Srinagar, 06 May: Agriculture is a field that hardly anyone would take up as their career nowadays. Except three young Kashmiris – Nasir Rather, Sehar Bhat and Amreen Rafiq, who have broken the myth and chosen horticulture as their career, aiming to double apple production.
Keeping in mind the setback that the valley has suffered due to political unrest, leader of “Meva” team, who hails from south Kashmir’s Kokernag and lives in Srinagar, returned to Kashmir two years ago to use his skills in his homeland after pursuing his education from Canada. He chose horticulture as his field and decided to start high-density apple orchards, a concept which is totally new in Kashmir, after almost two years of research in the job-starved state.
According to him, there is a lot of potential, but apple production is reducing in Kashmir by the year and he wants to increase it by using new organic techniques to change the methods of plantation throughout the valley.
Nasir’s other two partners, Sehar and Ambreen, are in their mid-20s. When they go to agricultural offices to get tools such as agricultural machinery for their nurseries and orchard, people get surprised seeing two young girls doing what mostly old farmers are expected to do.
They don’t believe in just employing other people but engaging themselves in the work and learning everything associated with it. Introducing high-density apple nurseries in the Valley is not easy, according to them. The first and the most basic hindrance was importing expensive plants. Therefore, the team’s first focus was to cultivate plants in Kashmir. After a year of hard work and engagement of experts, they are successful in producing high-density plants in the Valley.
Nasir wants Kashmir to become number one in the world in apple production. He added that it is a long process ad they are creating awareness among masses as well. The team has created the Valley’s first high-density nursery and orchards in south Kashmir’s Awantipora.Now, the Meva team is focusing on producing 1 lakh high-density apple plants every year which will increase the overall production.
Commercialising apple production, they feel, will help this objective. They also want to educate people who are involved in Horticulture in Kashmir as most of them are not skilled and know little about the latest innovations and work in a traditional way which doesn’t benefit them.
The team has its first nursery spread on 25 kanals and it is planning to expand. They have adopted the orchid system to improve the quality and increase apple production. The method of picking the fruit has also been simplified. The team is trying to focus on sustainability to implement its work organically like the use the solar power for irrigation and raise chickens to treat diseases in plants.
Apart from this, they have even created wooden sheds in the orchards to use the local raw material instead of using permanent construction material.
Without much expert help, these three budding entrepreneurs are planning to start agriculture labs in different districts of Kashmir to meet the needs of farmers and guide them towards innovative agricultural practices. With their efforts, each plant in high-density apple orchards will usually yield about 18-19 kgs of high-quality apples and one kanal producing as much as 4-5 MT of fruit, which is a quantum jump over propagation of apples through traditional farming.