Baramulla, Jun 06: In an inspiring example of fortitude and creativity, villagers of the Uri subdivision of the Baramulla district in north Kashmir have turned abandoned bunkers that were earlier used as refuge during cross-border firing into mushroom farms.
These resilient villagers have turned hardship into opportunity, converting the dank, dark bunkers into prosperous mushroom farms since the ceasefire accord between India and Pakistan in 2021 brought peace to the region.
Nambla, a picturesque village situated near the Line of Control (LoC) in Uri, has become the epicentre of this flourishing mushroom farming industry.
‘’Locals are being taught how to grow two mushroom crops in a single season in these abandoned shelter,’’ said an official of the agricultural department in Baramulla.
Amidst pine and deodar thickets, he said that the pigeon-hole bunkers' special growing conditions made them perfect for producing mushrooms.
Local resident Riyaz Ahmad Mangral said that until 2021, residents of Balkote, Nambla, Silikote, and other villages were concerned about their safety and security.
"Whenever tensions rose, shells would land in our villages and bullets would strike our homes. We have been considering methods to enhance our livelihood since the ceasefire restored peace on the LoC. Mushroom farming is now contributing to the family's income," he continued.
Inspired by their success, an increasing number of villagers have started cultivating mushrooms in abandoned sheds, underground bunkers, and even spare rooms in their homes.
Abida Begum, 35, a local resident, has welcomed this new new opportunity for economic empowerment.
Abida, who works as a community mobilizer and runs a self-help group, has already sold over 50 kgs of mushrooms in the last few months.
Abida told Rising Kashmir that every day she would reap 4-5 kilograms of mushrooms, and sell them in the locality and the market.
"The demand is high. People now love this delicacy and are getting it at a lesser price," she added.
Encouraged by the market response, Abida aims to grow her mushroom unit from 100 to 200 bags with the help and supervision of the agriculture department.
Sub Division Agriculture Officer Daljit Singh said that Nambla has been transformed into a 'mushroom village', emphasising the importance of mushroom production, particularly for landless farmers.
"The department is training villagers in Uri on how they can grow two crops of mushrooms in a single season in these bunkers. The department proposes to use community bunkers for self-help groups growing mushrooms."
Daljit said that 20 mushroom units were established in Uri last autumn and an additional four units were set up in March 2023 and more units will come up in near future.
Abdul Samad Parray, the Sarpanch of Balkote Uri, emphasized the positive impact of this agricultural transformation on his community.
He stated, "Balkote Uri is close to the Pakistan side of Kashmir, and shells used to land directly. Earlier, we used to save our lives, but after the ceasefire agreement between the two nations, we are witnessing peace, and peace is allowing us to farm and earn a good living."
Daljit told Rising Kashmir that in 2022, not only mushrooms but peas and double cropping has been initiated in the Uri sector.