Horticulture : Resigning from MNC Engineer Fayaz Bhat, a resident of Kashmir, returns to the country, now prepares the garden
Fayaz Bhat, a nature lover engineer, missed becoming a military officer, became an example for gardeners
Studied in Sainik School but despite clearing NDA and SSB, he continued to become an officer of the Indian Air Force. Left the job in a central government institution after just two months. Then came the corporate world. Traveled abroad. In the end, he renounced his good position in a multinational company in Austria and returned to the country. In the same village of Pulwama in Kashmir where he and his ancestors were born. Now not only are they doing horticulture and animal husbandry in modern ways, but they are also teaching people its nuances.
This is Fayaz Ahmed Bhat, 42 years old. Even when he met him at home in Lethpura village in Pulwama, the Head of Department and Surgeon of a major government medical college had come to consult him about setting up an apple orchard and nursery. Educated with Dr. Saheb was his young son who wanted to do something related to farming or gardening. Fayaz Bhat was giving him various ideas.
B.Tech. (Electronics), professional engineer Fayaz Ahmed Bhat began his career as a researcher at the world’s highest astrophysics observatory at Henle, near Leh. When he left the job after two months, the doctor’s father in the Animal Husbandry Department asked that who would leave such a good government job? Young Fayaz himself did not have a suitable answer for this, so what would he tell..!
Although Fayaz had a love for animals and nature from the beginning as his father was a veterinarian, there was some ancestral gardening in the house but till 12th he studied at Sainik School in Nagrota. So stayed away from home. By the way, he did not know that his success was hidden in his animal-nature love until he left his multinational job in Austria and returned to Kashmir. Such a success which is not only giving them money and respect but is giving satisfaction to their inner being.
Inspiration and help from the farmer of Himachal Pradesh
Fayaz explains that he started with sheep rearing. For this a modern farm was developed. Sheep rearing continues in spite of not making much profit. Along with this, he also started the work of providing technical and logistic support to a private mobile company which is still going on.
Of course, this was possible due to the knowledge gained through his engineering studies, but he was not satisfied with this. The income was not less and he also became an entrepreneur from an employee. People were also given jobs but he was not getting relief. The family also had land, but what to do about it and how, it was not known. Then a twist came in his life. Someone asked him to meet Ram Lal Chauhan, a gardener living in Himachal Pradesh. Fayaz went to meet Ram Lal Chauhan, who lived in Kotkhai tehsil of Shimla.
Fayaz was told that Ram Lal Chauhan earns one crore rupees a year from apple orchards. When he reached there, he saw that this claim has merit. Ram Lal Chauhan also had ‘Range Rover’ among the top expensive cars. Fayaz was astonished to see his apple orchard which was built in a terraced manner on the slopes of the mountain. Fayaz says that I could not even imagine that a good crop can be grown by growing apple trees on the land in such condition. The land we have is in many times better condition than this.
Just this incident changed the life of Fayaz. He led a new beginning in 2016 along with sheep rearing, dairy. First imported better varieties of apples from abroad and made orchards. Also started nursery. The government recognized him and he started selling plants from abroad and selling them to the farmers here. Not only this, a company was formed in the name of Barkat Agro Farms to provide all kinds of help to the new gardeners or to the farmers who want to learn new methods.
The company is now one of a dozen recognized organizations promoting modern horticulture. Fayaz Bhat says that in doing all this here, his experience of living abroad and traveling abroad came in handy. He had seen many ways of working for the farmers while living in different places. It was very expensive to get apple saplings from abroad. Then the idea came that why not only the root stock of this type of plants should be brought. This experiment was successful.
Plants were developed by grafting a twig cut from the tree here in the roots imported from abroad. Apart from Italy, Fayaz Bhat’s company has also imported varieties of apples from Holland. They also started using manure from cattle dung. Solar plant was installed to meet the power requirement.
Foreign currency savings
Fayaz Bhat has started playing his small role not only to increase the income of himself and the farmers, but also to directly help the economy of the country. Importing plants and plantation material from abroad costs foreign currency, which is a loss for any country. Fayaz is also saving foreign currency by growing plants here with the help of foreign roots. He says that it used to cost 2 euros to buy a plant. They are gradually reducing the number of one lakh saplings that they used to get from abroad and as an alternative they are able to grow plants of the same quality here.
Their goal is to bring this number to 10,000 by reducing dependence on imports. At present, they have brought it down to 30 to 40 thousand. This has also made plants cheaper. An apple plant which used to cost Rs 500 earlier is now worth Rs 300.
