By the end of twentieth century when a low ranking employee was desperately thinking about the future of his seven sons, he made a modest investment in creating a flower nursery. Operating from a south Kashmir village, they now grow countless varieties of flowers, vegetables and fruits and hire 25 gardeners round the year to implement major projects within and outside Kashmir, reports Samreena Nazir
On a cold January morning, when most people were reluctant to leave their warm beds, Shabir Ahmad Ganie was busy in his poly house. Wearing a cotton T-shirt and half pent, Shabir was sweating among the numerous yet-to-blossom multi-coloured flower beds and ornamental plants.
The interior of the poly-house was in contrast with the surroundings it was placed in. In Chillaikalan, the harshest part of the Kashmir winter, while snow carpeted everywhere, it was a steady temperature inside this structure enclosed by polycarbonate sheets. Inside, it seemed a summer day.
Ganai lives in Bogund, almost 70 km south of Srinagar, 20 minutes walk from Kulgam. Of the 1500 families living in this village, Ganie, a retired food department employee is the most prominent name. He has been responsible for generating some kind of employment in this belt in the last few years. That is the key reason for his prominence.
Ganie has been a hardworking man throughout his life. At the peak of his career, he would return home from his job and get into work, grow varieties of flowers and plants at home. Fascinated by flowers, he used to decorate his home with flowers. In his village, he was the first to get Catharanthus fencing of his courtyard. The plant remains green throughout the year.
Almost 20 years back, Ganai, a father of seven sons was restless. The future of his sons was the key concern. A low ranking official, he had nothing in hand to invest. After a lot of interactions with his friends, he invested his Rs 27,000 saving inflow cultivation. He started with flower seedlings and plantations in his courtyard. Two of his sons, then in tenth class, also started assisting him. Gradually they were attracted by poultry, fishery and other avenues within the agrarian field. They would often attend training and awareness camps and interactions with the scientists of Krishi Vigyan Kendra Kulgam.
“He created a small fish pond in almost 2.5 marlas of land, which is popular in the village,” Hafeeza, his wife, said. “Our courtyard is filled with people, the day the fish are sold.”
The fencing wall of Ganai’s house is painted with watercolours projecting the fishpond location inside. The Iron Gate provides a brief description of the units that the family owns. They are into fishery, horticulture, floriculture and poultry.
The courtyard of the house is divided by a narrow cemented path leading to the doorstep of the two-storied house in one corner of a two kanal plot. In the other corner is a two-storied room, which functions as their office wherefrom Aadil operates. After Ganai’s two elder sons started living separately, it was Aadil who took-over the business. He deals with clients and consignments.
On both sides of the path, the plantation process is done. Ganai’s expect this to be market-ready by middle of March.
In the rare of the house is where Ganai’s success story is. Spread over 15 kanals of land, it seems like a picnic spot. In between, a number of poly-houses where different varieties of flowers, vegetables and ornamental plants are growing, there is a fish pond surrounded by pole lights and decorative fountains in the middle.
The family cultivates off-season vegetables and supplies to various markets. During winters when Srinagar-Jammu national highway usually remains in crisis, the vegetable sellers and people from nearby town keep visiting Gania’s for the supply.
Off late, Ganai has started experimenting with lemon, orange, kiwi and loquat which they sell to the customers with specific do’s and don’ts. “These plants grow here easily and give a good production because we bring them from Himachal,” Shabir Ahmed said. “Kashmir shares the weather conditions with Himachal. All these plants need is adequate sun-light and warmth. That is why we suggest people wrap them during winters.”
Watching the family sincerely working, various government departments are supportive of their venture. Floriculture Department has allotted them four poly houses for raising pot flowers and ornamental plants. They grow lawn grasses and ornamental plants on a large scale, which have a great demand. For the last few years, the Ganai brothers not only produce the ornamental plants and flowers but also manage the big government and private projects like public parks and the open spaces outside the offices of authorities. Recently a government agency hired them to keep the dividing spaces between the two lanes on the recently made four-way highway. From filling and levelling the area to decorating it with suitable flowers and plants, the whole process is managed by Ganai brothers.
During winters, when the season does not offer work, they move outside to make parks and gardens. Right now, they have more than 45 professional gardeners working with them throughout the year whom they provide more than Rs 25000 monthly.
“We may have done a few hundred large and small projects,” Aadil said. “This year we worked at Minister Colonies, Circuit houses at Kishtawar. We also beautified the campus of Kurukshetra University in Haryana. We carry the plants, flowers and lawn grass required from our home in carrier vehicles to wherever we work.”
Guidance about different schemes and supply of critical farm inputs helped them in undertaking integrated farming on scientific lines. The fisheries department has helped them in establishing a fish pond which is perhaps the most successful one in the area. The breeds available in this pond are Grass carp, silver carp, common carp, aquarium fishes and the trout.
Looking at their interest and dedication, SKUAST-Kashmir provided them poultry birds, which after separating from family is specifically owned by Gowher. Due to huge demand of Vanaraja and Kurolier, the two species evolved in Kashmir over the years, Gowher was approached by the Poultry Development Department for the supply of more birds.
They have already bagged the gold medal from the SKUAST-K. “We have received numerous awards and memento’s but in 2016, jubilations were all around when we received a gold medal in India’s national institute for agriculture research, PUSA institute,” Aadil said. “That really encouraged us to work harder. We also received a silver medal from the same institute in 2018.”
Now, the Ganai brothers are often invited as mentors and trainers for imparting training to rural youth by KVK, Kulgam. On average, the family’s monthly turnover is around Rs seven lakhs excluding the projects which they manage in and outside the valley.
After retirement now, Ganie gives only directions to his sons according to his skills and experience. “I feel proud seeing my small effort exploring this much,” Ganai Sr said. “I started it so that my sons could earn a livelihood, but now they are inspiring others to love their roots.”