Udhampur (Jammu and Kashmir) [India], January 10 (ANI): After the COVID-19 lockdown hit livelihoods in Jammu and Kashmir, an engineer took up mushroom farming with the help of district authorities in a bid to improve their livelihood and inculcate new farming methods.
To expand beyond conventional farming and to improve conditions, the Government of India is encouraging the farmers to adopt alternate farming methods, as they require less effort and bring quick returns.
Mushroom farming is known as one of the most profitable that can be started with low investment and less space. Because of this, many youngsters in Jammu and Kashmir are attracted to mushroom farming. This also in turn generates employment.
Engineer-turned-mushroom farmer Rakesh Sharma started a unit during the COVID-19 lockdown after drawing inspiration from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative.
"I was forced to come home due to the COVID-19 lockdown. I had lost my job as an engineer and was struggling to make ends meet. The main aim of starting this mushroom farm was to do something with my life and also create employment for people around me since unemployment is rampant in the Valley. I also drew inspiration from Modiji's Atmanirbhar initiative," Sharma said.
When he returned home, he met Dr. Banarsi Lal, senior scientist-cum-Head of Krishi Vigyan Kendra in Reasi, and learned more about mushroom farming.
"Dr Banarsi guided me and helped me establish a mushroom unit with 1,000 bags at Mand village. I started with temporary huts made of bamboo with the help of the Department of Agriculture. The department also gave me technical support. I am very happy about my earnings now," he added.
Sharma now employs five workers who help him cultivate, clean, and package.
"There is a lot of unemployment in Jammu and Kashmir so I am glad that Rakesh sir has started this initiative. Five of us help him with his work," Abhishek Sharma, one of Sharma's employees said.
Sunil Gupta, an assistant at Mushroom Development Department lauded his initiative.
"Rakesh told me that he did not have a shed to start his business. The government gave him a subsidy. As an engineer, he did this very well. He built the bamboo structure by himself. The unit is established so well and he has done a very good job. He is an inspiration to other youths in the Valley," Gupta said. (ANI)