Global importance

Saffron cultivation is typical in the Kashmir region. This plant is mentioned in the 5th century B.C in Kashmiri records and is still part of the agricultural economy. Known over the world, Saffron became a cash crop for farmers resulting of a long traditional heritage.

However, Saffron cultivation has been facing severe challenges of sustainability and livelihood security with urgent need to adopt appropriate technologies, to address water scarcity, productivity loss and market volatilities.

Food and livelihood security

Saffron is not the only one crop cultivated in the Kashmiri lands. First of all, rice is the most important staple crop and maize the second-most important. Other important summer crops are millet, pulses. Wheat and barley are the chief spring crops. Many temperate fruits are grown with orchards in the Kashmir valley orchards including almonds, apples, cherries, pears, peaches, and walnuts.

Of all the items, Kashmir is famous for its traditional heritage of saffron. However, Saffron is also a cash crop. With respect to occupation, only 1 per cent of saffron growers are dependent on any other agriculture, while rest of the farmers have subsidiary source of income in addition to agriculture.

Cultures, value systems and social organizations

Saffron is part of the cultural heritage of the Region, according to the Kashmiri legends; saffron was brought to the region by two sufi ascetics, Khawja Masood wali. Saffron has traditionally been associated with the famous Kashmiri cuisine, its medicinal values and the rich cultural heritage of Kashmir. Besides, during the plucking of the blossoms, the lilt of women voices wafts through the air as they sing their folk songs.

Looking at the social organization, Kashmiri women are behind the whole saffron story. They till the soil, and, most importantly, pick and gently dry the flowers. Once dried, tossed and sorted, it is time for the flowers to be handed over to the men folk. Stripping away the insides of the flowers, the men grade the saffron, now ready to be packed in moisture-proof containers.