In Conversation with Mohd. Zafar, District Horticulture Officer, Leh

By Kunzang Chosdol LEH, Apr 14, 2017
Mohd. Zafar has done his B. Sc Horticulture from SKAUST Kashmir in 1993. After completing his degree he joined as a Junior Agriculture Assistant in Horticulture department, Kargil. In 2001, he was selected as the Horticulture Development Officer through Public Service Commission and in the year 2010, he was promoted as District Horticulture Officer.
He served as a District Horticulture Officer in Kargil from 2010 to September 2012. And from September 2012, he is working in Horticulture department, Leh as a District Horticulture Officer.
Q. Tell us about the horticulture department.
Earlier horticulture department was combined with the agriculture department and the whole work was carried out altogether. In 1994, the horticulture department was established in Leh.
The main role of the department is enhancing the cultivation of fruit, to help the farmer in fruit cultivation and guiding them to increase the production by imparting training, controlling the diseases, and post harvest management.  Under Horticulture grading and marketing, the cultivated products or the fruits are graded and marketed.
Q. What role department plays in promoting the horticultural sector in the region? Do the department focus on organic farming and seed production?
To improve the production of fruit, we introduce new techniques and method along with the traditional system for the farmer. We are focused on the yielding of good quality fruits along with the quantity and also on value addition.
After the department came into existence, varieties of apple were introduced. Varieties of apple like Golden delicious, Royal delicious, Red delicious saplings were distributed among the farmers. There are also 200 varieties of apricot growing in Ladakh.
These are the fruits which yield in the different belt of Ladakh:


Types in Ladakh


Halmanraktse karpo, Khantey, Narmo, Margolam, Nari, Lila tilli, Qoban, Australian, Amba,


Misri, Double glass


Bongkushu, Naskushu, Markushu, Thrakushu, Yangma kushu, Mongol Kushu, Skurkushu, Karkishu


Nectrine, Yarken


Santa Rosa, Kham-skyur


Nagpo Nyoti, Karpo Nyoti, Baghogosha


Sweet Carnal, bitter carnel


Churgun, Nangun, Anab-e-shahi


Kangstar (Thin shelled)

Shingstar (Hard shelled)


Balti Sirsing


Bi sirsing

Hor sirsing


Nakpo Ossey

Karpo Ossey

Ba ossey

Q. Tell us about the production and cultivation of fruit in Ladakh?
The cultivation and production of fruit in Ladakh is increasing with the change in climate over the years. The total production and area of Leh district are:

