Declared unanimously by the UN General Assembly 3 March 2021
Prime Minister Modi speaks out about the value of millet
There is a reason Millets are so important to bring to mainstream now
Millets are recognized as Smart Food
The nutrition values of sorghum and millets are really high and can meet some of the biggest nutrition needs. For example:
Finger millet has 3 times the amount of calcium in milk
Note that: calcium is particularly important for children’s growth and women’s health
Low glycemic (GI) index: Millets and sorghum have low GI, can be eaten as a staple and hence important due to rising diabetes
Good levels of protein: Legumes have low levels of two of the essential amino acids while millets and sorghum have 50% higher of these; together they create a complete protein;
Very high iron and zinc in many of the millets and sorghum varieties – much higher than in meat and although plant-based iron has lower bioavailability, the high iron millets can provide as much iron as red meat, and provide close to the recommended daily allowance of iron;
Note that: Iron and zinc deficiencies rank among the top 3 micronutrient deficiencies globally; and anemia a major and increasing concern especially for women.
High fiber, Glutem free; and more.
- a low carbon footprint
- survive in high temperatures and with very little water
- are often the last crop standing in times of drought
- are climate smart
- a good risk management strategy for farmers.
- multiple uses, from food, feed and fodder, to brewing and bio fuels
Millets were the staples in many of the countries in Africa and parts of Asia.
Millets also fit some of the biggest global health food trends – of being a super food, ancient grain, gluten free, low GI, high fiber and good for managing weight.
What does International Year of Millets mean for the industry?
Hear from Krishna Kanthawala, Founder My Smart Millets
A special thanks
to so many “believers”, people and countries, who made the International Year of Millets possible.
The Government of India led this cause along with Bangladesh, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Russia and Senegal, co-sponsored by over 70 nations. The 193-member General Assembly unanimously adopted the resolution.
9-13 October 2017 : The humble beginnings of the idea started in Rome during the FAO Committee on World Food Security (CFA) in 2017. The WBCSD (World Business Council for Sustainable Development) FReSH initiative organized a side event and asked the Smart Food initiative, founded by ICRISAT, to present about smart foods and the value of millets. Earlier that year, Smart Food had been selected by USAID and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as one of the top 10 global innovations for food, which had brought much attention to the top priority of the Smart Food initiative, to diversifying staples with smart foods like millets. Smart Food was asked to also identify and assist in organizing to have a high-level speaker from India to talk on millets at the side event.
The Honorable Mr Krishna Byre Gowda, Minister of Agriculture, State of Karnataka in India, a major advocate for millets, agreed to present at the event at FAO. Karnataka was the first state government in India, and the world, to undertake major initiatives to grow the markets for millets, changing the image and engaging industry including retailers, processors through to chefs. This was ground-breaking having an agriculture minister refocusing its strategy to undertake a multi sector full value chain and consumer driven approach. This was after ICRISAT Smart Food team (Dr David Bergvinson and Ms Joanna Kane-Potaka) pitched the value of millets and specifically the Smart Food approach to complement any farm production efforts with initiatives to drive the demand.
This opportunity was leveraging to advocate for and discuss the process for applying for an International Year of Millets. The ICRISAT/Smart Food team organized meetings with FAO officials, other dignitaries at the CFA event the Indian Ambassador to Rome. , The team included Hon. Minister Gowda, Dr David Bergvinson. ICRISAT DG, Ms Joanna Kane-Potaka, Smart Food lead and accompanied for some meetings Dr Alain Vidal, FReSH/WBCSD. The team and Minister Gowda’s eloquence, passion and strong belief in the need and opportunities for millets helped build the foundation.
Minister Gowda; Sammi Gadji, FAO; Joanna Kane-Potaka, Smart Food, ICRISAT; David Bergvinson, DG ICRISAT; Ren Wang, Assistant DG, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, FAO
Marlen Schuepbach, SUN Movement, Gerda Verburg, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Coordinator, SUN movement; Minister Gowda; David Bergvinson, DG ICRISAT; Alain Vidal, CGIAR
Marlen Schuepbach, SUN Movement, Gerda Verburg, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Coordinator, SUN movement; Minister Gowda, Karnataka, India
David Bergvinson, DG, ICRISAT, Marcela Villarreal, Director, Partnerships FAO; Kakoli Ghosh, Partnerships, FAO, Joanna Kane-Potaka, Smart Food, ICRISAT; Minister Gowda, Karnataka
Back in India, a proposal was prepared by ICRISAT and presented by ICRISAT’s Country Director, Dr Arvind Padhee, IAS, to the Government of India with follow up discussions. Minister Krishna Gowda also continued advocating for the international year of millets with the government.
10 November 2017 : Dr Radha Mohan Singh, Minister of Agriculture, Government of India, strongly supported the idea and wrote (see letter below) to Mr Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General, with the request for an international year of millets.
13 November 2017 : The Secretary of Agriculture, Dr Patanayak took a lead advocacy role and wrote (see letter below) to the Minister of Agriculture at the time, formally requesting the Government of India to lead the initiative to request FAO to support a UN International Year of Millets.
The Government of India led discussions with FAO and other countries to garner support. The excitement had started, and many people helped advocate and spread the word to build support. We will never know all the people from 2017 till 2021, who were important catalysts, however some included ICRISAT African offices held discussions with African Ministries, Dr Nigel Poole, ICRISAT Ambassador of Goodwill held discussions in the UK, and FReSH representative, Dr Alain Vidal spread the word in Europe.
23 November 2017 : Dr David Bergvinson, ICRISAT Director General, at the time, garnered a letter (see below) of support from former UN Chief, the late Kofi A. Annan:
“Millets have multiple benefits as they contribute to food and nutrition security for millions of people in the semi-arid tropics of Asia and Africa, generate market opportunities for farmers, and are a critical solution to climate change.”
Kofi A. Annan, Chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation (PC : AFP PHOTO / JOEL SAGET)
14 November 2018: was the first meeting of the “Steering Committee on the International Year of Millets” (SCIYM), Chaired by the Honorable Union Agriculture Minister, facilitated by Agriculture Secretary Dr Sanjay Agarwal and organized by Commissioner of Agriculture and Horticulture Dr Suresh K Malhotra. (See meeting declaration below.)
5 December 2018 : Dr Suresh K Malhotra, Commissioner of Agriculture and Horticulture, Government of India presented the case to the FAO council. The following day this was endorsed by the FAO Council for 2023 as the allocated year. Government of India continued leading the cause, along with the support of many countries.
3 March 2021 : Shri TS Tirumuti, Ambassador/Permanent Representative of India to the UN, New York, successfully presented the final case to the UN General Assembly.