In the high-altitude terrain of Ladakh, where snow-capped peaks and arid landscapes dominate the scenery, a remarkable agricultural transformation is unfolding. Driven by the innovative ideas and relentless efforts of scientists and experts working in the Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) of Ladakh, the region’s farmers are now reaping the rewards of a diversified and thriving agriculture sector. This transition has not only doubled farmers’ incomes but also opened up new avenues for livelihood in a region where government jobs were once the primary source of sustenance.
Cultivating New Crops in Ladakh
Traditionally, Ladakh has been known for its cultivation of apricots and golden bushes, but the region’s farmers are now venturing into the production of a wide array of crops. Potatoes, cabbage, brinjal (eggplant), cauliflower, tomatoes, capsicum, apples, peaches, plums, and even strawberries have found their way into Ladakh’s agricultural landscape. This diversification has not only expanded the options for local produce but also increased the income potential for farmers.
“Previously, people were dependent on government jobs for their livelihood; however, now, they are getting inclined towards agriculture because it has transformed and promises a better future,” says Dr. Shabbir Hussain from KVK, Kargil-II. This shift is not limited to the older generation, as rural youth are also increasingly drawn to agriculture, recognizing the promising prospects it offers.
“Basically, there is a shortage of government jobs in the region, which is propelling people to look for an alternative source of income, and agriculture is indeed one of the best sources of income in Ladakh,” Dr. Hussain points out. Besides agriculture, the tourism industry holds significant potential in Ladakh, creating additional opportunities for income generation.
Maximizing Profitability with Apricots
Although apricots remain a staple in Ladakh’s agriculture, farmers have found innovative ways to enhance their profitability. By processing apricots for longer shelf life and value addition, farmers can earn up to triple the profit. Pure organic dried apricots from Ladakh can fetch prices as high as Rs 700 per kilogram. These apricots are used to make jams, juices, and dried pieces, providing added value to the crop.
Exporting Ladakh’s Bounty
Ladakh’s agricultural bounty is not just for local consumption; it’s making its way onto the international stage. With a recent shipment of 35 metric tons of apricots sent to Dubai, Ladakh’s farmers are expanding their reach to global markets. Farmers are also connecting with companies through e-commerce platforms like Amazon, earning substantial profits from organic crops.
Role of Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) in Ladakh
KVKs in Ladakh have played a pivotal role in this agricultural transformation. These institutions are dedicated to helping farmers learn and adopt innovative agricultural practices, with a focus on local languages and communication. They have worked tirelessly to introduce new technologies, displace traditional methods, and adapt the best ideas after thorough research. In a challenging environment like Ladakh, where soil fertility is low during winter, KVKs have introduced greenhouses, enabling year-round fresh vegetation.
“We have a technology which overcomes crop infestation, grass hindrances, etc,” Dr. Hussain mentions. These advancements have made cultivation possible even in the harsh winters, where temperatures can drop to as low as -20 degrees Celsius. Measures such as water storage and conservation have been implemented to ensure uninterrupted agricultural activities despite the region’s water scarcity and extreme cold.
Cash Crop Prosperity
Peas have emerged as a cash crop in Ladakh, with the entire cultivation process revamped to improve yields and reduce seed usage. Formerly, 10-15 kilograms of seeds were sown in a single canal, but now, only 2-4 kilograms are required, leading to significant cost savings. This transformation has translated into increased earnings for peas farmers, with households now making 1-2 lakhs per year, up from 10-15 lakhs.
In summary, the agricultural innovations spearheaded by KVKs in Ladakh are changing the lives of farmers, enhancing their incomes, and diversifying the region’s agricultural landscape. This shift not only promises a better future for the people of Ladakh but also highlights the potential of sustainable and innovative farming practices in transforming even the most challenging agricultural terrains.