Assumed to have limited vegetation because of the harsh climatic conditions, farmers of Ladakh is now exploring new ways to cultivate seasonal vegetables and fruits which are basically grown in warm weather areas.
Phey village, 12km from Leh town is known for the production of watermelons. In 2016, on a trial basis, 10 farmers from Phey tried cultivating watermelon with the help of Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR). After the good yield, villagers are encouraged and are now growing watermelons.
Dorjay Angchok, a scientist at DIHAR said, “We are working on cold arid agro-animal technologies. We always want to help farmers to produce a variety of crops in Ladakh. We do a trial on a suitable variety of crops here in the lab and then we recommend it to farmers to cultivate in their field.”
“We found the best variety of watermelon for Ladakh farmers. We gave training to farmers on how to cultivate such crops. One farmer first tried it and in just three years almost everyone in the Phey village cultivates watermelon. They are providing watermelon to army men,” he added.
Scientist further said that DIHAR helps farmers to learn about the latest technologies and methods of farming to help them to produce quality crops.
“We have told the farmers about Mulching which is the placement of any organic or inorganic material over the top of a soil surface to protect it. They deployed this method to cultivate watermelons. It will help farmers to earn money. I hope, in the coming years, Ladakh will be known for watermelons. We also involve farmers of Ladakh in various agricultural activities and policies,” he said.
After the Union Territory status for Ladakh, farmers of Ladakh are more positive in terms of getting farming subsidy and benefits from agriculture-related schemes. Farmers of the Phey village said that the watermelons are grown in good size with an average of 5kg. The produce is sold to the army on bulks along with meeting local demands.
“I have been cultivating watermelons for the past four years. DIHAR is helping us. It is helping us to learn new methods to enhance our revenue. Mulching technology is boon for us. Agriculture Department is helping us and giving subsidy on seeds. The government is giving a loan of Rs 1500 on a 4 per cent rate to support us,” said Tsering Motup, one of the farmer.
Stanzin Tundup, another farmer said, “I am thankful to the government for the development after becoming UT. Earlier our funds were not coming to us directly and now it is coming to us directly with the intervention of government. It is helpful for us. We are growing watermelons in good quantity and improved our earnings.”
Echoing similar sentiments, another farmer Phuntsog (Nambadar) said, “Watermelon cultivating is helping us. I think that we will achieve the Narendra Modi government’s vision of doubling farmers income by 2022. We are able to produce good crops. I request the government to help us to improve the irrigation system.”
With the help of new farming technology and research from DIHAR, farmers of Ladakh are exploring new ways to increase the yield which increases our earnings. This has also encouraged many farmers to continue agricultural practices, away towards sustainability.