Indigo – once found in abundance on the banks of the river Indus all but disappeared from Sindh this past century. Until now where the plant is being revived by locals.
No exact reason is known why the indigo went into decline in Sindh, but by the early twentieth century, the plant once growing wild on the banks of the Indus, had become extinct in its natural habitat.
Today, the WWF and an NGO, Goth Sudhar Sangat have began promoting the cultivation of the indigo plant in Sindh, near Nawabshah. Although not a popular crop, it is perhaps, one of the most profitable crops in the region.
The soil preparation for the plant costs a farmer 3000 rupees, buying the seed is another 4000 rupees and labour costs are 10,000 rupees, explains Munir Ahmed, the project manager for Goth Sudhar Sangat. He goes on to explain that the plant is self fertilizing so only basic manure is used and there are no extra costs for pesticides. At the end of the day, a farmer in one season will produce 30 kilogrmas of dye and 15 maunds of indigo powder, making a profit of 95,000 rupees says Ahmed. He compares it to wheat, which for the same season would make a farmer a profit of 40,000 rupees while cotton only makes a farmer 23,300 rupees.
Since it has been reintroduced to the area, the few farmers who have began cultivating the crop, sell it to local buyers only. It goes on to be used in ajrak, ceramics and local medicines. According to Ahmed, farmers have not yet approached larger industries since their output can not compete with the demand big industries would have.
However, this completely organic blue dye from the indigo seed has been bought back home, it may soon catch on with other farmers who may use it as a secondary crop and produce a larger output. – Text and photos by Sara Faruqi/Dawn.com