Jammu And Kashmir Helps Kabul Replace Poppy With Saffron18 November 2011
The Economic Times
Srinagar: Kabul may find a solution to its poppy menace courtesy Jammu and Kashmir. A delegation of Afghan farmers are in Srinagar undergoing training on how saffron could replace poppy in parts of Afghanistan devastated by a protracted war. Experts at the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST) interacting with the 25-member delegation of students, officials and farmers said they were training them in the saffron fields of Pampore, not far away from Srinagar. The training will conclude this weekend. Naseem Atai, who leads the delegation, said they had started cultivating saffron but there are some problems. 'We have started cultivating it since 2000 on the Afghan-Iran border but the yield has not been very good because growers lack technique and access to technology,' he said in Pampore. 'The government is trying to offer saffron as an alternative to farmers growing different narcotic plants.' He believes a better yield will discourage people from growing poppy seeds. The training follows a MoU signed between Kabul and New for imparting training to Afghan farmers and students in agriculture and horticulture. A similar delegation spent almost a fortnight in Srinagar to understand how various fruits could be made more profitable if grown in Afghanistan. India is a major contributor to Afghanistan's rebuilding process with focus on socio-economic areas. Since the delegation landed a bit late, it could only have a glimpse of the harvest. But delegates were offered detailed presentations and demonstrations about various post-harvest systems in vogue. They were encouraged to visit various families and see how flowers were separated from the shaft and dried. 'It is for the first time that we are training foreign nationals,' said SA Nehvi, Kashmir's saffron expert hosting the delegation. He is personally responsible for drafting the central government-funded Saffron Mission that is currently being implemented in Kashmir. He has briefed the delegation in detail about the technology interventions that can increase the yield. Under the MoU, experts from agriculture, horticulture and livestock will train many such Afghan delegations in coming days.