Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)

GIAHS Saffron site at the heart of the International Saffron Symposium, Kashmir

Kashmir, India, 30 November 2012

The GIAHS Saffron Kashmir-India site was showcased at the International Saffron Symposium held 22 to 25 October 2012 in Kashmir (India). Hosted by Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST-K), participants included researchers, policy-makers, traders and growers from saffron-producing nations, as well as local and other Indian and foreign delegates from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Belgium, France, Iran and Spain. Together, they emphasized the need to add value to the traditional saffron cultivation, production and processing chain. 

In his inaugural statement, Mr N.N. Vohra stated,“Whatever is required to be done to boost saffron production must be accomplished speedily,” he added that the symposium provided a profitable opportunity to discuss saffron biology, technology, trade and other aspects of saffron cultivation. Mr Ghulam Hassan Mir, Minister for Agriculture, said that saffron occupies an important place in the agricultural scenario of the State and referred to the measures taken to revive saffron, including the National Saffron Mission. Mr Sanjeev Chopra, Joint Secretary and Mission Director, Government of India, expressed that the Mission is progressing well, covering the entire saffron domain. Mr Javed Ahmad Dar, Minister of State for Horticulture and Agriculture, envisaged the Symposium as a catalyst for enhancing saffron productivity and production for growers’ welfare. Dr Tej Partap, Vice Chancellor, SKUAST-K, made a presention on the global scenario of saffron cultivation and related technologies and trade.

Working with the International Society for Horticultural Science, Dr Manuel Carmona provided details of the establishment, evolution, history, growth and activities of international saffron heritage systems. Ms Sayed Zehra Bedin from Iran said that it was essential to promote and improve the industrial aspects of saffron. Mr Mohammad Hashim from Afghanistan said that the symposium provided a platform to learn about saffron cultivation practices from various countries, including the Pampore GIAHS pilot site. 

A brief description of GIAHS, sent by Dr Parviz Koohafkan of FAO  was read at the Symposium by Professor Irfan Biseti of SKUAST-K. Another presentation was made on behalf of FAO-GIAHS by Mr Ramesh Tickoo, Saffron Systems General Manager of HEADS, an India-based partner of GIAHS. A copy of his presentation was distributed to the nearly 200 symposium participants and other stakeholders.

One of the major lessons learned from the farmers’ dialogue on the sidelines of the symposium was that farmers are ready to work under a proper certification system for sustainable business, which would include good quality control, terms and conditions between buyers and sellers.

As part of the Symposium, 40 delegates from a number of countries visited the famous Pampore saffron fields that are part of the GIAHS saffron site. The delegates acknowledged that Kashmir produces the world’s best saffron. It was noted that the GIAHS site represents 85 percent of the Indian State saffron area and its production is valued at US$52.56 million. Organized by the Saffron Grower Association General Secretary, Mr Abdul Majeed Wani, anchored by GIAHS’ partner organization HEADS, the on-site visit at Pampore included meeting saffron pickers, packers and driers as well as tasting saffron-spiced cuisine.

The Symposium concluded that while the GIAHS initiative has been actively involved in supporting traditional saffron tilling in Kashmir-India, the GIAHS recognition certificate has motivated scientists working at SKUAST-K university and saffron family farmers to focus on the dynamic conservation of this globally important saffron site. 

The Kashmir valley saffron site is one of outstanding natural beauty. The locals showcase their identity and traditional knowledge, embodied in the largest family farmers’ organic saffron cultivation system in the world. Their variety of saffron is well known, and recognized for its uniquen colour, fragrance and taste (lazazat).

Kashmiri village women are involved in flower picking through to traditional tilling, on the over 3 200 ha dedicated to the legendary saffron crop cultivation in Pampore. In Kashmir, over 17 000 family farmers are stewards of this traditional crop, with almost 9 000 farmer families at the heritage site. In Kashmiri culture, the rich aroma of saffron is an essential part of all celebrations; no festivity is considered complete without it.

The site was formally recognized as GIAHS at the Beijing International Forum held in June 2011.