Big thoughts of Fayaz Bhat
Fayaz Bhat’s vision of bringing better and change in agriculture and horticulture in Kashmir is also increasing in the sky. They believe more in finding solutions to problems by making maximum use of available resources. His concern about the apathy of local farmers towards the dry fruit nut, which has been important in Kashmir’s culture and traditional economy, has brought a new solution. In fact, walnut trees grow very tall and with time, even the tall twigs bear fruit, but those twigs are so weak that it is risky to reach them and break the fruit. Many times the twig breaks while trying to remove the nut from the higher part of the tree and the fruit plucker is injured by falling.
Even farmers have died in some cases. The height of these trees reaches up to 30 to 50 feet. Many times the farmers do not pluck the fruits due to fear of falling and there is a direct loss. With the height of the walnut tree, the spread is also great and their age is also very long. Along with this, it is also forbidden to cut walnut trees safely. The difficulty is also that due to the shady place under the tree, nothing else can be grown on that land. That is, the gardener neither gets the full benefit of the fruit of the tree nor the land under it.
Walnut cultivation in a safe way
There are large parts of Kashmir like Pulwama, Anantnag, Shopian, where the soil and geographical location are favourable for the cultivation of walnuts. On the other hand, walnut is also a good earning crop in terms of commercial production. Fayaz Ahmed Bhat has now made a plan to increase the yield of this fruit along with getting rid of the trouble to the gardeners interested in the cultivation of walnuts. He is about to bring Europe’s popular Chandler variety of walnut plants to Kashmir. The height of this type of plant with high density of walnut is about ten feet. In this, walnuts are not on the tip of the twig but on the twig and their density is also very high.
Its twigs do not spread much, that is, the size is also not big. Hence, it neither occupies much space nor is there much shade. Therefore, there is a possibility to grow something else on the surrounding land. Because the Chandler tree is not tall, there is no need to climb it to pluck the fruit. Walnuts can be lowered with the help of a small ladder or stool. In Europe, the trunk of the Chandler nut tree is shaken rapidly with the help of a machine, causing all the fruit to fall down. The biggest thing is that Chandler starts giving walnut fruit only after 3-4 years of planting, whereas the farmer has to wait for 8 years after planting to get fruit from the present traditional breed of walnut tree.
Chandler wallnut will be a gamechanger
The tree of the Chandler variety not only gives high yields, nut’s skin is also thin and soft like that of the paper almond. Therefore the kernel of the Chandler nut can be easily extracted whole. Hence, there is a huge potential for taking its commercial crop. Fayaz Bhat’s company has tied up with a Turkish company to bring Chandler walnut plants to India. It is expected that this plant will come to Kashmir in the month of December. For this a quarantine facility is being developed.
Plants brought from abroad are required to be quarantined for a certain period of time before they are sold to farmers for horticulture. This is a government rule and is also necessary for safe gardening. During this, the effect of local climate wind, insects and fertilizers and insecticides on the plant is studied. This helps in removing its flaws before large scale plantation. Fayaz Ahmed Bhat believes that the Chandler variety has the potential to play a game changer role in the walnut industry.
Fayaz says that at present, a Pune-based company has given this variety of walnut plants to farmers in Himachal, but the cost of that one plant is Rs 1200, while Fayaz plans to provide the same variety to the farmers here for Rs 500. Not only this, now he wants that interest in forest, farming and animal husbandry should be awakened among the children who are away from nature. For this, he has thought of using a part of the garden in Khriu. There is a lot of scope for setting up camps for school children as well as doing some activities here according to eco-tourism. The forest area is with orchards and there are beautiful green hills on both sides which offer beautiful views.
He wanted to wear a uniform
Fayaz Ahmed Bhat’s business journey is an example of inspiration and courage for the youth who belong to farming families but are not satisfied with farming due to traditional methods and other local reasons. Giving an example in the context of such youths who consider themselves unemployed in Kashmir, Fayaz says that if such youths want, they can earn 8 lakh rupees a year from a modern high density apple plantation built on one acre of land, i.e. about 60 thousand rupees per month.
Fayaz, who has made his own way, explains in a light-hearted manner that if he had gone to the Air Force, he might have been named in the list of Kargil martyrs. Well, whatever nature permits, it happens. Actually, due to colour blindness, there is a mistake in the identification of green and red colours. The result of his eye test was negative. So he could not become a part of the army. Then thought of becoming an IPS, the idea of giving UPSC exam came, but there could be a similar problem, so the idea of wearing a uniform had to be abandoned.
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