Green Revolution in Cold deerts: Ladakh

Discussion in 'Indian Army' started by Tshering22, Jan 21, 2011.

  1. Tshering22

    Tshering22 Sikkimese Saber Senior Member

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    Ladakh is not a farming frontline.

    Yet on the streets of Leh and in villages away from town, vegetables have been making their presence felt; an unlikely green in the tourist image of a cold desert. So much so that over 50 per cent of the annual vegetable demand of the Indian Army, which has a massive presence in Ladakh, is met locally. Not to mention, 25 per cent of the demand for milk.

    Supplied by 16 Ladakhi co-operatives, revenues from sales to the army are around Rs 16 crore a year. Much of Ladakh gets only one crop. In some parts, where water is more plentiful or warmth lingers longer, two crops exist. The main cereals are barley at high altitude, wheat and buckwheat. They are usually consumed locally; the region’s cereal-based dishes are nutritious. The picture wasn’t always as upbeat.

    Phuntsog Wangchuk Kalon is secretary of the Association of Farmers’ Co-operative Societies of Ladakh. He is among the many people who returned to Ladakh after higher studies elsewhere but among the few who chose to be in farming. The co-operatives negotiate directly with the army; there are no middlemen. They speak in one voice and protect farmers’ margins. It is an arrangement that has worked with the farming co-operatives positioning themselves as a second line of defence. The original seed for this attempt at self-reliance was sown by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, after the humiliating 1962 war with China.

    In Ladakh, most people move out for higher studies after school. While the majority of them return to Ladakh and a culture they closely identify with, the premium attached to a respectable job attracts them to tourism or government. Phuntsog is among few Ladakhis who returned and became a farmer. Five years ago, he was however forced to write to farmers highlighting the neglect of agriculture by authorities.

    Things have improved since — the farmers have secured land for a mandi in the middle of Leh and central funds worth Rs 15 crore have been assigned for a cold storage. With cold-storage facilities and cold-chain infrastructure, it will be possible to lengthen the shelf life of Ladakh’s produce and bridge the gap between the onset of summer thaw and the new crop. This could take Ladakh’s share in vegetable supplies to the army’s local units to 75-80 per cent. But transporting the crop by road outside the state continues to be unviable, Phuntsog said.

    Self-sustained farming and high altitude cold desert have authored the close-knit Ladakhi society. The region has ample sunlight, mostly organic cultivation and few pests. Water scarcity is built into the paradigm of farming. Despite reports of rising average temperature and the cloudburst of August 2010, winter freeze and generally cold climate remain a reality. “More than warming, the climate is erratic,’’ Phuntsog said. Agriculture typically depends on glacial streams for water. There are also bore-wells. According to Phuntsog, it is alright to drill for subterranean water because, if not used in Ladakh, that water simply shifts to lower elevation. He also reposed hope in what the electricity generated by the Chhutuk and Alchi hydroelectric projects could do for irrigation.

    However, Ladakhi agriculture has issues to tackle. About 50km from Leh, on the banks of the Indus is the village of Saspol. Traditionally this place, graced by two mountain streams, has two crops. Not any more, and it is no fault of water or weather.

    Farming is labour-intensive and in Ladakh, a land of few people, labour used to be a matter of mutual help. “If there is work on my farm, my fellow villagers volunteered to work with me in return for food,” Namgial Dorje Chagzotpa said. His farm is a small green patch with vegetables and apricot trees, a greenhouse by the side, the whole complex guarded by walls and doors. The seniors of Saspol continue to work for each other the old way. They save the money earned and send the young off to study in Jammu and Chandigarh. On return, many of these youngsters shy off farm work. “Labour is expensive now,’’ Phuntsog said. Farm labour has become a mix of local and migrant. Local means wages in food plus money. Migrant labour, available only after roads from the plains open in summer, is expensive and prone to fluctuation, depending on work in the plains.

    According to Namgial, rising labour cost impacts cereals, as procurement price is still an issue. Local cereals have to battle for market space with multi-crop competition grown to higher yield and scale. On top of that, these imports, already subsidised by the public distribution system, get further subsidised in the border district.

    Vegetables though were alright and he supplied the co-operative that in turn fed the army.
    http://www.telegraphindia.com/1110120/jsp/nation/story_13468166.jsp
     
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  3. maomao

    maomao Veteran Hunter of Maleecha Senior Member

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    Good development....Hope they succeed !!
     
  4. sob

    sob Moderator Moderator

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    In Laddakh a tremendous push is being done for Seabuckthorn cultivation. At present it is grown in the wild. Seabuckthorn juices are now available under the LehBerry label and are supposed to have many properties. This project has the potential of changing the life of many in Laddakh.
     
  5. Tshering22

    Tshering22 Sikkimese Saber Senior Member

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    I really think that we need to revolutionize agriculture. You know, even the saffron which is so expensive due to its availability in Kashmir should be grown in other hilly areas like Himachal and Uttarakhand to multiply its production and bring down prices for local consumption. It is possible with revolutionizing agriculture. The Israelis being in desert have most crops growing year around.
     

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