Dr. Parveen Kumar, Dr. D. Namgyal
Among the cold arid regions of the country, the Ladakh region standing at a height of 2900 m to 5900 m above mean sea level is one of the highest and coldest. The region comprises of two districts of Leh and Kargil. It is also the principal cold desert of India. Leh with an area of 45,110 sq km is the largest district in the country. Being cold arid region, the temperature ranges between +35°C in summer to -35°C in winter. The area has short mild summer to a long cold winter. The farming season is confined here for half of the year from April-May to Sep-October. This is because of the freezing cold winter which does not allow any crop to be raised. Largely monocropping is prevalent in the region. Wheat and Barley are the principal crops grown in the short growing season available in this region. Vegetable production in this area is also a major source of livelihood for the peoples of this region. Livestock production is also a major production system of Ladakh region. With snow clad high mountains and an inhospitable environmental conditions, areas available for cultivation and other utilizable land uses are not much. While the peoples in the region have a settled life, the ‘Changpas’ who inhibit Changthang area of Leh district follows a nomadic life moving in search of greener pastures to ensure continuity to their livelihood source in one of the environmentally harshest areas of the country. Research studies have shown that fodder availability in cold arid regions is 40-50 per cent of the actual requirement however, in some areas it is more than 50%. Among the major fodder crops Alfalfa is the major fodder crop. It is used green as well as stored in dried conditions to be used in cold season when there is no vegetation.
The total geographic area of the region district (Leh and Kargil) is 96701sq. kilometers. Total cropped area in proportion to reporting area is more than double in Kargil district as compared to Leh district. A very small patch of good forest land has been reported from Kargil district. However, there was no forest in Leh district. Land under non agricultural use is also much higher in Leh district as compared to Kargil district. Grazing resources are also more in Leh district. As Ladakh region mostly is inhabited by Buddhists; they are very religious person who believe that it is not fair to kill organisms. As the chemical methods are based on large scale
killing of the disease causing organisms’ there use is what the peoples find as something that goes against the basic tenets of Buddhism. So, they prefer organic cultivation without use of synthetic chemicals. In place of chemical fertilizers bio-fertilizers and organic products like FYM, compost, vermi compost and night soil are used. Recently, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) came out with the proposal of Mission Organic Development Initiative popularly known in the region as Ladakh’s Modi.
For Mission Organic Development Initiative, LAHDC has kept a budget of rupees 200 crores. Under the mission work will be done in three phases in 113 villages of the region. Already work has been started in 38 villages in the first phase. The second phase will start from 2022 when another 40 villages will be included in the Mission Organic Development Initiative. By 2025, all the remaining villages will be taken under this mission and thus the region will be fully organic by the year 2025. Products from these villages will be properly certified and for this Leh has signed a memorandum with Sikkim, the first organic state of the country. Officials from Ladakh are already on the job. They went on organic tour to Sikkim to gain knowledge and get more insight about different aspects of organic cultivation. A three day Organic Festival was also organized at Skurbuchan.
The different agencies working in the agricultural field in the region are already on their job to accomplish the mission ‘MODI’ by the due date. For production of vegetables the temperature is the most limiting factor. So their cultivation is done in green houses. In the Green houses the temperature gets increased by 4 to 5 degrees. KVK-Leh, DIHAR and the state agricultural departments have promoted the use of technologies like Green houses, shade nets, trenches cultivation, and black plastic mulching to overcome weather constraints. According to DIHAR officials, the production of melons in Leh region is double than the production in the plain areas. In fact farmers in the area are earning 10 to 12 lakh per hectare from melons cultivation. Similarly KVK scientists have also reported much higher production of Tomato in trenches. Rajmash is also grown in this region and is available in the market at a price of 120 to 150 per kilogram.
Once the products get organic certification their price will increase ultimately leading to increase in farmers’ income. As a marketing strategy for these organic products grown in the region, these will be supplied in all the hotels and restaurants of this area emphasizing on local production and local marketing model. Recently in the Kisan, Vigyan, Jawan Mela, an annual event of Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR) at Leh, the Honorable Member of Parliament of the area J. Namgyal talked about the agriculture scenario in this cold arid region of the country. He talked of the Ladakh’s MODI and how the DIHAR, the Agriculture department and the Krishi Vigyan Kendra-Leh are promoting the concept of organic farming among the farmers in this region. It was quiet encouraging knowing that of about 10000 tonnes of vegetables requirement of defense forces serving in the region more than 50 percent is being supplied by this region.