phase II, which will involve more than 45,000 qualified human resources and assist more than 75,000 households, following the success of Phase I. Officials claim that J&K’s climate is ideal for growing lavender because this plant can withstand frigid winters and temperate summers. It aims to boost the income of farmers and encourage large-scale commercial lavender farming.
The major product is lavender oil, which fetches at least Rs. 10,000 per litre. Medicines, incense sticks, soaps, and air fresheners are some more popular goods. Lavender growing is particularly cost-effective because it generates income right away. The climate in Jammu and Kashmir is ideal for lavender production because the fragrant plant can tolerate both cool winters and nice summers.
Touqeer Bagban, 33, was discouraged by his family members and friends when he converted his land from cultivating traditional maize crops to aromatic lavender cultivation in 2012-13.
“Initially they all looked at my decision as a foolish one, they now all look to me for inspiration. Lavender farmers are not only generating big profits but also giving jobs to at least 3,000 others during these trying times, according to young entrepreneur Shakeel, who noted that everyone is concerned about losing jobs and businesses during the current pandemic crisis.
Deputy Commissioning Doda, Vishesh Paul Mahajan recently said that the farmers of Doda district produced 300, 500, 800, and 1500 litres of lavender oil in 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022, respectively, and have earned over Rs five crore from 2018 to 2022 by selling dry flowers, lavender plants, and lavender oil.
Sumeet Gairola, principal scientist at CSIR-IIIM Jammu and nodal officer for the Aroma Mission/Purple Revolution said, “Currently, 2000–2500 farmers in Bhaderwah are involved in lavender farming, with roughly 4000 kanals of land being used for the crop.”
Younis Butt, another farmer of Bhaderwah, joined lavender farming after completing class XII. “My passion for learning new things, particularly technical things, dates back to my early years. For training, I frequently traveled to IIIM CSIR and Dehradun. I have been doing this for eight years. My responsibility is to instruct farmers in the distillation process, quality control, and certification during harvest time. I have about 20 trainees and they are earning a good amount of money,” Yonis told this reporter.
The rising demand for lavender products has also generated new hope for employment opportunities in the region. In the 99th edition of Mann ki Baat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned the name Bhaderwah and appreciated the farmers for lavender cultivation.