Amid the rising unemployment graph, sheep farming in Kashmir is gaining popularity among youth who are starting their units to rear sheep for mutton which has a huge market here.
One such example is of Towseef Ahmad War who after completing his Masters in Business Administration (MBA) decided to venture into sheep farming. With this step, he has become an inspiration for the unemployed youth in his vicinity.
Towseef, a resident of Braripora Handwara of North Kashmir's Kupwara district choose a path of agri-entrepreneurship instead of looking after jobs both in the private and government sectors.
He narrates his story saying that it was three years back when he started working on an idea to start a sheep farm.
“Three years ago I went to Sheep Husbandry Department for financial assistance to set up a sheep farm but I was dejected after not receiving any support from the department. I then decided to start a sheep farm of my own, After a lot of research, my dream finally became a reality.”
“It was 2018 when I decided to set up the farm. Due to financial constraints, I could only buy 3 ewes and 1 ram. It was after a lot of dedication and hard work the number of herds increased. With every passing year the number got multiplied and presently I own more than 50 sheep,” Towseef said.
“A year later, I built a separate shed for the sheep farm with the expenses of one lakh fifty thousand rupees,” Towseef said adding that it is always a challenge to start your venture with limited resources, but hard work always plays an important role and makes the journey easier.
Towseef who is earning a handsome amount from sheep farming intends to extend his business in the coming years.
“There is no dearth of demand for sheep as they are used for its meat, I am earning a handsome amount from sheep farming. Mostly I have kept Kashmiri-origin sheep on my farm because their meat has better taste than any other breed. The meat of Kashmiri breed sheep happens to be the first choice of people which I believe is a boon to sheep farming in Kashmir,” he said.
Towseef has also employed a local youth with him on his farm and says that in the future with the expansion of business he will generate more employment.
“I believe sheep farming does not cost much to the farmer. In rural areas we have huge pastures, a farmer can easily take advantage of these pastures by sending his sheep there during day time,”.
“When I decided to take sheep farming, my parents were reluctant keeping in view my educational background, but now they are much enthusiastic towards sheep farming. In fact, in my absence, they take care of the sheep,”
“It really feels good when unemployed educated youth turn towards doing something on their own. I know several Kashmiri youth who used to work in the corporate sector in different cities of India but after the outbreak of COVID-19, they lost their jobs. Many among after taking guidance from me have set up their own sheep farms which is a good sign for the future of Kashmir,” he added.
Towseef is of the opinion that government should make things easy for the unemployed educated youth. He said that more and more financial schemes should be launched for youth so that they cannot be a burden instead would be a boon to society.
“Since Kashmir happens to be the place where the mutton is consumed more than any other place of the country, so sheep farming has a great prospect and potential in Kashmir. We should not rely on imports instead be self-dependent in terms of meat production."
Jammu and Kashmir on average consume 600 lakh kilograms of mutton annually of which 350 lakh kgs are imported from other states.
“On an average 600 kilograms of mutton is consumed in J&K annually. There is a shortfall in local production which is met by imports. J&K every year imports around 150 to 300 lakh kgs of mutton thereby creating huge avenues for investment in the sector and creation of employment opportunities,” reads an official document of Animal Husbandry department.
Interestingly sheep, goat meat consumption in Kashmir is witnessing a constant increase. In four years the annual consumption has increased by 130 lakh kilograms.
J&K government launched Integrated Sheep Development Program during 2020-21 under UT Capex with an aim to supplement mutton production & build entrepreneurship in the sector.