Name of fruits



                                                      Fresh Fruits


791.57 hectare



797.67 hectare



2.69 hectare

9.06 tons


4.31 hectare

7.38 tons


31 hectare



2.01 hectare

9.01 tons


67 hectare

1.31 tons

                                                       Dry Fruits


2.12 hectare

1.03 tons


4.70 hectare



1650.05 hectare


Q. What are the different schemes and facilities is the department providing for the farmers in improving the production of fruits?
The department conducts training and workshop for delivering scientific techniques and methods among the farmers. In addition, there are different scheme under State and Centre level.
Under district plan following schemes are there:
Area Expansion: Under District plan, department provide a subsidy for the people, if an individual keep one or two kanals of orchard under the guidance of the department. The department gives incentive subsidy of ₹20,000 for 2 kanals of an orchard.
Plant Protection Machinery: Plant Protection Machinery is an essential component of the entire scheme and plays a significant role in improving the productivity and quality of fruit.
Under this scheme, the department helps in protecting the plant from diseases and guides the farmers in controlling it. Sprayer and pumps are provided to the farmers on subsidized rate. For example, fruit spray pump for 50% subsidy, Power spray pump for 75% subsidy and Insecticide, pesticide and Neem oil for free of cost among the farmers.
Post Harvest Management: This scheme aims at enhancing the value of the apricot there by value addition in the market. The proper treatment is done in order to turn the third class apricot into good to increase its value in the market. It is done under Osmotic dehydration unit, in which the three 120lt bucket is given among the farmers for treatment. This apricot is good for health as it is called anti-cancer medicine. Today due to this scheme, we see big changes in the value of the same apricot.
Q. What are the new techniques and skills introduced or yet to be introduced to improve fruit production?
With an increase in population, there is a problem of limited land holdings thus, we are focusing on the production of more fruit on a limited land by grafting different variety of fruit on one tree as early budding, mid budding and late budding which means the tree will bear fruit in all season throughout the year.
The second new techniques are that the plant of different fruits can be grafted at one root such as apricot root and the tree will bear all kind of fruit which is more beneficial and easy if someone has limited land.
Q. What are the different challenges faced by the department?
People don’t follow the adopted scientific norms of the department. There are lots of challenges we face when we deliver the training, scheme, and techniques among the people and the implementation level are quite uneasy.
Lack of manpower in the department is one of the major challenges because we cannot deliver good service accordingly in the field. 
Other challenges are that the people don’t follow according to the guidance of the department which at the end is a loss to the farmer themselves. We conduct training among the farmers to improve the fruit but when it came to implementation, they do according to their rules.
Q. Due to climate change, what are the potential and challenges you see in the horticulture sector of Ladakh?
Climate change has greatly increased the production and scope of fruit cultivation. Today we have a great demand of saplings from our farmers and we have brought thousands of it from outside.
Many kinds of fruit started successfully grown in Ladakh as compared to earlier such as strawberry, pomegranate etc. But these fruits are grown limited just for self-sufficient at present, but in future, it can be produced in a huge quantity for marketing purpose also.
There is also wide scope in sea buckthorn plantation in Ladakh.
Q. In the past year, lower belts of Ladakh were affected with the outbreak of Brown tail moth infestation.  Which regions were affected, what is the reason and how can we control it?
Yes, last year the lower part of Ladakh were badly affected by brown-tailed moth infestation in the valley. It was first attacked in Batalik which later on spread to Dha, Beema, Hanuthang, Achinathang, Leh-dho, Domkhar, Takmachik, Khaltse, Nurla, and attack of aphid in Saspol, Alchi, Turtuk, Bogdang, Tyakshi, Thang etc.
Orchard sanitation is one of the main important things to control the aphid as well as a moth in the trees. The main reason for pest attack and an outbreak of aphid is due to sudden rise in temperature. Spray should be followed on time which will help to avoid pest. If we are resistant towards using the spray on trees than we can also throw cold water on affected plant which is also very helpful to control the pest.
Secondly, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is important in which the nest of the aphid or pest is buried in a pit so that we can stop them from growing.
Q. Brief us about the pest attack and the ways to control it.
 In the case of pest attack, we should take care of at the initial stage of pest attack because when it grows with the time it becomes very difficult to control it because it is already matured and lead in plant destruction. In April- May month, due to the sudden rise in temperature, insect lays an egg, so during the larva stage of their lifecycle, we can control it very well.
The department is doing every effort to control the diseases in plants and pest attack but 90% of the responsibility is of farmers. Pest attack is first witnessed or encountered by the farmers, thus, it becomes immensely important to inform us of time in order to take immediate action to curb the menace at a very initial stage.
In Ladakh, people don’t take care of the plants and they don’t even sprinkle pesticides. Our department recommends spraying of pesticides thrice in a year to the pest infected plants. On March 23 our team went for the first spray in different villages of Sham region.
Q. How important is to make value addition and marketing of the local fruits produced in Ladakh?  How much scope and potential do we have and what more can be explored?
There are different method and techniques imparted to the farmers by the department. If we work on it and explore more things in the same field, there is a huge scope and potential. There are NGO’s who works on the marketing of local fruits and products.
There are food processing and canning center in Ladakh in which the tomatoes are used in making puree, pickles, apricot juices etc which can be used during the off-season.
We are organizing training among the farmers in implementing and exploring such varieties and different uses with the fruits. There is a vast scope in value addition and marketing of local fruits in Ladakh.
Q. How much scope and potential do we have and what more can be explored?
With the change in climate and global warming, the potential of growing varieties of fruits and crops has increased. The horticulture sector is labor intensive and requires significantly higher labor force, starting from the stage of planting the trees till its marketing.
This year we brought the saplings of cherry.  In the last week of February and the first week of March 2017, we brought 31,000 saplings of fruit plant from Zainapura farm Srinagar and distributed among the farmers of Ladakh. Likewise, there are huge scope and potential which needs to be explored because the land-based economy is a sustainable source of income which can benefit to our next generation.
Q. Agriculture and horticulture have taken a back seat due to the rapid growth of tourism in Ladakh. How important is it to retain and work on it for sustainability of our livelihood?
Over the years, the agriculture sector has been replaced or substituted by the tourism sector in Ladakh. People are more into making easy money thus not thinking about sustainability, environment and much more.  Change is important along with the world but it will be more positive if we adopt the modern lifestyle along with the traditional one.
For sustainability, horticulture is the best sector in which one should analyze and work on it.  The need of the hour is to explore, analyze and work on the potential of growing fruits and vegetable.
With the change in climate, there is a vast potential in cultivating various types of crops, fruits and vegetables were never tried cultivating. Awareness, different technique, equipment, plans is needed to encourage people on cultivation along with other sectors.
Message to the readers
“We need to understand the importance of agriculture practices for a sustainable future.  There is a need to analyze and work on the cultivation for a better tomorrow.”