Sweet growth

He took premature retirement from government service to set up an apiculture business and turned into a successful entrepreneur. Mudasir Majeed reports

Prompted by his love for agriculture, Mukhtar Ahmad Peer, gave up a police job to set up an apiculture project.

“I was born and grew up in a village with a thick forest cover and burgeoning orchards so I have been in love with horticulture and agriculture. I was an 8th grade student, when I successfully grafted a variety of flowers and potatoes. Right from that time, I dreamt of becoming a progressive, innovative farmer and entrepreneur,” says Mukhtar.

For the last four years Mukhtar has been cultivating a farm spread over 80 kanals at Bohipora, two kms from Kupwara.

He had been in a police job for 24 years. He says that during service he could not take good care of his children or give them proper education for want of resources.

“I wanted to give good education to my children. Either I had to educate them or feed them, because the earnings wouldn’t be sufficient. Besides, in government service a person hardly gets time to stay with his family,” says Mukhtar.
 
Today Mukhtar’s dream of becoming an entrepreneur has turned into reality. He has almost achieved what he once dreamt. He has been able to gebnerate employment for many others.

“Many people are working with my project. Women from destitute families, whose husbands either have died or are ill, have been working here. They don’t have any avenues and wouldn’t even get proper meals at times. I am very glad that my little effort has helped them somewhat. During the good working season, each woman is able to earn at least 5000 rupees a month by working in my farm,” says Mukhtar Ahmad.

The entrepreneur from Deedikoot in Kupwara district who is in his fifties has proved to be a progressive farmer. Besides apiculture he has also diversified in cut flower business.

During summers, the fragrance and allure of blooming gladiola and marigold flowers present a scintillating view and attract every passerby.  “We cultivate gladiola and marigold flowers in large numbers and then export them to different places. There is a high demand of Kashmiri flowers which are used for religious as well as ornamental purposes (decoration) in homes, offices, hotels besides given as gifts,” says Mukhtar Ahmad.

Mukhtar got interested in floriculture in January 2010, after seeing a flower mela (expo) at Delhi. He says, “I saw several flower mandis (wholesale markets) in  Dehli ,Jalandhar  and other cities of India which have huge demand of flowers. I thought the weather of Kashmir was appropriate for floriculture”.
Seeing the scope of flower business, Mukhtar decided to grow them in large numbers in his barren land. He also grows hybrid vegetables and other crops by employing latest scientific methods.

At the outset, it was his apiculture business, now in healthy form, which he would nurture during his police service. Initially Mukhtar reared beehives over one kanal (0.5 hectares) of land near his home at Deedikoot.

“Kupwara has feasible environment for apiculture, as it has wide and dense forest cover, orchards and crops, which are the chief feeding sources for bees,” says Mukhtar.

He further adds, “Apiculture is my main business. I export 30 to 50 quintals of organic honey annually, which is sold in valley and national market. I am looking after 130-200 beehives. In Awoora forests, I am presently running a big project of bee-colonies”.

The honey produced in the farm is marketed under ‘Kupwara Agro mission’ and ‘Maanch North Kashmir Honey’ brands in Kashmir and outside the state.

“My honey is purest and organic, because the forests here have the desired environment for perfect honey production. No one can contest the purity of my brand and no one can produce so pure honey, I bet,” claims Mukhtar.

Mukhtar is deemed as the agricultural expert in Kupwara area. People go to him to seek suggestions about enhancing their agricultural yield and preventive measures for their crops.

“We have every solution in our hands. We need not to buy chemicals every time as we can explore them in our own farms. I prepare herbal medicines at home to control the crop damage caused by insects,” says Mukhtar.

The apiculture and floriculture business  run by Mukhtar employs many people including widows and poor women from nearby villages.

Mukhtar is a matriculate and an avid reader of newspapers, magazines and books.

“A person must not confine himself to earning only. The learning also should be the preference. Books on history of different countries have been my company now-a-days. I read a lot, just because money is not what I am living for,” he says.  Mukhtar’s financial condition has improved now significantly and he says he doesn’t regret his decision to take premature retirement from service.

“I have been able, with the grace of Allah, to bring jobs to many poor people. I will be employing more and more people in the upcoming time, Insha’Allah,” says Mukhtar Ahmad.

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