Gurez residents stick to tradition to survive harsh winter
Farmers embrace ancient Potato storage technique during tough winter season
Gurez: As the winter chill starts to bring down the temperatures in Kashmir valley farmers in Gurez Valley of north Kashmir’s Bandipora district embark on a centuries-old practice to bury freshly harvested potatoes underneath the ground so as to survive through the harshest of winters.
The timeless technique of burying potatoes beneath the frozen earth ensures their preservation and usability for several months to come.
This ancient storage method according to locals is not unique to Gurez; it is practiced extensively throughout the Gilgit-Baltistan region, a proof to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the locals in adapting to their environment.
Gulam Rasool, a local farmer with a deep connection to the land, says, “Our ancestors taught us the art of potato preservation. We dig deep into the frozen earth, just as they did, ensuring our potatoes remain as fresh as the day we harvested them. It’s not just farming; it’s preserving a way of life.”
Nasreena Bano, her hands covered in the rich, dark soil of Gurez, adds, “When we bury our potatoes, we’re not just storing food; we’re storing memories of hard work and dedication. Each potato holds a piece of our heritage.”
The Gurez valley is already a significant contributor to India’s potato production, yielding approximately 15,000 tonnes of this starchy staple annually.
However, what sets Gurez apart is its unique climate and fertile soil, making it an ideal region for potato farming. The altitude here, soaring to around 8,000 feet above sea level, presents unique challenges but also distinct advantages for agriculture.
Earlier this year, the global food and beverage giant, PepsiCo, made headlines when it announced plans to purchase potatoes from the farmers of Gurez. This move by PepsiCo, an American multinational corporation that entered the Indian market in 1989, shines a spotlight on the remote valley and its traditional farming practices.
Tulail village, one of the most picturesque in the valley, stands at the forefront of this agricultural venture. Here, nearly every household depends on potato farming for their livelihoods. For the residents of Tulail, their potatoes are not just crops; they are a source of pride and sustenance.
The potential of the Gurez Valley’s potato industry came to the fore after the valley was opened for tourism in 2015. The influx of visitors, drawn to its unparalleled natural beauty, also brought attention to the valley’s agricultural offerings.
Notably, the Valley, with a population of around 40,000 people, remains cut off from the rest of Kashmir for around six months every year, causing shortage of medical and essential supplies. (KNO)