Bhaderwah/Jammu- A 33-year-old resident of Bhaderwah town in Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir claims to have helped at least 2,500 farmers in Chenab region to increase their income manifold by switching from traditional maize and paddy farming to lucrative lavender cultivation.
Touqeer Bagban, a resident of Mohalla Vasuki Dhera in Bhaderwah town, belongs to a farmer’s family and owns a cedar wood extraction oil unit.
“I always wanted to utilise local available natural resources to create jobs and provide profitable livelihood avenues for the small and marginal farmers,” Bagban said.
Touqeer, a class 12 dropout, got inspiration from a workshop organised by IIIM (Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine) in 2014 and convinced his family to switch from traditional farming of growing maize and paddy to cultivation of aromatic plants.
His 74-year-old father Gaffar Bagban is well aware of the medical and aromatic plants grown widely in high altitude Himalayan mountain. Gaffar also encouraged his son to engage locals in lavender farming.
Inspired by his father’s ideas and subsequent IIIM workshop, Touqeer started motivating and encouraging other farmers to start cultivating aromatic and medicinal plants.
“Initially, I found no taker for my ideas and it seem a herculean task to make it possible from switching to the new way of farming,” Touqeer said.
He travelled extensively in the lengths and breadths of the region to promote his ideas and convince farmers to switch to the new crops.
“I even offered and assured farmers that I will bear all the losses if they don’t find growing of aromatic and medicinal plants profitable in comparison to their traditional crops,” Touqeer added.
The farmers gradually began to switch from traditional crops.
In 2016, the Ministry of Sciences and Technology along with CSIR-IIIM started Aroma Mission and the initiative started gaining momentum.
As a result, presently 2,500 families are growing exotic lavender and Bhaderwah has become the leading producer of lavender in India.
After seeing the interest and success story of the farmers, he said Bhaderwah was not only named as the capital of lavender in India but the Union government also included lavender under the ‘One District One Product’ for promoting the crop in Doda district.
Union minister for science and technology Jitendra Singh installed 11 lavender distillation units in Bhaderwah.
Touqeer, after resounding success of bringing purple revolution and becoming instrumental in making Bhaderwah the capital of lavender in India, has ventured in value addition of locally grown aromatic plants.
“We have been getting rave reviews for our products from the word of mouth as lavender soap, rosemary soap, balm, incense sticks, hair oils and sanitizers are selling like hot cakes,” he added.
Touqeer’s venture has also helped more than 100 women find livelihood by working in lavender fields and nurseries.
Lavender flowers grow in temperate areas and are drought-resistant.
“A single plant bears flowers for 15 years, needs a little maintenance and can be harvested from the second year of plantation onwards. The oil extracted from the plant is used in soaps, cosmetics, perfumes, room fresheners and medicines, among others,” he said. (PTI)