Horticulture project gives new lease of life to Himachal farmers

Horticulture project gives new lease of life to Himachal farmers

Fields abandoned in lower hills of Himachal Pradesh due to wildlife menace and lack of irrigation are now dotted with fruit trees under a horticulture project that provides for composite solar fencing and subsidy on agricultural equipment.

Kaihdru village on the Shimla-Hamirpur National Highway is one such village which has come alive with lush pomegranate orchards. Farmers Prakash Chand and Ramesh Chand of Kaihdru are a happy lot as their sweet lime and pomegranate plants have started bearing fruits.

Madan Lal, a horticulturist, said his family was upset due to crop damage by wild animals. However, the situation changed when the family switched to fruit crops. Similarly, another farmer Ram Chand said the new cropping idea had changed the life of his family and they are now ready to adopt fruit crops in a big way.

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The change is the outcome of Himachal Pradesh Sub-tropical Horticulture, Irrigation, and Value Addition (SHIVA) Pilot Project which envisaged horticulture development on the basis of seed to market concept with provision for composite solar fencing to protect fruits from wild animals and subsidy on agricultural equipment and drip irrigation system.

About 75 per cent of the cultivable land in Himachal is rain-fed and hundreds of farmers had given up farming due to the menace of wild animals.

“Under the pilot project, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) had finalised Project Readiness Financing of Rs 75 crore for testing of four fruits — guava, litchi, pomegranate and citrus fruits — in 17 clusters of 12 development blocks in four districts covering a total of 200 hectares of area and the results were very encouraging,” said Horticulture Minister Jagat Singh Negi.

The project will turn Himachal Pradesh into a fruit state with collective management, production and marketing, value addition and processing of crops produced from orchards being established under this project, he said.

Provision has also been made for land development, seed, plantation, irrigation, fencing, mass production, marketing, processing, and other facilities, he added. “I have visited several blocks and the response is overwhelming and farmers want more area to be covered under the project,” he said.

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About 6,000 hectares of land has been identified in 28 development blocks of seven districts of Sirmaur, Solan, Una, Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Kangra and Mandi, which will benefit more than 25,000 farmer families under the main project.

The officials of the Horticulture Department have decided to develop a cluster of sweet lime (mosambi) and pomegranate in village Kaihdru under the project.

Deputy Director Horticulture Department, Rajeshwar Parmar, said the department has adopted the strategy of “one cluster, one fruit” under the project in Hamirpur district.

Under this strategy, sweet lime trees were planted on a large scale along with pomegranates. The project is being implemented in collaboration with the ADB which approved a loan of Rs 1,072 crore for the project on Friday.

(With Agency inputs)

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