A group of women living in this north Kashmir town abutting the India-Pakistan LoC are scripting a success story by growing mushrooms in their homes and using the sale profit to fund their education and other needs.
The agriculture office of the district, located along the banks of the Jhelum river, launched a ”vertical farming” programme along with women self help groups (SHGs) about two years back and the initiative is now bearing fruit.
”We have 88 mushroom farming clusters in this district as part of which 22 women have been engaged till now. The aim is to financially empower the women within their household, where they spend their maximum time,” Yadvinder Singh, the chief agriculture officer of the district, told PTI.
The district administration provides an initial support fund of Rs 15,000 to each women entrepreneur along with 100 bags of mushroom seeds known as spawn, he said.
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The success story of these clusters are encouraging more women to come forward and officials feel this is helping break the proverbial glass ceiling in the rural Kashmiri community where women are not much seen stepping outside the household to earn a living.
Baramulla shares about 105 km of the India-Pakistan Line of Control (LoC) that is just about 35-40 km from the main town. It is located about 54 km north-west from the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar.
Kulsum Majeed, a class 12 student and resident of Fatehpora locality of the town, is among the women entrepreneurs who is working on the initiative after her mother Shakeela Begum enrolled with the district administration.
”A lot of money is spent on my education and that of my siblings. After we got to know if this initiative, my mother and I thought of taking up the activity of growing mushrooms at home and selling the produce in the local market,” Majeed said.
We got in touch with the agriculture office and they gave us 100 bags of seeds to start the farming, she said.
The daughter-mother duo prepared a small room on the ground floor of their two-storey house following which an inspection was carried out by officials and a green signal was given to them.
The seeds are planted in poly bags containing compost and are kept on long wooden benches inside the small room within the house and the average total produce from such a establishment is about two quintals within a period of two months, another officer said.
A small heater is sometimes used when the temperature falls below zero so as to stabilise the room climate for mushroom growth. We harvest the micro-climate of this region, he said.
Singh informed that the mushroom produce is sold at a cost of around Rs 180-200 per kg in the local market and other parts of the Kashmir valley.
”A single entrepreneur earns about Rs 40,000 from one harvest that takes about two months and after deducting the expenditure incurred, the net profit is about Rs 20,000-25,000,” Singh said.
Another women entrepreneur said she has been undertaking mushroom farming for over an year and she has earned a good profit that she uses to supplement her family income and for the construction of her house.
Baramulla deputy commissioner Syed Sehrish Asgar said some women entrepreneurs have reported an earning of Rs 8,000-Rs 10,000 per month from mushroom farming. We are reaching out to more and more women in Baramulla so that they can be made self-reliant and financially strong. Many have shown interest and this initiative will be widened by helping them to grow exotic fruits and vegetables like mushrooms, Singh said.