BY BINISH QADRI AND RUYIDA MUSHTAQ
Across the world, mulberry is regarded as a unique plant on this earth due to its broader geographical distribution, a fast growing, deciduous woody tree species of Moraceae family with perennial nature and origin in Himalayan foothills of India and China (Khan et al., 2013; Yuan and Zhao, 2017; Rohela et al., 2020). Mulberry plant was mainly recognised worldwide as a food plant for silkworms (Bombyx mori.L). It is widely recognized for its economic importance in producing the mori silk through feeding of leaf to silkworm (Bombyx mori) larvae (Vijayan et al., 1998, 2004). Apart from Sericultural practices, mulberry is also utilized in other sectors for processing of mulberry products which provides employment generation. As mulberry is being exploited by sericulture, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, food and beverage industries along with its utilization in environmental safety approach; it is appropriate to call it as a most suitable plant for sustainable development meeting the needs of present generation without compromising the needs of future generation (Brundtland Report, 1987).
Backward production linkages are the linkages from the farm sector to the non-farm sector offering inputs for agricultural output. On the other hand, as far forward production linkages are concerned, they use agricultural output as an input as a part of the non-farm sector. Agriculture is the heart of an economy in general and underdeveloped in particular and hence an important sector comprising horticulture, floriculture, sericulture, animal husbandry, crop farming, and vertical farming for their source of revenue and creating value addition in agriculture. Sericulture is an allied sector of agriculture where income is being generated due to its backward and forward linkages which provide different value added products. It promotes crafts and heritage industry in Kashmir valley. Kashmir produces varieties of handmade, hand knotted floor covering items such as silk carpets and rugs which can gain international recognition. Districts Srinagar, Ganderbal, and Budgam in Kashmir are making handicrafts products since ages. Mulberry leaves are primarily used in sericulture for feeding the larvae of silkworm (Bombyx mori L.) and thereby producing mulberry silk. Sericulture in our country in the generic form and erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir State in the precise form is typically a village grounded industry providing employment prospects to a large section of the population. Globalization wave and Technological revolution collectively made it possible for agriculture and its allied sectors including sericulture to get promoted at a fast rate and thus facilitating growers to generate additional income.
Kashmir valley is socio-economically and agro-climatically suitable for sericulture. We have already planted the mulberry plants and started sericulture with the main aim of providing potential incoming generating activity to the inhabitants of Kashmir valley. In addition, mulberry is easy to cultivate through stem cuttings. Sustainability is an important theme of every modern eco-friendly agricultural growth model. There were always sustainability issues in almost every sector of Jammu and Kashmir economy and agriculture is no exception. As far as ecological balance is concerned, Mulberry plays an important role in eco restoration, afforestation, carbon sequestration, and soil conservation.
In the valley of Kashmir sericulture plays an important role for livelihood security of farmers who are generally landless and marginal as per World Bank Income Classification, 2020-21. The basic crop of sericulture is mulberry and the profitability of cocoons depends on mulberry variety. Kashmir is known for its biovoltine silk production which produces silk of superior quality due to its agro-climate conditions. The trend of sericulture from last one decade is going in a progressive manner which depicts more farmers are involved in this sector. Baramulla, Anantnag and Kupwara are leading districts in Kashmir valley where farmers are trained and motivated to promote sericulture. Now scientists particularly at Mirgund sericulture institute promote intercropping of mulberry with agriculture to ensure sustainable development of the area. Nearly 27000 farmers are involved in sericulture in J&K. The landscape of Kashmir valley is ideally suited to the growth of the sericulture sector which promotes the farmers to achieve sustainability in sericulture. But, this eco-friendly goal cannot be achieved in the presence of low education level, poor hygiene, poor infrastructure, and poor economic status of the growers. Hence, education and proper training of the growers are essential conditions for the growth and development of sericulture. It has been found that the majority of the growers who are involved in sericulture development seek knowledge (market knowledge in particular) through informal ways (family and friends). Hence, seeking sericulture knowledge through proper formal ways is very important. Furthermore, proper rearing stations are equally important for the maintenance of proper hygiene but it is very unfortunate that only few growers maintain hygiene. Also, the majority of the growers lack proper infrastructure and necessary inputs such as stands, rearing trays, chopping boards etc. Therefore, to improve sericulture economy we have to develop better infrastructure. Moreover, such conditions will serve a dual purpose: On one hand, they will consolidate the landholdings and on another hand, they will improve crop efficiency.
Ruyida Mushtaq Research Scholar, Department of Geography & Regional Development, University of Kashmir
Binish Qadri, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, University of Kashmir
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.