Saffron is an important crop of Kashmir, which is being grown since ages. It is one of the costliest and high valued crop used as spice around the world. The word “Saffron” has been derived from an Arabic word “Zafran” which means yellow in English, particularly referring the colour it spreads in milk or water, In the valley it is popularly called “Koung”. Nature has gifted congenial climatic conditions to Kashmir that suits well for the production of quality saffron. A very high quality saffron is produced in the areas which have warm and dry summers, followed by cold winters. In the UT of Jammu-Kashmir, it is predominantly grown in, Kishtwar, Budgam, Srinagar and Pulwama. In the district of Pulwama the primary cultivation is restricted in the Karewa’s of Pampore region, popularly known as “Saffron Town” of the valley.
Women in Kashmir have a crucial role in maintaining this rich heritage of saffron farming in the valley. In the district of Pampore, almost 16,000 families are dependent on saffron for their daily livelihood. Census 2020 showed that approximately 11,000 women in Kashmir are associated with the saffron farming sector.
Abid Nabi and his family grows saffron on 2 acres of their land in Lethipora town, which is 24 km from Srinagar. He also sells Kashmiri saffron globally online and in various stores. Nabi in one of the interview says: “In 1990, on our 16 kanals of saffron land, the yield was 15 kg and currently we are able to produce only 4 kg.” There are some facts which highlights a great concern for the families who are directly dependent on the saffron farming. Official figures shows that saffron crop was being cultivated on 5706 hectares of land at Pampore district in 1996, which had shrunk to around 3500 hectares by 2021.
In the UT of Jammu-Kashmir, the well-being and the constant progress of saffron households are directly or indirectly related to the growth and development of supply chains of horticulture in the contemporary times which eventually has been accompanying with uninterrupted and constructive paraphernalia or special impact to the pastoral women and gender inequalities in rural areas. Research studies proves that women take edge over men from their engagement in across-the-board or comprehensive plantation production and processing which is agro-manufacturing in nature and less from smallholding high-value contract-farming in which large scale unpaid work in normal and unpaid family agri-business or labor in particular is common.
Saffron is one of the most important source of employment for women in saffron growing villages and small towns of the state in generic form and villages of Pampore & Baramulla in the specific form, but this show a discrepancy far and wide by region around the valley. Women are more expected than men to clutch poor remuneration, freelance, casual work, frictional unemployment, and seasonal employment and particularly in Kashmir Valley Women’s are actively involved in farming activities which includes saffron farming as well. Even in the case of saffron agronomy, we find, better knowledge and skills of women as compared to their male counterparts, and wide market area and huge demand value in high-value saffron along with its export-oriented trade and commerce propose much better opportunities for women in saffron farming in Kashmir Valley that will for sure end the gap for the betterment or upward mobility and empowering women of the valley.