Bhaderwah : After bringing purple revolution by growing exotic lavender, followed by large scale cultivation of marigold under the Aroma Mission, farmers in this sub-division of Jammu and Kashmir’s Doda district have gone a step further and are reaping the benefits by utilizing another aromatic plant — Tagetes Minuta.
Popularly known as Southern Marigold or Stinking Roger, which grows wildly and in abundance in this picturesque valley, Tagetes Minuta has brought a new hope for the marginal farmers and labourers who used to stay idle in the Chenab valley region after the completion of harvesting season in November.
An award winning farmer and entrepreneur Touqeer Bagban of JK Aroma, who was instrumental in bringing the purple revolution to Bhaderwah by joining hands with CSIR under Aroma Mission, encouraged locals to collect wildly grown flowers from their surroundings and waste land after getting technical support and a go ahead from the scientists of IIIM to extract Aromatic oil from these flowers.
“I was surprised when during a workshop at Delhi, I came to know from the scientists of CSIR that the wild flowers which grow and spread like a weed in the entire Bhadarwah can be used to get essential oil,” Bagban told PTI.
He said hundreds of poor farmers who traditionally remain jobless in winters due to harsh weather conditions are reaping the benefits by joining hands to fulfill Prime Minister’s dream of becoming global leader in essential oils and make Jammu and Kashmir as “Bulgaria of India” under Aroma Mission 2.
Bagban said so far 100 quintals of flowers were collected by JK Aroma from Chinta, Manthala, Mathola, Duggi, Dandi, Thanhala, Basti, Bhala, Butla and Seri villages.
“At the beginning, I was a little apprehensive about the quality of oil extracted from the Tagetes Minuta but in the laboratory tests it turned out to be one of the best available in essential oil market,” he said, adding “we managed to extract 250 liters of oil which costs almost double than the lavender oil.”
Beside extracting oil from the plant, Bagban said we have also collected the seeds and hopefully next year, we will distribute free seeds among 300 farmers of Bhadarwah to grow the flower in their respective fields.”
Dozens of farmers and labourers, majority of them women are a happier lot as they are earning between Rs 1,000 and 3,000 per day by collecting Tagetes Minuta flowers that too from their surroundings and waste land.
“Two years of corona has taken a toll on poor farmers and labourers like me, but this weed whom we hate the most came to our rescue at this difficult time and my family is earning from Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000 a day since last one month by collecting the flowers that too from the vicinity of our home,” Bachan Singh, a resident of village Butla, said.
Shweta Rani (19) of Mathola village had also joined other villagers in collecting the wild flowers and said she is thankful to the ‘pungent weed’ for coming to the rescue of her family.
“My father is a daily-wage labourer and has been facing a financial crisis ever since the outbreak of the pandemic last year. I was about to leave studies but I am happy about helping the family and also saving money to continue my studies,” she said.
Some unemployed educated youth have also joined Aroma Mission to start and give a new dimension to their career.
“After completing my B tech in computer science, I was without a job for the last two years but the government’s Aroma Mission 2 changed my life for good. By engaging and encouraging the farmers to collect Tagetes Minuta and selling it to the JK Aroma, I earned handsomely and now I want to venture into a full time business of aromatic plants,” Inam-ul-Haq Wani, a resident of Bhaderwah, said.
Tagetes Minuta is a tall upright marigold plant from the genus Tagetes with small flowers, native to the southern half of South America.
Tagetes Minuta oil is used for chest infections, coughs and catarrh, dilating the bronchi, facilitating the flow of mucus and dislodging congestion and can be used in cases of skin infections. It also has a healing effect on wounds, cuts, calluses and bunions.