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
Indigo plantation is blessed with a long growing season that enables the farmers to get three cuttings of the crop in one year. Here the plant has already been cut and lying in a field in the village of Haji Keerio.
Munir Ahmed, picks up an indigo plant that has already been cut for cultivation.
A device that is used to thrash the plant during harvesting.
What the inidigo seed initially looks like.
The leaves of the plant before it is fermented to produce the dye.
Once cut, the leaves are taken to these fermenting wells. Here the leaves are tightly packed in the first, and deepest of the three wells, and left to steep in water. Within a couple of hours bubbles start to form and the clear water changes to a light green as the dye is extracted from the plant.
The dye produced from fermentation.
Indigo powder, which is used in henna and local medicines.
Bottles with samples of the different stages of indigo cultivation are lined up at Goth Sudhar Sangat's office in Haji Keerio.
Munir Ahmed, gives a presentation to local farmers on the benefits of growing indigo.