Shopian: Listening religiously to agriculture programmes aired on radio and Doordarshan spurred Ali Mohammad Mir to dabble in organic farming, which later encouraged him to set up his own vermicompost unit.
Circa 2003, 70-year-old Mir, a resident of the Shopian district’s Gagran area, experimented with growing organic vegetables after hearing about chemical fertilisers’ baneful effects.
“As usual I was watching an agriculture programme on television when I got to know about how chemical fertilizers pollute our water and affect the fertility of the soil,” said Mir.
That day Mir, whose farm sprawls over 10 to 15 kanals decided to turn to organic farming.
He sought guidance from the Department of Agriculture and began using the bio-fertilizers.
The results, according to Mir, were wonderful and the vegetables he produced were more tastier.
In 2005, Mir with financial assistance from the Department of Agriculture set up a vermicompost unit and manufactured bio-fertilizers.
“At that time the department helped to establish a total of five units across the Valley,” Mir said.
Initially, Mir produced only a few hundred kilograms of manure, but as the awareness about the benefits of organic farming grew, it precipitated a brisk demand for bio-fertilizers.
According to the 2021 survey carried out by FiBL, a leading organic agriculture institute, a total of 187 countries practice organic agriculture and India accounts for 30 percent of the total organic producers in the world. The country has also the highest number of organic producers.
Mir, who began producing a few hundred kilograms of bio-fertilizer, produced this year more than 300 quintals of vermicompost, fetching him a decent amount.
“I am earning a good living and all the fertilizers that I required for my farm come from this unit”, he said.
Mir also provides employment to at least 3 people in the village.
“To run any unit one needs a workforce. I have engaged at least 3 people on a regular basis,” he said.
At 70, there is no lack of enthusiasm in Mir’s efforts to become a successful agri-entrepreneur. Age has not withered his passion. He keeps his ear to the ground when it comes to new developments in the field of agriculture. Television and radio are still the sources of information for him.
Mir is all set to embark on his new project. He is setting up a greenhouse shed to cultivate both conventional and exotic varieties of vegetables.
“The Department of Agriculture has provided me a subsidy of more than Rs 1 lakh and I am working on the project,” said a wiry Mir in a firm voice.
He said that there were a host of schemes with the government, which if availed, could make our unemployed youth financially independent.
“I am an unlettered man so I faced many difficulties. I can’t use a smartphone and still rely on conventional sources to keep myself updated, but the educated people could easily avail many schemes available with the government by making the best use of modern technology,” he said.