J-K villagers cultivate lemongrass to drive away monkeys, utilise barren land

Residents of Sirha village in Jammu & Kashmir’s Reasi district are cultivating lemongrass to utilise barren land and drive away monkeys which are a menace in the region.
The villagers used to grow maize, rice and wheat but often suffered losses due to the monkey menace. So the initiative titled Lemongrass Cultivation to Counter Monkey Menace was started under the flagship Back to Village programme. Four to five farmers from village Sirha shifted to lemongrass cultivation.
Set up under the centrally sponsored scheme ‘Aroma Mission,’ a single unit oil distillation machine yields about 12-13 litres of lemongrass oil in a year.
Tilakraj, 67, a farmer said, “Earlier we had to go to Jammu for oil distillation and sale purposes but now as the machine has been set up here in this village, it saves the additional expenses. It adds to our profit. In one year income goes up to Rs 60,000.”
However, now the farmers have demanded two things. “First more farmers should try to get into lemongrass farming with the help of the government. Secondly we want a counter at Katra to sell our products,” said Tilakraj.
There is also a plan to make incense sticks from the waste products. Along with the farmers, self-help groups of 30 women each are involved in this process. They pack the containers for lemongrass oil and earthen holders. When work is available, each day this self-help women’s group makes at least 500-600 bottles of 100 ml with a payment of up to Rs 100 per day.
However, the local self-help group complains of less work as the packing and related works are entirely dependent on availability of lemongrass.
Shakti Devi (45) said, “Here we work for some 10 to 12 days in a month and get paid up to Rs 100 per day. However, we want more work hence have asked to introduce additional trade which will get us income.”
Ravindar Thaploo, Chief Agriculture Officer, Reasi said, “With the introduction of lemongrass monkey footfalls have drastically reduced. Now with the distillation of lemongrass oil we are further planning to increase its production once the lockdown is over and start it in PPP mode. This project is still in its infancy.”
The initiative, which had begun on December 2019, is now doing well.