Himachal Pradesh popularising polyhouse farming

December 24th, 2008 - 1:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Shimla, Dec 24 (IANS) The Himachal Pradesh government is promoting farming inside modern greenhouses called polyhouses to improve the earning potential of farmers in the state, especially during the harsh winters.The economy of the hill state is highly dependent on agriculture, apart from hydroelectric power and tourism. But most of its farmers have small landholdings on hill slopes, and need to augment their incomes.

It is difficult to grow anything outdoors in the harsh Himalayan winters. So the government is now promoting polyhouse farming, especially for off-season cultivation.

Polyhouses are based on the greenhouse concept to let in heat and light, while preventing the heat from getting out. But instead of the glass on a greenhouse roof, polyhouses are made of cheaper polythene or plastic.

By reducing evaporation, they also allow farmers to use sprinkler and drip irrigation systems, thus saving water.

The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) has sanctioned a loan of Rs.1.55 billion (Rs.155 crore) to the hill state under which 30,000 polyhouses would be set up in the next four years to promote off-season farming, particularly in the lower- and mid-hills.

“The government will provide 80 percent subsidy for land up to 1,000 square metres to establish sprinklers and drip irrigation systems, and the remaining 20 percent would be borne by the farmer himself,” agriculture director J.C. Rana told IANS.

He said each farmer would be provided 50 percent financial assistance for the creation of water resources like shallow wells, pumps and water-drawing systems for the polyhouses.

“The main objective of the project is to promote high-yield production of cash crops and judicious use of natural resources like land and water,” Rana said.

Farmers in the state are ready to cash in. They said the polyhouses would enable improvement in crop productivity, which reduces drastically during winter.

“We have been in the business of cultivating flowers for the past seven years. Now with the help of greenhouses, we will be able to improve the quality and quantity of the flowers,” said Nagina Singh, a farmer based on the outskirts of Dharamsala town.

He said the government had promised to train farmers so that optimum benefits could be reaped by using modern techniques.

Another farmer, Sham Negi, has been cultivating exotic vegetables at Palampur in Kangra district for more than five years.

“Earlier we (farmers) were sceptical about the new techniques. Now cultivation under controlled climatic conditions is the best option to get good results,” Negi said.

He said climatic changes over the years had adversely affected crop yield.

“We (the state) can be the flower provider to the world and the farmer can increase his income over five times. There are few locations in the world that have climatic conditions suitable for growing flowers. In the hill state, over 50 percent of the land is climatically suitable for floriculture,” agriculture director Rana said.

Himachal Pradesh annually earns more than Rs.25 billion (Rs.2,500 crore) from the cultivation of fruits and vegetables. The cultivation of exotic vegetables and flowers in polyhouses will add to the prosperity of the growers.

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