In the picturesque setting of Manzam, a quaint village enveloped by breathtaking mountains, situated merely 20 kilometres from Kulgam town in south Kashmir, Abdul Rashid Laway embarked on a transformative journey in 1995.
Learning about the detrimental effects of chemical fertilizers on the environment and human health, Laway was inspired to pioneer experiments in organic farming. As the proud owner of vast expanses of horticulture land in Manzam, he found solace and purpose in cultivating a sustainable future for both the land and its inhabitants.
This idyllic village, nestled near the enchanting Aharbal waterfall, resonates with the rhythm of nature, as most of its residents depend on the bounties of the land for their livelihoods.
Laway, who is known for his extraordinary concern about the environment, has taken to integrated organic farming decades ago and is cultivating 20 to 30 horticulture crops, using vermicompost.
He mostly uses animal waste on his farm—sprawling over 25 to 30 kanals—to grow a variety of fruits including apples, apricots, peaches, cherries, pears and grapes.
According to Laway, he cultivates around 10 to 12 varieties of apples only, and more than 4 varieties of apricots.
“I also cultivate multiple varieties of peaches, cherries and other crops," says Laway.
He mostly cultivates the traditional varieties, believing that these varieties have extended shelf life.
Laway says that he strictly avoids using chemical fertilizers as they significantly impact the soil health and contaminate the water bodies.
The integrated organic farming system in common parlance is a heady mix of crops, livestock,
aquaculture and agro-forestry to promote and achieve sustainability, production and employment generation. Over the last few years, organic farming has attracted much attention with more and more farmers switching over to it. As the organic food sector is projected to grow at a CGR of 25.25 percent from 2022-2027, it has opened up new vistas for Agri-entrepreneurs.
Laway is a frequent visitor to Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology ( SKUAST), Kashmir and participates in various workshops and programmes organised by the
" I have learnt many crop techniques from the experts there and sometimes I also share my insights, fostering a mutual learning process," Laway said.
Laway believes that organic farming not only sustains production but also helps in enhancing the yield and quality of the crop.
Apart from cultivating a wide range of fruits, Laway owns a dairy and a poultry farm. He also rears bees and produces an adequate amount of honey.
“In an integrated farming system, there is no waste generated. For instance, a farmer uses animal and bird excreta as manure. Similarly, bees are not reared for honey only, they play a crucial role in pollination”, said Laway.
He said that many farmers believe that the yield dips by using organic manure which is untrue.
" One only has to use a good amount of vermicompost following a proper way", he said.
Laway’s annual turnover ranges between Rs 10 to Rs 15 lakh besides employing at least 15 to 17 persons regularly
" During the harvesting season, I engage additional workers and at least I provide employment to 30 to 40 persons during that period," Laway said.
He also imparts farming skills to his fellow farmers in his village and promotes the adoption of organic farming practices.
Laway's contribution to organic farming has been recognised at various levels over the years. He was felicitated by the district administration as the “Progressive Farmer of the Year-2017”
In 2021, he received the “Champion Farmer” award from SKUAST, Kashmir. The award was presented to him by the Lt Governor Manoj Sinha. Last December, he was conferred with the prestigious “Millionaire Farmer of India” award sponsored by Mahindra Tractors. The award is given to the progressive farmers for their outstanding contribution to the farming sector. Laway received the award in Delhi at the hand of the Governor of Gujjrat Acharya Devvrat