1. Success Story

This 74-Year-Old Kashmiri Farmer is Inspiring Farmers to Grow Exotic Pears, Earns 25 Lakhs/Year

The entire Bahrova region is hilly, and due to the risk of drought, maize was the only crop produced by farmers. People were unable to consider alternatives to maize as a source of income because of their lack of financial stability, according to Shafi.

Shruti Kandwal
Shafi also collects 15 to 20 quintals of walnuts each year in addition to pears and apples.
Shafi also collects 15 to 20 quintals of walnuts each year in addition to pears and apples.

Haji Mohammad Shafi Sheikh, a contractor for a forest corporation, visited Kashmir regularly in 1980. He was going to meet his cousin Ghulam Nabi, who was studying engineering at Srinagar's Engineering College, and his younger brother Abdul Rashid Sheikh. The trio decided to check out a few of the tourist spots. They began their adventure with Nishat, a charming neighborhood in Srinagar that is home to the renowned Mughal Garden and the mighty Chinars.

They arrived at a lovely garden of green pears through a road on the outskirts, where Shafi and the others spent hours enjoying and learning about the fruit. Their fascination with the garden increased to the point where Shafi decided to start an orchard project in his hometown of Bharova, Bhaderwah.

Given its topography and the fact that residents only raised maize and fodder to feed their animals, Bharova was still unaware of the presence of these fruits. The entire Bahrova region is hilly, and due to the risk of drought, maize was the only crop produced by farmers. People were unable to consider alternatives to maize as a source of income because of their lack of financial stability, according to Shafi.

He planted several pear and walnut saplings next to his house that year to monitor their growth. “Surprisingly, plants grew normally and within a few years started bearing fruits. It was very much encouraging for me and my interest grew to sow more plants to give an idea to the people about the scope of horticulture in my area,” says Shafi.

The 74-year-old now gathers 3,000 boxes of exotic red pears every year, which brings him more than Rs 25 lakh. “The maize which I grew in my fields would fetch me only Rs 4,000 per annum. Often, we suffered crop failures and farmers were becoming poorer. But now, farmers of my area are financially stable,” he claims.

Shafi also collects 15 to 20 quintals of walnuts each year in addition to pears and apples.

Horticulture Sheikh of Bhaderwah

Shafi had a difficult time cultivating pears on land that had previously only been used for maize and fodder. He would seek the advice of specialists to have disease-free produce, thus it was undoubtedly a work of patience and perseverance for him.

"In 1993, as soon as I noticed my pears developing, I quit my work and devoted myself entirely to horticulture. I've always believed that the people of my community will benefit from my efforts," he says.

Despite objections from his neighbors and family, Shafi ultimately decided to give up the practice of producing maize in 2002 after seeing the rewards of his hard work. Instead, he switched to horticulture. "It was a really difficult choice for me, and people sometimes questioned why I gave up growing maize. Since plants take time to produce fruit, the early years were difficult," according to him.

Shafi eventually asked Sher-i Kashmir University of Agriculture Science and Technology Jammu for help in growing exotic red pears, which he had only heard about up until that point because growing native pears and walnuts didn't satisfy his appetite.

"During a routine visit by a team of scientists from Krishi Vigyan Kendra, one of the scientists, Dr. Vikas Tandon, a professor at SKUAST Jammu, saw my commitment and desire to expand my orchard scientifically and handed me a few Italian pear seedlings, which was a significant turning point in my path," he says.

To develop high-quality fruits in his orchard after being successful at cultivating red pears, he grafted green pear plants with red pear fruits. “Now I have some 250 red pear trees and apart from them, I grow green pears, apples, and other variety of fruits. For research, I visited Himachal Pradesh and other states to learn technicalities growing exotic fruits in my orchard,” the man claims.

He expects an increase in production in the upcoming years as a large number of his plants are prepared to produce fruit. "I continue to test new ideas with my orchards. My productivity will rise in the upcoming years from using high-quality insecticides to de-weeding promptly," he claims.

A ray of hope for Bhaderwah farmers

Shafi's younger brother Abdul Rashid has also switched to horticulture and has over 2,500 pear plants in his orchards after seeing the results of his brother's hard work. His cousin Ghulam Nabi did the same, cultivating pears on his property to increase profits.

“I feel happy that my village is gradually progressing. I can now see a lot of growers, who are dedicated to growing pears and other fruits in our village,” he says. Not just Bharova, but also nearby communities like Khalo and Shanatra are becoming well known for raising exotic Italian red pears. Each year, these three communities produce around 1.5 metric tonnes of red pears.

His efforts are inspiring many farmers, who are starting to practice horticulture in the steep district of Bhaderwah. “Only a few decades ago, our region was renowned for its stunning landscape. Shafi Sahab's efforts have helped us grow high-quality exotic pears that are extremely rare and in high demand,” according to framer Abdul Sattar.

Today, following Shafi's example, 165 households from the villages of Bharova, Khalo, and Shanatra have switched to growing fruits, mainly Italian pears.

Horticulture: An Employment Generator

Shafi's idea changed the course of the village's history. As more young people get interested in growing pears, horticulture has become the village's main source of employment. He employs around 25 people in his orchards during the season to take care of pear spraying, trimming, and harvesting. “Initially I had four boys who would look after my orchards. Now almost 25 boys remain associated with me during harvest season,” he says.

Krishan Lal, 50, a packer who lives in the Bahderwah village of Khalu, has been employed by Shafi for more than 15 years. He claims to be making a decent living and states, "I used to work as a farmer, but my wages were not adequate. Now, I get about Rs 30,000 per season working in Shafi Sahab's garden.

A 35-year-old man named Shashi has also been linked to the trade in red pears. “Horticulture has a great scope in Bhaderwah and scores of the youth are getting employed in this sector,” he says.

Share your comments

Subscribe to our Newsletter. You choose the topics of your interest and we'll send you handpicked news and latest updates based on your choice.

Subscribe Newsletters