Purple Revolution: Indian farmers turn to lavender to beat drought Global development


YesIt is the end of June, and the field glows with a fragrant purple color while the women in their course flow shalwar kameez arrive with your hair in the lavender harvest. In some 30 villages on the hilly slopes of Jammu’s Doda County, more than 200 farmers have switched from corn to lavender production, sparking a “purple revolution” in the region.

The village of Lehrote had a moment of agricultural glory this year when 43-year-old farmer Bharat Bhushan won the prestigious award for innovative agricultural business of the Indian Institute of Agricultural Research, one of several institutions across the country looking to find ways to deal with the climate crisis and its devastating impact to agriculture. Lavender, a drought-resistant crop, can be grown on poor soil and likes a lot of sun, but it needs a little water.

Bhushan takes selfies while the women sort the lavender into plastic sheets
Bharat Bhushan, a farmer in Lehrote, became a role model for other small farmers. Photo: Bharat Bhushan

“I started growing lavender in 2010, hesitantly, as an experiment, thanks to the encouragement of the Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine [IIIM] Jammu, ”says Bhushan. “It is easy to grow and does not require much irrigation. I used only cow dung as manure. “In two years, he was earning four times more than he earned by growing corn.

“Seeing my success, many have followed their example and now more than 500 farmers in the area who are part of self-help groups are pursuing this profession. I also started two nurseries to propagate lavender seedlings. The village has become a center for the production and distillation of lavender, ”says Bhushan, who also installed machines to extract oil from lavender flowers.

“The best part of growing lavender is that many women in villages who are not allowed to work away from home are encouraged to grow lavender around their homes because it is profitable, and that has made them independent,” he says.

“Domestic demand for lavender oil is high, and we sell distilled oil directly to industrial customers in cities in India, such as Mumbai and Delhi. We also sell dried lavender for potpourri, bags and flower arrangements, and hydrosol, which is created by distilling flowers, and is used to make soaps and air fresheners. “

Bhushan was inspired by a video conference with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which launched the Aroma mission in 2016, encouraging climate-affected farmers to grow crops such as lavender, rosemary and lemongrass. and medicinal plants like ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng or Withania somnifera. It provides cuttings, helps set up distillation units for clusters of 50 farmers, examines oil quality and helps find customers.

An overview of lavender crops on the slopes of northern India
Lavender inspection in northern India. The plant, which is best known as a culture in Mediterranean countries, likes a lot of sun, but it needs a little water. Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Jitendre Singh

“Lavender is a culture native to Europe, but it was introduced to the temperate regions of this country by the CSIR Aroma mission in the counties of Doda, Kishtwar and Rajouri,” says Sumeet Gairola, a senior scientist at the institute. „2017. Five laboratories across India were established in 2006 to help farmers grow 20 medicinal and aromatic crops on over 6,000 hectares. [15,000 acres] across India. “

Lavender, which is easy to grow, makes it popular among farmers, he says. “The income from growing lavender is much better than growing crops like corn. One hectare of land can produce as much as 30 to 45 liters of lavender oil, which requires a large amount of aromatic oil. “

Many farmers in Kashmir are beginning to cultivate the crop, often growing it along with apple orchards. Recently, CSIR announced the expansion of the Aroma mission, a launch attended by farmers from other northern states such as Uttarakhand, Nagaland and Assam, so that purple blooms could soon become commonplace across India.

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