By Raheel Iqbal
Nazmeen, 29 is a resident of Oshkandas, Gilgit. Nazmeen has two children and has done her matriculation from a local school in Oshkhandas. Her husband is unemployed and it was hard for her to feed the children with limited land to farm that also had low productivity. Then someone told her about vertical farming project, initiated by Economic Transformation Initiative (ETI- GB). The program is facilitating more than 290 beneficiaries from different districts of Gilgit-Baltistan, to initially grow tomato and cucumber in vertical structures.
Economic Transformation Initiative is a seven-year development program of Government of Gilgit Baltistan, co-funded by IFAD with a total cost of US$ 120.15 million. The program aims at improving income, reducing poverty and malnutrition in the rural area of Gilgit-Baltistan. Women empowerment has always been a central objective of ETI-GB and vertical farming is one of the initiatives that enable women to participate in new innovative means of agriculture to achieve financial independence.
Nazmeen approached the ETI representatives and they gave her all the needed assistance regarding vertical farming, from training to the packaging of products. ETI provided technical assistance for all the beneficiary farmers by hiring consultants for fitting the vertical farming structure, nursery raising, and nursery transplantation, off shooting, delivering hybrid seeds, spraying, and packaging of the products. The process of vertical farming is very expensive and the subordinate class of the society is unable to afford it, but ETI-GB makes it easier for the poor farmers by providing all the needful assistance for vertical farming.
Nazmeen and her husband were surprised by the profit from their very first harvest: the structure produced a total of 2311kg cucumber and she earned Rs. 81,000 in just three months. It was all her efforts and the support from ETI that make her self sufficient. Nazmeen used to farm on traditional methods but the vertical farming process changed her life. She used to earn Rs, 13000 in a season but now she is earning Rs, 81 thousand in a season. Nazmeen was on the top of the list who earned highest in 1st season; she along with her husband, is now preparing for the 2nd season and they are very determined to produce more from the structural farming.
Gilgit Baltistan is a region in which 70 percent of the population is reliant on agriculture and women’s level is low. The vertical farming brought financial inclusion in the region by providing all the imperative support for small and poor farmers of Gilgit Baltistan, particularly to the women segment. Women empowerment has always been the main priority of ETI for making the women segment self-reliant and competent enough to increase the household income.
The story of Nazmeen reflects the endeavors of ETI-GB for making the women of the region self-contained in vegetable production and to contribute in mounting their household earnings. In future, ET-GB is very determined to introduce more programs like vertical farming, to facilitate the deprived section of the society, especially the women segment.