The Excruciatingly Slow March of Agri-Entrepreneurship in Kashmir

The Excruciatingly Slow March of Agri-Entrepreneurship in Kashmir
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Dr Bilal Ahmad Dar

Kashmir is an agro based economy where around 65% of its population depends on agriculture to make a livelihood. In such a scenario, Agriculture has to be seen as Agri-business and not merely a way of life. Unless technology is blended with agri entrepreneurship, the productivity would continue to remain low as in the traditional methods of farming and agribusiness. Apart from generating new sources of jobs and income, it is equally important to bring about transformational change in the agribusiness sector to augment incomes, create more sub-industries within the agricultural sector and help the rural poor add to their agricultural resources.
Most agricultural outliers in Kashmir are forced to migrate to nearby towns in search of work, often in the unorganized unskilled sector. This highlights the need for developing more innovative mechanisms in the rural economy that boost employment opportunities in the agri sector. Entrepreneurs who can transform the face of the rural economy have failed to emerge in rural Kashmir.
Not only in developing alternative sources of employment, entrepreneurship can also help radicalize farming techniques and bring innovation to improve yields per hectare. Smart farming is the need of the hour. The sectors that can benefit hugely from entrepreneurial intervention are food processing and packaging, preservation of seasonal fruits and vegetables, seed processing, flower farming in addition to crop farming and so on. Agro based industries can flourish in rural sectors where labor is abundant. Small and medium enterprises set up at rural level to supplement traditional farm income in a big way and create alternative sources of income.

Sectors where Entrepreneurship can help the agribusiness:

1. Floriculture
In a number of cases, flower farming can be done on small tracts of land. In fact, bulks of flowers are cultivated on ‘micro farms’. Farmers can utilize a part of their land to cultivate seasonal flowers alongside regular conventional crops. But, this needs markets in the vicinity or processing and preservation units. Entrepreneurs having knowledge of flower cultivation and marketing can set up parallel industries in fertile rural lands.

2. Pisciculture
Fish farming is practiced by a lot of farmers to augment their incomes. However, they do so on amateurishly and on a small scale basis. A conscious business effort to develop small pond fish farms in rural areas can enable Pisciculture to become a valuable sector in the rural economy. Fish cultivation on market scale needs some knowledge and boosting entrepreneurship in the sector can make a difference.

3. Farm technology
Dependence on outdated and inefficient technologies leads to poor productivity and low income. Most farmers in the state still rely on age-old farming techniques with mostly manual methods. Boosting entrepreneurial minds in agriculture can boost productivity by incorporating modern technologies in the farming sector.

Conclusion
Agriculture has and been the chief source of livelihood for people of the state since time immemorial and is the biggest organization engaging 65 percent of the total workforce. However, inadaptability of modern agricultural practices is prevailing even in today’s time which may be construed upon the state traditions and cultural practices and reasons more. The questionable unavailability of high yielding variety Seeds and the reluctant approach on usage of heavy dosage of industrial chemicals contribute largely to the poor agriculture output in the state. Despite the enormous potential opportunities availability for the growth and survival of small scale farmer entrepreneur in the state, its environment also exhibits certain mesmerizing challenges to the state small scale farmer entrepreneurs which could be seemingly averted if proper intervention from the State government and the society in general take to the shift of negative to positive mindset. It is important that another window is opened from which ideas can be formulated to offer valuable assistance to the small scale farmers especially in the creation of a marketing platform for their products.

The author holds a PhD from Jaipur National University. He can be reached at: darbilalsultan@gmail.com