Tired of running after government jobs for many years despite having a good qualification, Rukaya Khursheed of Kaloosa village in north Kashmir's Bandipore district decided to go for floriculture to 'stand on her own feet' and support her family.
Soon after setting her own venture of flower farming in 2014, Rukaya developed passion for cultivating flowers and now rues the years she spent in searching for a government job.
She now helps her husband, who owns a medical store, to run the family affairs and provide good education to there three children.
If everything goes smoothly as planned, she gets around fifty to sixty thousand monthly income by selling the flowers she grows in her poly house.
"I saw this as a part time job, something I love doing but within a year I had a thriving business. Now I had taken up flower gardening as my full-time business to support my family given the rising unemployment and lack of opportunities here," Rukaya says.
She now wants to set an example for the unemployed educated women, as there are so many ways to support yourself and your family. "I could not get a job even after having bachelor's degree in arts (B.A) and education (B.ED). Then I came to know that the Floriculture Department provides a loan to those who want to take up flower gardening. I had my own land and utilized that for this purpose. Besides kitchen gardening, I set up flower gardening on a small patch of land in 2014. Since then I am into this business," she says.
Rukaya grows Gerbera daisy flowers with three different shades in her flower garden from March to December every year and then supplies them to merchants in Srinagar.
"Gerbera is very popular and widely used as a decorative garden plant or as cut flowers. It is commercially also important as it is the fifth most used cut flower in the world. The gerbera flowers are used for indoor decorative purposes and during official functions by the government for decorative purposes. Growing gerbera daisy plant is possible from seed, seedlings and division. We have to get gerbera seed from Bangalore as it is not available in Kashmir markets," she said.
She grows gerbera daisy flowers with three different colors, which include red, yellow and orange, the size of which varies from 2 inches to 5 inches. "The gerbera flowers need great care. You have to add vermicompost and calcium nitrate and water from time to time to encourage good flower growth. When these flowers are cut out in order to use them for the indoor decorative purpose you have to apply bleaching powder to them which keeps them fresh in a vase," Rukaya says.
She said that every year she grows around eight to twelve thousand gerbera daisy plants and sells them to a merchant in Srinagar.
The journey for Rukaya, however, has not been an easy one as there is no market available for her gerbera plants in Bandipora and the district administration too has not recognized her work she has been doing for three years.
"The district administration has not provided a platform where women like me can showcase their work and get recognition. The height is that they (administration) took gerbera daisy flowers from me during two district board meetings and several official functions for decorative purposes but they still haven't paid a penny to me. Now what expectations I would have from them," she said.
She said that she suffered huge losses last year due to the mass uprising as she could not transport the flowers to Srinagar to her merchant in order to sell them. "Last year some women gardeners from across the valley had a meeting with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti where she assured them that they will be provided a platform to showcase their work but since then nothing has happened on the ground. She had to bear the losses of last year all alone as no compensation was paid to her from the Floriculture Department.
She also said that she was not provided loan subsidy she has to get as per the guidelines by the department. "They had to pay Rs 616/Sq m and I had 120 by 120 Sq m land under the poly house for flower garden but I was only paid Rs 90,000 subsidy to the loan I had availed," she said. email@example.com