In the picturesque valleys of Jammu and Kashmir, a fragrant revolution is underway as Lavender cultivation takes root and blooms, transforming the lives of farmers and empowering local communities.

Introduced to the region decades ago as an experimental crop, Lavender has emerged as a promising profit-making opportunity, thanks to the efforts made by CSIR-Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine, Jammu under various societal and farmers oriented Missions and Projects like CSIR Aroma Mission, Project K-5000 and JAAG.

Lavender was first brought to India in the 1970s by Dr. Akhtar Hussain and introduced at the Field Stations of Manasbal and Pulwama. Now, more than 1000 acres of land in the Kashmir Valley and hilly areas of Jammu division is now used for lavender cultivation.

According to experts, the lavender oil production averages around 50 litres per hectare per year. It contributes a net annual income of Rs. 3,50,000-Rs. 4,00,000, per hectare.

The CSIR-IIIM's efforts have empowered 2,000 farming families and the region has embarked upon a flourishing ecosystem of startups.

Officials said that CSIR-IIIM under Aroma Mission has “installed distillation units across J&K, enabling farmers to process their produce and market high-quality lavender essential oil, hydrosol, and dried flowers.”

However, challenges remain in maintaining competitive prices amid international market fluctuations. The Institute is collaborating with the UT J&K authorities to establish effective market linkages for the farmers.

Shaheena Shandhaar, said she began her “lavender journey in 2013”. "Being a woman, it was also difficult for me, but my efforts never went to waste, as today I employ eight people at my lavender orchard," Shandhaar said, adding that the lavender industry “can be a game changer for the farmers if the government too can be more serious about taking this business to the next level.”

Gulshana Akhtar, another farmer, said that those who own land can earn more profit than those who buy land or take land on lease. She too said that the government is “providing plants and other assistance, however, their intervention in marketing can play an important role in boosting this business to a large extent.”

According to farmer Adnan Ali Khan, from south Kashmir's Shopian, his lavender business has flourished remarkably over the years. Khan now has his own brand, which he proudly distributes not across India but also exports to international markets.

Dr. Sumeet Gairola, Principal Scientist & Nodal Scientist (Aroma Mission), at the CSIR-Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine, Jammu said that their team have introduced the "RRL12" Lavender variety, ideally suited for the region's rain-fed conditions, and gave more than 30 Lakh lavender plants free to farmers in various districts of Jammu and Kashmir.

"Over 600 acres of land in the Kashmir Valley have been transformed into lavender fields, where previously traditional crops struggled to cope with climate change and wildlife interference. Small and marginal maize farmers have found a new ray of hope with Lavender, witnessing a significant increase in profitability," Dr. Gairola said.