‘Purple Revolution’ in J&K

Mohammad Hanief
People usually associate lavender with two specific traits: its fragrance and its color. But you may not know that the lavender flower and the oil derived from it have long histories in herbal medicine.
The word lavender comes from the Latin root “lavare,” which literally means “to wash.” The earliest recorded use of lavender dates back to ancient Egypt. There, lavender oil played a role in the mummification process. During later times, lavender became a bath additive in several regions, including ancient Persia, Greece, and Rome. These cultures believed that lavender helped purify the body and mind.
Lavenders are small evergreen shrubs with gray-green hoary linear leaves. The purple flowers are sparsely arranged on spikes at the tips of long bare stalks and produce small nutlet fruits. The fragrance of the plant is caused by shining oil glands imbedded among tiny star-shaped trichomes (plant hairs) that cover the flowers, leaves, and stems. The plants in cultivation do not usually produce seed, and propagation is accomplished by cuttings or by dividing the roots.
Lavender oil, or lavender flower oil, is obtained by distillation of the flowers and is used chiefly in fine perfumes and cosmetics. It is a colourless or yellow liquid, the fragrant constituents of which are linalyl acetate, linalool, pinene, limonene, geraniol, and cineole. Lavender water, a solution of the essential oil in alcohol with other added scents, is used in a variety of toilette preparations.
Lavender cultivation, which was introduced to Jammu and Kashmir in 2007 as an experiment to help farmers switch to more profitable crops, is now showing revolutionary results. A group of farmers in the region were selected for a trial program in which they were given 2-3 canals of land to grow lavender.
Lavender cultivation is practiced in almost all twenty J&K districts, while Kashmir has recently taken over this prestigious crop. Some districts that have made substantial progress in this area include Kathua, Udhampur, Doda, Ramban, Kishtwar, Rajouri, Srinagar, Pulwama, Kupwara, Bandipora, Budgam, Ganderbal, Anantnag, Kulgam and Baramulla.
The ‘Aroma Mission’ or ‘Purple Revolution,’ initiated by the central government in 2016 through the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR) Aroma Mission, has played a transformative role in the lives of farmers in Jammu and Kashmir. The mission aims to support the domestic aromatic crop-based agro-economy by shifting from imported aromatic oils to locally grown varieties.
The CSIR Aroma mission is expected to bring about transformative change in the flavouring sector through desired interventions in the areas of agriculture, processing, and product development to drive the growth of the flavouring industry and rural employment.
The objective of the mission is the cultivation of important medicinal and aromatic plants at the national level to empower domestic farmers and support India’s aromatic crop-based agro-economy by reducing imports of aromatic oils and increasing varieties of homegrown. However, the cultivation of lavender is native to Europe.
Thousands of Jammu and Kashmir farmers are switching to lavender cultivation, which has been very profitable for them. According to the statistics, 5,000 entrepreneurs/farmers are growing lavender on more than 200 acres of land, which has led to a 4-5 times increase in their economy.
Farmers in Jammu and Kashmir traditionally grew grains such as corn, rice and millet, which did not provide much profit, but with the cultivation of lavender, their profits have multiplied several times.
Lavender cultivation has emerged as a profitable and sustainable alternative for the farmers in Kashmir, enabling them to improve their economic prospects and enhance their livelihoods with fewer agricultural inputs.
Officials said lavender cultivation has gained significant traction across all twenty districts of Jammu and Kashmir, and its future in the region looks promising, fuelled by the increasing demand for lavender and its derived products both domestically and internationally.
The agro-climatic conditions of Kashmir provide the perfect environment for lavender cultivation, as it thrives in mild summers, bright sunshine, and even marginal soils. As land holdings and natural resources are shrinking, lavender cultivation requires fewer inputs, less irrigation, and can thrive in stress conditions, making it a promising future crop.
In addition to the economic benefits, lavender cultivation has also created livelihood opportunities for local women. With rising demand due to its medicinal values and the prospect of better returns, growing lavender has become a preferred choice for many farmers in the area, which is considered as the most fertile belt in Kashmir.
Lavender is a signature crop which is a buzz word today because of its varied uses in the industry, which includes cosmetics, toiletries, fragrances, therapeutics, etc, as the weather of Jammu and Kashmir is conducive for the crop. Also, the lavender plant is antimicrobial, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial and even anxiolytic, and these inherent characteristics help farmers save cost.
It does not need to use or spray agro-chemicals on it for maintaining the good crop, health and yields. It is an ecologically viable crop for regions of Jammu and Kashmir as its essential oil sells at Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 per kilogram.
Today, lavender is more than just a fragrant plant. As it turns out, this herb is also commonly used for medicinal and therapeutic benefits. Everyday stresses can take a toll on your mental health. The greater your anxiety level, the higher the risk for headaches, depression, and low energy.
The good news is that lavender may help lift the black cloud hanging over your head and give your mental outlook a much-needed pick-me-up. There’s plenty of research that suggests lavender has positive effects on mood, stress, anxiety, and depression.
At present more than 1,000 farming families are cultivating the lavender on more than 200 acres in different parts of the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Each farmer has employed at least five other people. Thus, the mission has already employed over 6,000 families.
A scented flowering plant called lavender is widely cultivated throughout temperate areas for usage as a decorative or culinary herb. The crop is grown in Jammu and Kashmir’s 20 districts. The cultivation of lavender is well renowned in Pulwama and Anantnag. This framework has been embraced by many farmers. Tourists come to these gardens during harvest season to see the flowers.
Farmers traditionally in Jammu and Kashmir grew cereals such as maize, rice and millets which didn’t provide great returns but with lavender cultivation, their earnings have gone up several times. It is expected to enable Indian farmers and the aroma industry to become global leaders in the production and export of some other essential oils in the pattern of menthol mint.