Making J&K Centre for Agri-Entrepreneurship 

UNION Minister of State (Independent Charge) Ministry of Science and Technology, Dr. Jitendra Singh, while inaugurating a 3 day expo, Kashmir Expo Start-ups for Livelihood, in Srinagar said that Jammu and Kashmir has a huge potential of becoming the hub of agri-tech start-ups and technology can add value to the products from the region with its immense biodiversity.

The expo was organized under the aegis of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India in association with National Innovation Foundation-India.

In the three-day exhibition, youth from J&K who have set up various ventures with innovation in various fields had come to display their products, technology, and services. The Union Minister in his address highlighted major sectors like agriculture, biomedical engineering, telemedicine and so on that can be the prime focus areas for start-ups in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and said that the area is fast evolving.

He also added that by making innovations and technological interventions, the Bamboo grown in Jammu can be converted to several useful products including incense sticks (Agarbattis) while the shelf life of fruits like apples, strawberries can be increased through different cold-chain technological interventions.

Why focus on Agri Entrepreneurship?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set up by the United Nations in 2015 to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all by 2030 are said to address several challenges. These include poverty, inequality, climate change, peace , justice and environmental degradation, economic growth, environmental protection and social inclusion. Climate change, environmental degradation and sustainable agriculture are some important aspects of these goals. Sustainable environment can only be achieved when there are increased investments in renewable energy and sustainable agricultural practices.

According to the national review report on the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) in India, the opening statement of which begins with Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, a Sanskrit phrase whose literal meaning is “the world is one family”. PM Modi in his statement at UN during SDG summit in 2015 had said:

“The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are thus part and parcel of the country’s longstanding tradition and heritage. Indeed, the goals substantially reflect the development agenda of India. Much of India’s development agenda is mirrored in the Sustainable Development Goals. Our national plans are ambitious and purposeful; Sustainable development of one-sixth of humanity will be of great consequence to the world and our beautiful planet.”

No to Mining Activities 

Recently, the Secretary Mining Department, Amit Sharma, invited Global Mineral Developers to invest in Jammu and Kashmir. While speaking during the two day International Conference and Exhibition on Mineral Business Development, 2022 organised at Nagpur, Secretary Mining asked mining companies to invest in J&K.

This would be disastrous in view of our fragile mountain ecosystem. By asking prospective Global players to invest in exploring the excavation of Lithium, Bauxite, Limestone, Gypsum,Marble,Lignite,Graphite etc, the Govt will be committing a blunder.

It seems that the Mining Secretary forgot the commitments made by PM Modi at COP 26 conference last year. At the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow last year, Prime Minister Modi had said that India would achieve net-zero emissions by 2070. This was one of the five major commitments or paanchamrithe made on behalf of India, to mitigate climate change. The rest commitments are as under:

  1. India will bring its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030
  2. India will bring its economy’s carbon intensity down to 45 % by 2030
  3. India will fulfil 50 per cent of its energy requirement through renewable energy by 2030
  4. India will reduce 1 billion tonnes of carbon emissions from the total projected emissions by 2030

Using agricultural land for non-farm activities will be disastrous for us in the future. Jammu & Kashmir  cannot afford to set up cement industries or undertake mining in riverbeds or mountains.

Strengthening Institutional Capability

Government organisations working in different development sectors like Rural Development, Agriculture , Horticulture etc need constant hand holding. Sher-e-Kashmir Agriculture University (SKUAST) Kashmir/ Jammu, Sheep Husbandry and Animal Husbandry departments  need to have a collaborative programme with Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) which funds and supports agri based start-ups in J&K. This has to be done keeping in consideration   local demands in the Agriculture and horticulture sector and to train the youth who want to make a career in these sectors.

To handhold these Govt organisations, it is  very important to involve prominent NGOs ,research institutes working in agri and allied sectors. For proper market linkages, the authorities need to bring in a policy guaranteeing Minimum Support Price (MSP) of the local agri/ horticulture  produce like apple, Rajma, walnuts etc. Furthermore, the farmers need to be institutionalised into Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) and cooperatives. NGOs need to sensitize the farmers to get crop insurance done which is much needed in J&K as inclement weather conditions destroy our apple crops every year and then apple farmers are urging Govt to give them financial assistance which is impossible for the Govt.

 In many regions of J&K especially the Chenab valley or Pir Panjal region, there is very bad road connectivity.

Doda,Kishtwar, Baderwah are only connected to the rest of India through NH44 which, due to frequent landslides and shooting stones, remains blocked thus losing contact with other states. The condition of the highway needs to be strengthened along with Doda –Kishtwar- Simthan road.  In Spite of having huge water resources , most of the villages in Chenab belt or Pir Panjal are rain-fed and lack irrigation facilities. Several lift irrigation projects have to be taken up on priority. Directorate of Command Area Development Jammu has to play a key role in this direction.

NTFP and Apiculture  

Non timber forest produce (NTFP) like Guchis, Mushrooms and other medicinal plants are found in great abundance in J&K. Chenab valley or Pir Panjaal region (Rajouri , Poonch) have good quality of honey and NTFPs but this is not properly marketed. Its production, sale and marketing needs to be taken up by a collaborative method involving state Forest Department and J&K Medicinal Plants Board. The Ministry of Ayush, Govt of India had agreed to provide some two hundred crores for setting up a research center in Baderwah. However, the work on the same is not going at a good pace.

Jammu & Kashmir region has the best quality of wild honey, but on a commercial side, apiculture is yet to be developed.  The olive (zaitoon) farming which was taken up more than 30 years back in Doda, Ramban and Kishtwar has not been expanded even to three or four dozen villages in spite of the fact that wild olive trees called Kuh are found in abundance in Chenab valley. The olive grafts can be inserted in these wild trees and that has worked with 80 to 90% success rate in the past.

Conclusion

In view of the geographical location of Jammu & Kashmir, with fast urbanisation, the thrust of the Government should be on sustainable development now. We cannot afford to set up industries that will threaten our environment and cause ecological disasters in the coming decades.  Sustainable agricultural practices can only be achieved when the Govt explores more and more investments in sustainable agricultural practices. The use of pesticides and fungicides has to be brought down and a lot of research and development needs to be done to set up model organic apple farms or vegetable farms across J&K. J&K has a great potential to be made a centre for Agri- Entrepreneurship and that can be a reality provided our policy makers are serious enough.


  • Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer

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Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow and Chairman Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement. Feedback [email protected]

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